Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 47–95

The emergence of syntactic structure

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10988-006-9011-5

Cite this article as:
Kracht, M. Linguistics & Philosophy (2007) 30: 47. doi:10.1007/s10988-006-9011-5


The present paper is the result of a long struggle to understand how the notion of compositionality can be used to motivate the structure of a sentence. While everyone seems to have intuitions about which proposals are compositional and which ones are not, these intuitions generally have no formal basis. What is needed to make such arguments work is a proper understanding of what meanings are and how they can be manipulated. In particular, we need a definition of meaning that bans all mentioning of syntactic structure; it is not the task of semantics to state in which way things are put together in syntax. The present paper presents such a theory of meaning. This, in tandem with some minimal assumptions on the syntactic process (that there can be no deletion) yield surprisingly deep insights into natural language. First, it rehabilitates a lot of linguistic work as necessary on semantic grounds and defends it against potential claims of redundancy. For example, θ-roles and linking are an integral part of semantics, and not syntax. To assume the latter is to put the cart before the horse. Second, as a particular example we shall show that Dutch is not strongly context free even if weakly context free. To our knowledge, this is the first formal proof of this fact.


Compositionality Syntax Semantics 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUCLALos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.MTA Nyelvtudományi IntézetBudapestHungary

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