Features in Minimalist Syntax

David Adger and Peter Svenonius

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Minimalism

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199549368
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Features in Minimalist Syntax

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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This article outlines a number of major issues concerning features in minimalist syntax. The purpose is to delineate the core conceptual issues that the notion of feature raises within minimalist approaches to (transformational) grammar. The article begins by pointing out the different perspectives taken on the notion of feature by minimalist and unification-based approaches. It then clarifies the notions of category and feature, taking category to have essentially a positional definition, while feature is defined as a property of a category that sub-classifies it. The article distinguishes two further properties of features: the potential of organizing features into feature classes (where the property of being in a class holds of all tokens of a feature), and the possibility of features having what we call second-order properties, which may vary from one token of the feature to another. With this in hand, two kinds of features in minimalist syntax are distinguished: those that play a role primarily at the interfaces with sounds and meaning, and those whose function is primarily syntax internal. The article then explores the way in which features create configurations that can be compositionally interpreted, highlighting their role in dependency formation, in constituent construction, and in displacement effects. Finally, it considers the role that features play at the interfaces of sound and meaning.

Keywords: minimalist approach; transformational grammar; category; features; sound; meaning

Article.  10797 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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