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date: 22 September 2017

Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

Summary and Keywords

Noun incorporation (NI) is a grammatical construction where a nominal, usually bearing the semantic role of an object, has been incorporated into a verb to form a complex verb or predicate. Traditionally, incorporation was considered to be a word formation process, similar to compounding or cliticization. The fact that a syntactic entity (object) was entering into the lexical process of word formation was theoretically problematic, leading to many debates about the true nature of NI as a lexical or syntactic process. The analytic complexity of NI is compounded by the clear connections between NI and other processes such as possessor raising, applicatives, and classification systems and by its relation with case, agreement, and transitivity. In some cases, it was noted that no morpho-phonological incorporation is discernable beyond perhaps adjacency and a reduced left periphery for the noun. Such cases were termed pseudo noun incorporation, as they exhibit many properties of NI, minus any actual morpho-phonological incorporation. On the semantic side, it was noted that NI often correlates with a particular interpretation in which the noun is less referential and the predicate is more general. This led semanticists to group together all phenomena with similar semantics, whether or not they involve morpho-phonological incorporation. The role of cases of morpho-phonological NI that do not exhibit this characteristic semantics, i.e., where the incorporated nominal can be referential and the action is not general, remains a matter of debate. The interplay of phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics that is found in NI, as well as its lexical overtones, has resulted in a wide range of analyses at all levels of the grammar. What all NI constructions share is that according to various diagnostics, a thematic element, usually correlating with an internal argument, functions to a lesser extent as an independent argument and instead acts as part of a predicate. In addition to cases of incorporation between verbs and internal arguments, there are also some cases of incorporation of subjects and adverbs, which remain less well understood.

Keywords: noun incorporation, semantic incorporation, pseudo incorporation, lexicon, post-syntactic morphology

1 Characterizing NI

This article discusses the grammatical construction known as noun incorporation (NI) as well as various extensions of NI such as pseudo noun incorporation (PNI) and semantic noun incorporation (SNI). The goal is to provide an overview of the range of constructions that fall under the general term NI as well as to cover the various interesting issues that these constructions raise for theories of grammar. There is a lot of disagreement about exactly what constitutes NI, but as a starting point, we can say that it refers to a grammatical phenomenon whereby a nominal element, usually with an internal thematic role, forms some kind of unit with a verbal element, and together they serve as the verb or predicate of a sentence. NI has been argued to exist in some form or another in languages from all corners of the world, and it is a topic of enduring interest due to its multi-faceted nature: it has phonological, morphological, lexical, syntactic, and semantic dimensions, and consequently the field is rich with proposals and counter-proposals as to its true nature. Other overviews of the phenomenon and surrounding issues can be found in Aikhenvald (2007), Borik and Gehrke (2015b), Farkas and de Swart (2003), Gerdts (1998), Haugen (2008), Johns (2015), Massam (2009a), Mathieu (2009), and Van Geenhoven (2001), among others.

A fairly canonical example of NI (from Yucatec Mayan) appears in (1a), where the notional object če’ ‘tree’ appears as part of the predicate along with the verb č’ak ‘chop’ (Bricker 1978). Thus, Yucatec Mayan NI exhibits a clear case of morpho-phonological incorporation (M-P NI) in that the noun and the verb together form a single word. In Yucatec Mayan, as in many languages, such constructions are in contrast with related ones where the object is not incorporated, but appears as a separate DP, as in (1b).

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

In addition to exhibiting M-P NI, the example from (1a) also exhibits what is termed semantic incorporation (SNI), in that NI comes with a particular semantic reading where the nominal element has reduced referentiality and does not refer to a specific entity, instead serving in a more modificational role to describe the type of activity. In addition, in many cases of NI, the predicate must refer to a conventionalized event, i.e., the event must be “name-worthy” (e.g., meat-eat, *pencil-eat), and in some cases it denotes a generic rather than a particular event (e.g., Bittner, 1994; Borik & Gehrke, 2015a, b; Chung & Ladusaw, 2004; Dayal, 2015; Mithun, 1984; Sapir, 1911; van Geenhoven, 1998a, b).

A language can exhibit incorporation in a more or a less canonical way, along each dimension of morpho-phonology (M-P) and semantics (S). At one end of the M-P spectrum, the nominal element consists only of a noun, which is affixed to or compounded with the verb, with clear morpho-phonological consequences (detected through word order, stress patterns, or word level allophonic rules, for example), which indicate that the two together form a unit at the word level, as in (1a). Alternatively, the noun might simply be required to be adjacent to or juxtaposed with the verb with no morpho-phonological compounding having taken place. This can be seen in (2) from Kusaiean (Lee, 1975), where (2a) exhibits NI and (2b) a non-NI clause.

