Source and negative prefixes: On the syntax-lexicon interface and the encoding of spatial relations

This dissertation offers a contrastive analysis of the (here called) Source prefix des- and the negative prefix iN- in Spanish that highlights the connections and divergences existing between the encoding of Source paths and the encoding of negation. For des-, it is proposed that, although it can appear in different contexts (with verbs, nouns, and adjectives) and may display different meanings (separation, deprivation, destruction, reversion and negation), it has only one entry in the lexicon in which it is identified with its most basic value, that of a Source path. The polysemy of this prefix emerges, on the one hand, from the syntactic context where it is embedded and, on the other, from the conceptual content associated to the root with which it is combined. As for iN-, the claim is made that it is a negative marker that involves quantification over a scale (which accounts for its restriction to only combine with scalar bases) and adjectival categorization (which explains that iN- prefixed items are always adjectives). Finally, to reach a better understanding of the syntax and semantics of these two prefixes, their Latin predecessors are also analyzed: the Source prefixes ab-, de-, ex- and dis-, and the negative prefix iN-. In line with Acedo-Matellán (2006b) and Acedo-Matellán & Mateu (2013), it is shown that the step from Latin to Romance triggered a typological change from a satellite-framed system, Latin, to a verb-framed one, Romance languages in general and Spanish in particular. The evolution from Latin to Spanish also triggered a reanalysis of the negative prefix iN-, which changed its status from an adjunct showing a certain degree of autonomy and ability to be combined with different types of bases, to a categorizing affix. The phenomena are approached from a neo-constructionist perspective of the syntax-lexicon interface. In particular, I adopt the principles stated in Nanosyntax and assume that the function of the lexicon is to provide lexical exponents to spell out the structures delivered by syntax. Drawing on Real Puigdollers’ (2013) theory of lexicalization by phase, I adopt the view that the timing of Spell-Out is marked by the phase, which allows accounting for cross-linguistic variation. Besides, this thesis aims at providing an account of the precise way in which structural semantics interacts with conceptual content. To this end, I take into consideration Pustejovsky’s (1995) formalization of lexical semantics via Qualia Structure, and posit that when lexical exponents are inserted in the syntactic structure, their qualia structures interact and ultimately determine the precise meaning of the configuration. ​
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