On the Syntax of Word Derivation in English

P. G. Chapin, 1967

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An important hypothesis of generative grammatical theory in recent years has been that grammatical transformations are meaning-preserving. This thesis is an attempt to show that if certain other common theoretical assumptions are held constant, that hypothesis is untenable. Rules of word-derivation – suffixation, prefixation, compounding – frequently yield results whose meaning is not predictable from their component parts. It is argued that some of these must be in the transformational component of the grammar of English.

Some derivational patterns of English are analyzed in detail. Arguments are given that the derivation of adjectives in –able must be transformational. Nominalizations in –ity are shown to be semantically erratic. It is then argues that the formation of these must be subsequent in the grammar to the formation of –able derivatives. On the assumption that the components of the grammar are homogenous, it follows that –ity formation must be in the transformational component.

If rules of derivation are in the transformational component, they must participate in its ordering. Some facts of derivation are examined in the light of this consequence. Ordering of derivational rules is shown to offer a simple explanation of some otherwise puzzling phenomena. It is then demonstrated that derivational rules cannot be linearly ordered. An hypothesis is proposed as to their ordering.

Thesis Supervisor:      Noam A. Chomsky

Title:                           Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics

Table of Contents

Section I:         Of Levels and Components                                                                8

Section II:        Of Derivations and Transformations                                                  16

            A.        Introductory                                                                                       16

            B.        Self-ing adjectives                                                                               20

                        1. Facts                                                                                              20

                        2. Problems                                                                                        24

                        3. The notion generic                                                                         29

                        4. Generic in adjective derivation                                                       37

                        5. Analysis of self-ing adjectives                                                       39

                        6. Limitations of the analysis                                                            42

            C.        Other adjectives in self-                                                                      48

                        1. Facts                                                                                              48

                        2. Derivation by lexical characterization                                            49

                        3. Derivation from self-ing adjectives                                                51

                        4. Irregularities in adjectives in –atory, -ent, -ive                              53

                        5. A combined lexical-transformational approach                             56

            D.        Adjectives in –able                                                                              61

                        1. Methodological remarks                                                                61

                        2. Facts                                                                                              63

                        3. Passives and reflexives                                                                   66

                        4. A base structure for –able derivation                                             68

                        5. A problem                                                                                      71

                        6. Amnesties by making transformations obligatory                         74

                        7. Amnesties by derived structure                                                     82

                                    a. Discussion                                                                          82

                                    b. IT-SUB                                                                              83

                                    c. FLIP                                                                                   87

                        8. Another problem                                                                           95

                        9. Derivation of –able forms                                                              97

                        10. Generic constraints on –able derivation                                       102

                        11. The exclusion of self- from –able derivatives                              106

            E.         Nominalized adjectives in –ity                                                           111

                        1. Discussion                                                                                     111

                        2. Limitations on productivity                                                          112

                        3. Irregularities                                                                                   114

            F.         Nominalization in –ability                                                                  119

                        1. Discussion                                                                                     119

                        2. Difficulty for the lexicalist hypothesis                                          120

                        3. The lexicalist alternative                                                                120

                        4. Derivation by nominalization of –able forms                                125

                        5. Difference between the analyses                                                   128

                        6. Evidence for a choice                                                                     129

Section III:      Of the Ordering of Derivations                                                           132

            A.        Introductory                                                                                       132

            B.        Evidence for ordering of derivational rules                                         134

                        1. Adjectives in –ful                                                                           134

                        2. –ment, -tion, -less                                                                          139

                        3. Adjectives in –able                                                                         143

                        4. The prefixes un-                                                                             144

            C.        Derivations and the transformational cycle                                        146

            D.        Impossiblity of linear ordering of derivations                        148

                        1. –tion, -al, -ize                                                                                 148

                        2. –ist, -ic, -al                                                                                     149

                        3. Recursive derivation                                                                      151

            E.         The epicycle hypothesis                                                                    153


            Section I                                                                                                          156

            Section II                                                                                                         158

            Section III                                                                                                       164

Appendix I:     Self-ing adjectives                                                                               166

Appendix II:   Adjectives in –able                                                                              178