On the Morphology of Complex Adjectives

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


This dissertation is an investigation into the internal constituent structure of adjectives ending in -ble within the Distributed Morphology framework (Halle and Marantz 1993 and related work) that is essentially based on their syntactico-semantic properties, on their modal passive content to be precise. Chapter 1 lays out the core issues to be explored as well as the basic ideas of Distributed Morphology. Chapter 2 examines the external and the internal syntax of -ble adjectives in English, Catalan and Spanish. After a revision of previous scholarship on -ble adjectives, it outlines an analysis of -ble adjectives as a kind of modalized passive configuration, which captures intralinguistic variation, and can also accommodate morphologically more complex languages. The next two chapters develop this proposal, partially on the basis of new empirical data. Chapter 3 deals with -ble formations transparently derived out of unergative and unaccusative verbs in Spanish that pose a serious problem for lexicalist theories of word formation. It is argued that the grammaticality of such -ble formations cannot only be due to the internal or endoskeletal properties of the base, but must be a function of its external or exoskeletal properties in interaction with general features of the grammar of cognate elements, the grammar of degrees, (universal) quantification and the general grammar of achievements, together with some general facts of the grammar of Spanish. These data are analyzed in the light of a previously unnoticed correlation between the Spanish data and an alleged cognate structure configuration with unaccusative verbs in English, which reinforces the proposal. Chapter 4 is concerned with productively derived denominal -ble adjectives in Catalan and Spanish and their absence in English. It is argued that the grammaticality of these forms relates aspects of the general properties and internal structure of -ble to issues pertaining to the general syntactico-semantic properties of the possible base nouns, which can be analyzed as nouns and predicates. Chapter 5 recapitulates the main observations that emerge from the analysis, provides new remarks and predictions on crosslinguistic variation, and concludes with the main contributions and future prospects.
Date of Award27 Jan 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)
SupervisorJoan Mascaró (Director)

Cite this