Structure and Order: Asymmetric Merge

Jan-Wouter Zwart

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Minimalism

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Structure and Order: Asymmetric Merge

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This article discusses the relation between structure and linear order in the minimalist approach to syntactic theory. The general idea of Kayne that linearization is a function of structural asymmetry among syntactic nodes can be maintained in the bare phrase structure theory of Chomsky, if we take the history of the derivation into account. On its simplest definition, Merge is the same at each step of the derivation, i.e., first Merge should have no special properties. This is achieved if Merge is taken to be an operation transferring one element at a time from a resource to a workspace (the object under construction). Simplifying even more, and adopting a top-down derivational approach, we can take structure to result from an operation that splits off one element at a time from the resource (‘Split Merge’) until the resource is empty. Either way, sister pairs are not sets but ordered pairs, and the set of elements merged/split off is a nest, which is equivalent to an ordered n-tuple. This allows us to consider structure-to-order conversion as a trivial equivalence relation (where material between slashes is ordered in time, i.e. realized one after the other in sound or gesture).

Keywords: linear order; syntax; grammar; syntactic theory; trivial equivalence relation

Article.  9627 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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