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Linguistic Inquiry

Fall 2015, Vol. 46, No. 4, Pages 625-655
(doi: 10.1162/LING_a_00196)
© 2015 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
How to Merge a Root
Article PDF (547.89 KB)

The main goal of this article is to show that four properties of roots can be derived in a principled manner from the theory of Merge. The properties in question are the following: (a) roots have no grammatical features, (b) roots have no syntactic category, (c) roots are defined structurally rather than lexically, and (d) roots are dominated by functional material (rather than the other way around). We argue that the first Merge operation in each cyclic domain creates a radically empty structural position at the foot of the structure in which a root can be inserted at the level of Vocabulary Insertion. The four abovementioned properties of roots can then be shown to follow straightforwardly from this theory.