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

In cases of juxtaposition (as with M-P NI), the noun is generally stripped of some or all of its functional elements, such as case, articles, number, etc., so the process is sometimes referred to as noun-stripping (Gerdts, 1998; Gerdts & Hukari, 2008; Miner, 1986, 1989). Stripping can be seen by comparing (2a) with (2b), where the same nominal appears as a phrasal argument with a grammatical element, in this case, a determiner.

In some cases of noun stripping, what appears to undergo incorporation is not an N, but a larger noun phrase, which can include phrasal modifiers such as adjectives, reduced relative clauses, and PPs, although some or all left peripheral grammatical elements are obligatorily absent, such as case markers, determiners and number markers. Massam (2001) observed this in Niuean, a VSO language, and argued that since a maximal NP and not just an N is involved, the process cannot include a lexical or syntactic head-level operation of M-P incorporation or word formation. Rather, she argued that the NP (as opposed to a DP) complement of the verb simply fails to extract to a higher functional projection (where absolutive case is assigned), thus remaining adjacent to the verb throughout the derivation, even undergoing predicate fronting with the verb. The resulting sentence is intransitive, as the object NP is not a grammatical argument but forms part of the predicate (Seiter, 1980). The process is illustrated in (3), where we find (3a) with normal VSO word order, a DP object, and a transitive case pattern (ergative agent, absolutive patient), in comparison with (3b), with VOS word order, an NP object, and intransitive case (absolutive agent).

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

Massam (2001) termed this pseudo noun incorporation (PNI) because, although the construction has most of the hallmarks of NI in that the object forms part of the predicate, the clause is intransitive, and there is reduced referentiality of the object nominal, there is no actual M-P incorporation process of any sort (see quasi-incorporation, Dahl, 2004). This idea rests on the view that objects can appear in more than one position, with the lower position being associated with PNI (de Swart, Winter, & Zwarts, 2007), and the higher with grammatical objecthood.

In some languages, such as Maori, Hindi, Spanish, and Hungarian (Chung & Ladusaw, 2004; Dayal, 1999, 2004, 2011, 2015; Dobrovie, 2009; Dobrovie-Sorin, Bleam, & Espinal, 2006; Dobrovie-Sorin & Giurea, 2015; Farkas & de Swart, 2003), similar processes are argued to have taken place where the NP is not fully stripped of all left peripheral functional material, or perhaps need not be adjacent to the verb. Such cases bring us squarely to the semantic dimension of NI (e.g., Bittner, 1994). Because NI is repeatedly associated with certain semantic properties, such as narrow scope, number neutrality, and reduced referentiality of the incorporated noun (IN), structures with similar semantics but without M-P NI (e.g., bare plurals as spots in (4)) have been argued to involve PNI and SI, even though there are virtually no M-P indications of NI in the construction (Carlson, 1977, 1980; De Hoop, 1992; Van Geenhoven, 1998a, b). SI can thus refer to both M-P NI or PNI constructions, as long as they exhibit the typical semantic effects of incorporation.

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

Other constructions with bare singulars in Catalan and Spanish (e.g., look for apartment, wear hat; Dobrovie Sorin et al., 2006; Espinal & McNally, 2011) and English (in jail, at school, Stvan, 1998, 2009) or weak definites (e.g., to be in the hospital, to take the bus, Aguilar, Geuvara, & Zwarts, 2010; Carlson & Sussman, 2005; Carlson, 2006) have also been compared with PNI, as overviewed in Dayal (2015). The concept of SNI has thus become an object of study in its own right, to some extent dissociated from M-P NI, as the latter might not be a necessary factor for SNI. For example, Chung and Ladusaw (2004) consider NI to be one possible reflex of a semantic process whereby an object simply Restricts, and does not fully Saturate, an object thematic role. In other languages such as Maori, Restrict involves the use of a special determiner rather than NI. While most argue that distinctions need to be made between NI and other constructions such as bare plurals or weak definites, the exact line between them remains very much under discussion (Borik & Gehrke, 2015a, b; Collins, 2013; Dayal, 2015). Some scholars argue that some cases that do not exhibit M-P NI fall outside of the NI spectrum. Margetts (2008) (see Sugita, 1973) argues that certain constructions in Oceanic languages involve instead a lexical-syntactic transitivity discord where intransitive verbs appear with object nouns that exhibit syntactic independence in spite of the fact that the sentence has reduced transitivity in the sense of Hopper and Thompson (1980).

