• Ling-G: Words and other things: what do you need to list in your head?

    (Asia Pietraszko, University of Rochester & Omer Preminger, UMD)

    Weeks 1 & 2; T/Th 11 am (NY time)

    Traditional approaches to grammar appeal to a "lexicon" as the list of all things idiosyncratic / all things that cannot be computed automatically / all things that need to be learned on an item-by-item basis. But what does this "lexicon" contain? Words? Morphemes? What about idioms? Conversely, what about complex words whose form & meaning is fully predictable from their parts? In this course, we will carefully investigate what does and doesn't need to be **listed** in a speaker's mental grammar. We will see that the traditional "lexicon" is inadequate in a myriad of ways. It lists both too much *and* too little. Our careful investigation will lead to some surprising conclusions: the fundamental building-blocks of syntactic structure have, rather inescapably, neither form nor meaning. Furthermore, structured linguistic utterances ("sentences") contain no *Saussurean signs*, i.e., no individual mappings from form to meaning, whatsoever (!). Finally, we will explore the consequences of these findings for the theory of formal features and where they come from.