Silent Heads

Halldór Ármann Sigurðsson and Joan Maling

in Functional Heads

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199746736
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949519 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax

Silent Heads

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  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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This chapter deals with a basic problem of the cartographic approach, namely whether functional projections are always present inter- and intra-linguistically. The analysis reconciles the cartographic approach with a more minimalist perspective. Following Cinque’s (1999) generalization, and analyzing data from Icelandic and English, it suggests that grammatical categories, (i.e., features and/or heads) are present and syntactically active even in those languages in which such features and/or heads are not grammatically signaled. Therefore, these grammatical categories, which build up the clause structure, enter in syntax as interpretable but unvalued features, and their value is subsequently assigned in the course of the derivation. In those languages in which categories like Tense, Person, etc., are signaled by overt morphemes, these morphemes should be considered as uninterpretable, and the corresponding categories should be considered categories that reflect combinations of “atomic” syntactic relations.

Keywords: cartographic approach; functional projections; Icelandic; English; grammatical categories; syntax

Chapter.  5124 words. 

Subjects: Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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