On the other side of this coin, it is argued that clear cases of M-P NI do not always correlate with all the hallmarks of SI, since incorporated nominals can be definite in some languages, that is, they are discourse transparent and can refer to known entities in the discourse, and can be referred to later in the discourse, as in the Mohawk example in (5).

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Baker (1996) argues that NI in polysynthetic languages such as Mohawk is the result of a morpho-syntactic constraint in such languages that states that arguments can be thematically interpreted only if they have a morphological expression on the verb (Baker, 1996, p. 17; see also Jelinek, 1984). Due to this, INs in polysynthetic languages are not semantically distinguished from regular complements in other languages in the ways discussed above. Baker (1996) argues that the only constraint on incorporated objects in Mohawk is that they cannot receive focal or contrastive stress.

As well as finding languages with discourse transparent INs, we also find languages in which different types of NI correspond to different degrees of discourse opacity. Massam (2001, 2009b) shows that existential PNI in Niuean introduces discourse transparent entities into the discourse, while PNI in non-existential contexts does not. Similarly, in languages that allow incorporated singulars and plurals, the plurals are more discourse transparent than the singulars (Dayal, 1992, 2004, 2011; Farkas & de Swart, 2003).

There are some differences between Baker’s discussion of Mohawk and that of Mithun (1984), who claims that NI in Mohawk is not referential but is used for discourse backgrounding of a participant, as it cannot be used to introduce new participants. It is not always apparent what types of arguments can be used to tease apart the degrees of opacity or transparency of NI in a given language. The end result is that it is not clear if there can be a direct relation between NI in languages like Mohawk and NI or PNI in a language like Yucatec Mayan, Kusaiean, or Niuean. Taking the full range of NI phenomena into consideration, questions arise about the relation between cross-linguistically similar morpho-syntactic operations and their semantic interpretations, and vice versa. These issues have yet to be fully resolved.

We thus find constructions that have been termed NI that involve M-P NI without SNI, and constructions that have been termed NI or PNI, that involve SNI without M-P NI. However, M-P NI and SNI occurring together form the bulk of cases discussed in the literature under the umbrella term NI, and possibly they also form the bulk of cases in existence (Sapir, 1911).

2 Sub-types of NI

So far we have seen that under the term NI we find a range of constructions in terms of how close the N and the V are, and we find two basic constellations of semantic properties, one related to reduced referentiality and the other to discourse backgrounding or non-focalization. These issues were discussed by Mithun (1984) in an important article that classifies NI into four implicationally and historically related types, so that if a language has a given type it will also have the preceding types. The first type, I, involves what she considers to be compounding, in which she includes cases of juxtaposition. Here, the resulting verb is intransitive, and the IN is non-referential or non-specific, and the resulting verb refers to a habitual, conventional, or institutionalized activity. An example of this was given in (1a).

In Type II NI, the resulting verb remains transitive and thus can take a new object, which is semantically an instrument, possessor, or locative, of what is an essentially ditransitive or applicative verb (Baker, 1993; Baker, Aranovich, & Golluscio, 2005; Rosen, 1989). This is seen in the Yucatec Mayan example (6) below, where, indeed, the trees are in the cornfield, but the translation shows that the cornfield is not just a location but is also an affected entity in the sentence.

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

NI thus serves to allow another argument to be promoted to argument status. This type is often found with incorporated body parts, as in (7) (Evans, 1996; Frantz, 1971; Velasquez-Castilla, 1993), in fact in some languages such as Blackfoot, NI is the preferred way to express a concept such as in (7). Such examples create a link between NI and possessor raising constructions (e.g., Lichtenberk, 2005, 2006; Paul, 2009), and further, they create connections between NI and other grammatical phenomena, such as applicatives, cliticization, and agreement, especially within polysynthetic languages (Aranovich, 2013; Baker, 1996; Baker et al., 2005; Pearce, 2001).

