Adpositions and Lexical Categories: Distributed Morphology's Insight into the Problem


  • Robert Joel Deacon University of Florida


The lexical/functional status of adpositions is unclear both traditionally and within the framework of Distributed Morphology (DM). Adpositions present a categorial problem for DM because they are traditionally understood to have both lexical and functional properties and be-cause the vocabulary insertion mechanism of DM requires a strict division between lexical and functional items. However, a more discrete analysis of adpositional items shows that these items can be divided into lexical and functional items. The lexical distribution of certain adpositional items can be accounted for in DM by analyzing these forms as Root lexical items categorized by a little p_ head. Therefore, like nouns, verbs and adjectives, many adpositions consist of bare Roots selected by a category-defining head. Adpositional forms that do not have a lexical distribution are argued to be the representation of a little p_ head that has selected for a DP. These adpositional forms, like auxiliaries for verbs and pronouns for nouns, are viewed as functional insertions within a domain capable of framing lexical nodes. This more discrete analysis thus helps explain why traditional classification problems exist and provides a solution for this problem.