Distributed Morphology and the Syntax—Morphology Interface

David Embick and Rolf Noyer

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Interfaces

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780199247455
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Distributed Morphology and the Syntax—Morphology Interface

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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This article reports a Distributed Morphology view of the relation between morphology and syntax. It specifically argues that the notion of ‘word’ does not correspond to any genuine linguistic primitives and that the morphological patterns of vocabulary insertion are a direct reflection of syntactic structure. The mechanism supplying phonological features to the abstract morphemes is called ‘Vocabulary Insertion’. In its essence, the Distributed Morphology approach to morphology is syntactic. There are instances in which both morphemes and features that are not present in the syntax are inserted by rules of Phonetic/Phonological Form (PF). These ornamentations of the syntactic structure introduce redundancy into the PF expression but do not eliminate or alter information that is crucial for semantic interpretation. The presented approach to the syntax–morphology interface is based on the idea that there is a single generative component (the syntax) responsible for the construction of complex objects.

Keywords: Distributed Morphology; syntax; syntactic structure; Vocabulary Insertion; Phonetic/Phonological Form

Article.  13559 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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