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

In Mithun’s Type III, the IN can refer back to a previously mentioned entity, thus she considers that NI is here serving to background known entities. In such cases the IN can be specific, thus not falling strictly under SI. Mithun, like Baker (1996), considers that languages with this type of incorporation are typically polysynthetic languages, in which verbs contain obligatory pronominal affixes referring to subjects and objects, and external expressions of these arguments are optional. An example from Huahtla Nahuatl is given in (8) (Merlan, 1976). In these languages, Mithun argues, verbs may be qualified by known or incidental nominals.

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

Mithun states that NI types I, II, and III all involve backgrounding of the IN, but in different ways. Type I reduces salience in the verb, Type II within the clause, and Type III within the discourse. She thus unifies the types in a way that seems less possible now, given the current view that SNI INs are necessarily non-referential.

In Mithun’s Type IV, NI is used in a classificatory function, where a less specific IN can be coreferential with a more specific free-standing object. The IN provides the class of the object, as in (9), from Caddo, where the word for ‘eye’ is used to indicate small round objects such as beads (Chafe, 1976).

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

In Type IV, it is also possible for the incorporated noun to be copied by a demonstrative or adjective standing alone. The demonstrative makes the argument deducible from context, as in the Caddo example in (10), but Mithun states that the INs are not referential, since they cannot be used to establish discourse referents, only to refer back to established referents.

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

Because NI was considered by Sapir (1911) and Mithun (1984, 1986), among others, to be a case of compounding, which joins two stems, early treatments set aside otherwise similar constructions in which either the V or the N cannot stand alone outside of the NI context. An example of the former from Halkomelem is given in (11), and an example of the latter from West Greenlandic Inuit is given in (12).

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

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Incorporation and Pseudo-Incorporation in Syntax

Gerdts (1998, 2003) and Gerdts and Marlett (2008) discuss parallels with NI of such denominal examples as (11), in spite of the fact that this form for ‘hand’ cannot stand alone, while Sadock (1980, 1985, 1986) argues forcefully that West Greenlandic Inuit data should indeed be considered to instantiate NI, even though the verb for ‘have’ is an obligatorily incorporating verb. Most scholars today do consider such cases to instantiate incorporation (e.g., Bischoff, 2011; Bittner, 1994; Bok-Bennema & Groos, 1988; Johns, 2007; Van Geenhoven, 2001; Wiltschko, 2009), especially since current theories of morpho-syntax do not make rigid syntactic distinctions between roots, affixes, and words (e.g., Borer, 2005a, b, 2013; Halle & Marantz, 1993; Harley, 2005).

This section has overviewed in broad strokes, the types of constructions included in the label ‘noun incorporation.’ In the next section, the grammatical process of incorporation will be discussed.

3 Deriving NI

A major question posed by M-P NI is how the two components, the nominal and the verbal, come to form a unit. Grammar in general provides a range of ways that units can come together: lexical operations such as compounding, morpho-syntactic mechanisms like inflectional affixation, syntactic operations such as head-movement or Agree, and phonological mechanisms such as morphological merger, or the post-syntactic insertion of a phonological word or vocabulary item that spans across terminal nodes. In the literature, each of these has been considered to be responsible for NI. The framework that the linguist adopts will influence the analysis, of course. In this section I consider mainly generative approaches to NI. Importantly, which operation is posited has an effect on what type of entity is created, which might be a lexical word or a syntactically atomic head, a head augmented with a featural complex, an adjunction structure, or just a phonological word or vocabulary item (and not a lexical item).

The debates as to what kinds of mechanisms are at work in NI, and what kind of entity is created by NI, have origins in very early work within modern linguistics. The often-cited paper by Sapir (1911) was written in response to an earlier paper by Kroeber (1910). Kroeber was observing that NI seemed to be a process that joined a verb and its object to make a predicate, and Sapir argued that this was impossible, since there could be no word formation outside of the lexicon, and since it was meaningless to talk about the syntactic notion of “object” within the domain of a word. Instead, Sapir argued that NI was an entirely lexical process, akin to compounding. Forming part of his evidence are examples in which the incorporated element is not an object. An example of instrument incorporation is shown in (12) from Southern Nahautl. As Barrie and Li (2015), Cook and Wilhelm (1998), Rice (2008), Seiter (1980), and Spencer (1995), among others, discuss, NIs with instruments, paths, and locatives are found cross-linguistically (interestingly, in contrast with comitatives, benefactives, and recipients) but such examples have not formed the core of NI discussion in recent literature.

