Morphology and syntax episodes
What are the parts of words that matter for meaning? They're not always as big as you might think. In this episode, the Ling Space talks about morphemes, the smallest bits of meaning: how to find them, where to dig for them, and how different languages deal with them.
What lies beneath the sentences that we say and hear? How do we know which words go together? In this episode, we talk about syntax: why we need it, and the trees that structure our words into meaningful phrases, using X' theory.
How do we put together our words? What pieces are the most important, and where does everything go? In this episode, we talk about root morphemes and affixes: what the most meaningful bits are, all the different places we can put morphemes in and around each other, and some of the variation we see between languages.
What elements move around when we make our sentences? Is it the same in all languages? In this episode, we look at syntactic movement: how we know that words move around, what remnants get left behind, and how we can use these phenomena to explain surface differences between languages.
How do our words change on their way out of our mouths? What kinds of rules cover their variation? In this episode, we talk about allomorphy: the way our morphemes change, the types of variation we find in their pronunciation, and the methods that allow us to decide what the underlying morpheme is.
How does a word know what role it should play in a sentence? How can we match up our verbs and nouns so that everything makes sense? In this episode, we talk about theta roles: how they keep us from overstuffing or underfilling our sentences, the different kinds of roles there are, and how it keeps X' Theory from running out of control.
How do we know how to interpret our pronouns? What rules guide what meanings can go with what words? In this episode, we talk about binding theory: what a pronoun even is, where different pronouns can get their interpretation from, and what principles of syntax oversee our understanding of all the nouns we talk about.
How do different languages arrange their meaningful pieces? How many meanings can they let one piece have? In this episode, we look at morphological typologies: how different languages link up their morphemes (or don't!), how they connect one or more meanings to a given sound, and how they can mix and match between different morpheme options.
How does a sentence's structure change when you swap one word for another? How can we know what those changes are? In this episode, we talk about raising and control verbs: what they are, how we can tell that they're different, and what they can tell us about how syntax works.
How can we describe the complexity of linguistic systems? Where does natural language fit in? In this episode, we talk about the Chomsky hierarchy: what it captures, what characterizes different kinds of grammars on the hierarchy, and whether we can find grammars that sit higher on the scale than human language.
How do we know what questions we can ask? What keeps us from moving words around into whatever order we want? In this episode, we talk about syntactic islands: what they are, what rules can allow us to move some words across long distances in a sentence and not others, and what evidence we have from different languages to back these rules up.
Why do different languages slot their words into sentences in different sequences? Do the subjects of sentences have to start off at the beginning of the sentence? In this episode, we talk about word order and the Verb Phrase-Internal Subject Hypothesis, or VPISH: how much variation in orders we see across languages, why having the subject start out lower down in the syntactic tree helps us capture these differences, and what other evidence we have that the subject might not start exactly where it appears.
How do we put our words together? What varieties of building blocks do we stack up to create bigger meanings? In this episode, we talk about derivational and inflectional morphology: what roles each of them play, how to tell them apart, and how differences in how we string them together can lead to ambiguity.
How do we put words together to build more complex noun phrases? What do the structures of sentences and noun phrases have in common? In this episode, we talk about compound nouns: what they look and sound like, how big we can make them, and how they can let us delve into some deeper questions about syntax.
What goes into making a sentence? How has our view of the sentence changed over time? In this episode, we look at the history of clauses: what our first conceptions of them were, how we came to view inflection as the key to the sentence, and why we then broke inflection down further and made tense central.
How do we show possession in our syntax? And what does that tell us about representing nouns in our trees? In this episode, we take a look at determiner phrases: why we need them on top of noun phrases, how they turn some of our ideas about syntax inside out, and what they let us display in trees that we couldn't before.
What roles do nouns play in sentences? How can we figure out those roles when they get moved around? In this episode, we talk about case: how nouns get case, how it explains why some sentences are okay and others not, and how it can even help account for different word orders between languages.
How do sentences fit inside other sentences? Where can we put words like "that", "whether", and "if"? In this episode, we take a look at complementizer phrases: what exactly they are, how they account for embedded sentences and questions, and what they can let us do to capture word order in languages like German and Dutch.
How do verbs like "give" and "put" juggle more than one object? Is there an element that lets verbs cause things to happen? In this episode, we talk about splitting up the verb phrase: how our basic syntactic theory has a hard time with verbs with more than one object; how the syntax of causation shows us why we should expand our trees; and how once we break the phrase up, we can capture all sorts of facts, from two-object verbs to ambiguities.
We can put whole clauses inside other phrases, but what does that do to their structure and their meaning? In this episode, we take a look at the syntax and semantics of relative clauses: how these clauses kind of look like adjectives; how using them creates islands from which words can't escape; and how moving things around in them throws semantic variables into the sentence setup.