Wednesday, February 24, 2021

On the Form and Function of MERGE (video by Daniel Seely)

Abstract: This talk explores the form and function of the most fundamental operation of the Narrow Syntax, namely Merge. First, we'll give a history of structure building devices, from PS rules through successive stages in the development of Merge--from its introduction in Bare Phrase Structure (Chomsky 1994/95) to its formulation in Problems of Projection (Chomsky 2013, 2015, see also Epstein, Kitahara, Seely 2015) and finally to its most recent characterization, as MERGE—note upper case (Chomsky 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), Epstein, Kitahara, Seely (2018, 2020). Next, we trace the "Maximize Minimal Merge" program (Epstein, Kitahara, and Seely, among others): The idea is to maximize the effects of Merge, while minimizing its form, positing internal to the Narrow Syntax as little as possible beyond simplest Merge (Merge(X, Y) = {X, Y}). Finally, we consider the current ‘state of the art’, in the form of MERGE (i.e. Chomsky’s most recent characterization). MERGE applies to the Workspace WS (which is formally recognized and incorporated into the theory) and not directly to syntactic objects themselves. We provide a detailed examination of this re-conception of Merge, tracing its form and function, and certain challenges that it may give rise to, and  also revealing important consequences in a number of empirical domains, and its implications for the theory of Narrow Syntax

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