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These two opposing views of NI, as lexical or syntactic, have each been supported and criticized in subsequent literature. In his follow-up article, Kroeber (1911) concedes that Sapir (1911) is completely right. Since in his earlier article Kroeber’s main point was that such a construction should not exist, he welcomed Sapir’s arguments against his characterization of NI. In later years, some linguists within government and binding theory and lexical functional grammar or HPSG follow the Sapir view that NI forms lexical words separately from any syntactic operation (e.g., Anderson, 1992, 2001, 2004; Asudeh & Ball, 2005; Ball, 2005; di Sciullo & Williams, 1987; Mithun, 1984; Mohanan, 1995; Rosen, 1989; Toivonen, 2003). These theories allow for NI to be a lexical operation while simultaneously referring to argument structure in ways that were not possible in Kroeber’s time, making it possible for linguists to capture Kroeber’s observation that syntactic notions such as object (or internal argument) seem to be relevant for a lexical operation. This is done through the mechanism of a lexical theta-grid or list of arguments. For example, Rosen (1989) argues that NI is a lexical operation, but her projectionist view of the Lexicon includes argument structure as part of the lexical entry of a verb (Chomsky, 1981; Hale & Keyser, 2002). With such a lexicon, it is possible to write a lexical rule that affects the argument structure of the verb by linking the content of the IN to the theta role that the verb assigns. Rosen states that the IN can satisfy the theta role of a verb, or it can act as a classifier of the theta role of a verb by placing a selectional restriction on the object (see Chung & Ladusaw, 2004). In cases of stranding, e.g., with a demonstrative as in (9), she assumes that the head of the object in the syntax is null and it is necessarily coreferential with the IN. Only the adjective or demonstrative within the object is overt. A benefit of her analysis is the ability to handle transitive and intransitive cases of NI (Barrie, 2012; Chung & Ladusaw, 2004; Haugen, 2009) since it is possible for an object to be lexically incorporated, while still leaving room for another object to appear in the syntax. While satisfying the theta role of the verb, an incorporated nominal can also absorb the case associated with the verb, to result in a lexically derived intransitive verb. Alternatively, a nominal might not do this, allowing for the types of incorporation where a new direct object can appear in the sentence.

Although Mithun states that NI is a morphological or lexical operation, her extensive overview in fact lays the groundwork for the view that NI is at least not always morphological. This is the case in the way she describes the phenomena in somewhat derivational terms (e.g., NI “functions in Nahuatl to advance significant arguments to direct object or subject status”; Mithun, 1984, p. 860) and in the way she discusses NI as “the most nearly syntactic of all morphological operations” (Mithun, 1984, p. 847). Further, she brings cases of juxtaposition, as in (2), into the discussion, where there is arguably no M-P incorporation at all, paving the way for PNI analyses in which there is V-NP adjacency but no actual incorporation. In spite of such examples, Mithun maintains that NI is “a solidly morphological device that derives lexical items, not sentences” (Mithun, 1984, p. 847).

While a lexical approach to NI remains attractive for many scholars, others have returned to the earlier idea outlined by Kroeber, namely that NI can form a word or syntactic predicate through mechanisms that have access to syntactic constructs. The most influential expression of NI as a syntactic operation springs from work by Baker (1988). Baker builds on the syntactic possibility of head movement (Travis, 1984) and argues that NI is a syntactic operation of head movement that causes the noun to adjoin to the verb, thus creating a new ‘word’ (i.e., terminal node) in the syntax.

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This analysis explains why NI is limited to objects (requiring special comment to deal with NI constructions where this is not the case), since head movement is restricted to upwards movement of a head to the next head position. Head movement analyses of incorporation have been extended to include a range of relations between root verbs and light verbs such as conflation (do a dance/dance), as well as processes such as preposition incorporation, passivization, and applicative constructions (as outlined in detail originally by Baker, 1988). Although the validity of head movement as a syntactic operation has been criticized in recent theoretical literature, Chomsky (2001) states that NI might remain as a phenomenon requiring such movement. Baker (2009) and Baker et al. (2005) present arguments that head movement remains the best analysis for some cases of NI, such as in Mapudungun (see also Baker et al., 2005). To bring head movement back into the theoretical fold, Roberts (2010) develops an Agree model of head movement (see also Heck & Richards, 2010), while Matushansky (2006) and others defend head movement as a viable operation.

