Connection between Morphology and Syntax

Miriam Butt Miriam.Butt at UNI-KONSTANZ.DE
Tue Jan 19 15:30:44 UTC 1999

Martin Haspelmath wonders about a functional explanation for the autonomy
of grammar.  I don't know anything about that, but I do think that his
claim with regard to the connection between morphology and syntax
shouldn't be left unchallenged.

On Tue, 19 Jan 1999, Martin Haspelmath wrote:

> It seems to me that the morphological restriction ultimately has a
> syntactic explanation, because morphology serves syntax and comes from
> syntax.

An alternative view is that morphology and syntax are two
coexisting systems which may sometimes have the same function: i.e., to
agreement, encode genitives, pronouns, etc.

For example, one language may have a periphrastic causative (Italian),
while another may have a morphological causative (Urdu, Bantu), and yet
the way the causatives function is the same at some level (argument
structure in mine and Alsina's approaches), irrespective
of whether they are realized morphologically or syntactically.

Some papers making this point of view explicit can be found at

In particular:
  Bresnan 1996 --- Morphology Competes with Syntax: Explaining Typological
                   Variation in Weak Crossover Effects

  Bresnan 1997 --- Explaining Morphosyntactic Competition


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