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On the Linguistic and Cognitive Status of the Lexical/Functional

Dr. Jane Grimshaw

Thursday, September 18, 2003, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Linguistics, Rutgers University

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September 18, 2003 at 12:00 p.m.

Psychology, Room 101, Busch Campus

Dr. Jane Grimshaw

Linguistics, Rutgers University

On the Linguistic and Cognitive Status of the Lexical/Functional

One of the earliest results of psycholinguistic research within the
context of modern theoretical linguistics, is that there is an important
distinction between "content" words such as nouns, verbs and adjectives
and "function" words such as determiners and complementizers.  They are
affected differently in aphasia,  and function words are frequently
absent from speech of young children.  This distinction has proved to be
of fundamental importance in governing the organization of linguistic
structure.  We now know that on top of each lexical/content word there
is a sometimes elaborate structure of functional elements, all arranged
in a head-complement relationship, which is largely constant
cross-linguistically.   This paper lays out some of the evidence for
this conclusion, and highlights the puzzle that lies behind it:  while
the lexical/functional distinction is highly motivated, a principled
theory of the distinction has proved elusive.  Why?

Dr. Jane Grimshaw