A similar structural analysis without the potential problems of head movement is proposed in Van Geenhoven (1998a) and Ghomeshi and Massam (1994), who argue that the head adjunction structure as in (13b) can be directly base-generated (see also Toivonen, 2003). This allows for potential syntactic visibility of the incorporated noun, and it also allows NI predicates to be related to other types of complex predicates which might similarly consist of complex heads (Baker, 2014; Massam, 2013). Barrie (2010, 2011) and Barrie and Spreng (2009) also consider that the V and the N in NI are merged as sisters, and they present an analysis wherein M-P NI is triggered by the need to satisfy the linear correspondance axiom (Kayne, 1994; Moro, 2000). Since two sister heads cannot be linearized, the N must undergo movement. In Barrie’s view, this is not head movement, however, but movement to a specifier position, which makes it possible for elements larger than a head to be incorporated, as is argued to be the case in Onondaga and Ojibwe by Barrie and Mathieu (2012, 2016) and Mathieu, Fry, and Barrie (2013), along the lines of Koopman and Szabolsci (2000) (but see Piggott & Travis, 2013).

In addition to syntactic approaches, we also find mixed approaches that attempt to characterize the various aspects of NI through syntactic operations followed by post-syntactic morpho-phonological processes. An early example is Sadock (1980, 1985, 1986, 1991), who argues that NI is necessarily not a lexical process in Greenlandic Inuit. He presents an autolexical theory analysis in which the nominal is an object in the syntax but is expressed differently in morphological structure. Johns (2007) considers that the Inuktitut obligatorily incorporating verbs are light verbs with nominal root complements. The syntactic operation Agree requires roots to move leftward to C, and in cases of NI, the root attracted to C will be the nominal, because the verb in NI is a light verb and not a root, resulting in a N V word order in such cases. The actual process of word formation is thus post-syntactic, with words being built after syntactic mechanisms, as argued by Compton and Pittman (2010). (On Inuit language NI, see also Bok-Bennema, 1991; Bok-Bennema & Groos, 1988; Denny, 1989; Fortescue, 1983, 1984; Rischel, 1971, 1972; Woodbury, 1981) This brings NI in line with theories of lexical category where root elements move to light v to receive categorical status (e.g., Harley, 2005).

Many other recent theories of NI build on recent theoretical developments that place morpho-phonological operations after the syntax. For example, Baker (2014) argues that PNI in Sakhil and Tamil requires PF adjacency in order for the items to be interpreted at LF as a complex predicate. Clemens (2014) presents an analysis of Niuean NI in which the NP moves at PF to be close to the verb due to prosodic restructuring resulting from a requirement that the verb and its complement form a phonological phrase at PF. Asudeh and Mikkelsen (2000) also discuss the role of prosody in NI in Danish. Haugen and Harley (2013) present an analysis of NI involving head movement followed by various morphological operations that rearrange morpheme order, and Wojdak (2008) considers that obligatorily incorporating predicates undergo post-syntactic affixations, which might result in NI, but can also result in the incorporation of adjectives. Finally Levin (2014) considers Balinese NI to involve a last resort process of morphological merger (Marantz, 1984) of an N and a V that are adjacent. Such analyses reflect aspects of Sadock (1991) in their dissociation of syntax from phonological form. As well, these analyses once again bring NI closer to the original analyses involving compounding, except that in the more recent views, compounding and NI are both post-syntactic operations (e.g., Harley, 2011).

4 Remaining Issues and Conclusion

There are many studies of NI in a wide range of languages, providing more empirical and theoretical options than can reasonably be cited in a single overview. Most of the discussions fall somewhere in the range of topics discussed in this overview, but there are a few cases of NI that remain somewhat outside the usual parameters. Some such cases involve incorporation of proper names and locative prepositional phrases (Johns, 2009; Massam, 2009a, b), which clearly fall outside of SNI as it is usually understood. Equally understudied are cases of subject incorporation, as discussed in, e.g., Axelrod (1990), Cagri (2009), Cook and Wilhelm (1998), Erguvanli (1984), Keenan (1984), Mithun (1984), Öztürk (2004, 2009), Polinsky (1990), Rice (2000, 2007, 2008), and Spencer (1995). Finally, Alexiadou (1997) discusses incorporation of adverbs in Greek (see also Rivero, 1992; Smirniotopoulos & Joseph, 1998). The status of such constructions and their relation to more commonly studied cases of NI continues to be debated.

