Arguments as Relations

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MIT Press, 2010 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 239 pages
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In Arguments as Relations, John Bowers proposes a radically newapproach to argument structure that has the potential to unify data from a wide range of differentlanguage types in terms of a simple and universal syntactic structure. In many ways, Bowers's theoryis the natural extension of three leading ideas in the literature: the minimalist approach to Casetheory (particularly Chomsky's idea that Case is assigned under the Agree function relation); theidea of introducing arguments in specifiers of functional categories rather than in projections oflexical categories; and the neo-Davidsonian approach to argument structure represented in the workof Parsons and others. Bowers pulls together these strands in the literature and shapes them into aunified theory.

These ideas, together with certain basic assumptions--notably theidea that the initial order of merge of the three basic argument categories of Agent, Theme, andAffectee is just the opposite of what has been almost universally assumed in the literature--leadBowers to a fundamental rethinking of argument structure. He proposes that every argument is mergedas the specifier of a particular type of light verb category and that these functional argumentcategories merge in bottom-to-top fashion in accordance with a fixed Universal Order of Merge (UOM).In the hierarchical structures that result from these operations, Affectee arguments will behighest, Theme arguments next highest, and Agent arguments lowest--exactly the opposite of the usualassumption.

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1 Introduction and Overview
2 Passive
3 Affectee Arguments
4 Grammatical Function Changing Morphology
5 Derived Nominals
6 Conclusion
A Compositional Semantics for Argument Heads
First Application of Merge

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About the author (2010)

John Bowers is Professor of Linguistics and Chair of the Linguistics Department at Cornell University.