This overview has outlined the principal types of NI as well as some types that are more marginal. Traditionally, morpho-phonological incorporation of a nominal into a verb was the hallmark of NI, and so NI was compared with compounding and the types of agreement or cliticization found in polysynthetic languages. The fact that a syntactic entity (object) was entering into the lexical process of word formation was considered theoretically problematic, leading to many debates about the true nature of NI, and its relation with agreement, case, and transitivity. The complexity of analysis was compounded by the clear connections between NI and other processes such as possessor raising, applicatives, double object constructions, and classification systems. In some cases it was noted that no morpho-phonological incorporation is discernable beyond perhaps adjacency and a reduced left periphery for the noun. Such cases were termed pseudo noun incorporation, as they exhibit many properties of NI, minus any actual morpho-phonological incorporation. On the semantic side, it was noted that NI often correlates with a particular interpretation in which the noun is less referential and the predicate is more general. This led semanticists to group together all phenomena with similar semantics, whether or not they involve morpho-phonological incorporation. The role of cases of morpho-phonological NI that do not exhibit this characteristic semantics, i.e., where the incorporated nominal can be referential and the action is not general, remains a matter of debate. The interplay of phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics that is found in NI, as well as its lexical overtones, has resulted in a wide range of analyses at all levels of the grammar. What all NI constructions share is that according to various diagnostics, a thematic element usually correlating with an internal argument, functions to a lesser extent as an independent argument, and instead acts as part of a predicate. In addition to cases of incorporation between verbs and internal arguments, there are also some cases of incorporation of subjects and adverbs, which remain less well understood.

Further Reading

Baker, M. C. (1988). Incorporation: A theory of grammatical function changing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Find this resource:

Baker, M. C. (1996). The polysynthesis parameter. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Barrie M., & Mathieu, E. (2016). Noun incorporation and head movement. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 34, 1–51.Find this resource:

Borik, O., & Gehrke, B. (Eds.). (2015). The syntax and semantics of pseudo-incorporation. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.Find this resource:

Chung, S., & Ladusaw, W. (2004). Restriction and saturation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Find this resource:

Dayal, V. (2011). Hindi pseudo noun incorporation. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 29, 123–167.Find this resource:

Espinal, M. T., & McNally, L. (2011). Bare nominals and incorporating verbs in Spanish and Catalan. Journal of Linguistics, 47, 87–128.Find this resource:

Evans, N. (1996). The syntax and semantics of body part incorporation. In H. Chappell & W. McGregor (Eds.), The grammar of inalienability: A typological perspective on body part terms and the part-whole relation (pp. 65–109). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Find this resource:

Farkas, D., & de Swart, H. (2003). The semantics of incorporation: From argument structure to discourse transparency. Stanford, CA: Stanford University.Find this resource:

Harley, H. (2011). Compounding in distributed morphology. In R. Lieber & P. Stekauer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of compounding (pp. 129–144). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Haugen, J. D. (2008). Morphology at the interface—reduplication and noun incorporation in Uto-Aztecan. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Find this resource:

Johns, A. (2007). Restricting noun incorporation: Root movement. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 25, 535–576.Find this resource:

Johns, A. (2015). Noun incorporation. University of Toronto. (cited in M. Everaert & van Riemsdijk, H. (Eds.). (2005). The companion to syntax (2d ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.)Find this resource:

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Margetts, A. (2008). Transitivity discord in some Oceanic languages. Oceanic Linguistics, 47, 30–44.Find this resource:

Massam, D. (2001). Pseudo noun incorporation in Niuean. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 19, 153–197.Find this resource:

Mithun, M. (1984). The evolution of noun incorporation. Language, 60, 847–895.Find this resource:

Öztürk, B. (2009). Incorporating agents. Lingua, 119, 334–358.Find this resource:

Roberts, I. (2010). Agreement and head movement: Clitics, incorporation, and defective goals. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

Rosen, S. T. (1989). Two types of noun incorporation: A lexical analysis. Language, 65, 294–317.Find this resource:

Sadock, J. (1985). Autolexical syntax: A proposal for the treatment of noun incorporation and similar phenomena. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 3, 379–439.Find this resource:

Sapir, E. (1911). The problem of noun incorporation in American languages. American Anthropologist, 13, 250–282.Find this resource:

Wiltschko, M. (2009). √Root incorporation: Evidence from lexical suffixes in Halkomelem Salish. Lingua, 119, 199–223.Find this resource:

Wojdak, R. (2008). The linearization of affixes: Evidence from Nuu-Chah-Nulth. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.Find this resource:

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