Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 535–576 | Cite as

Restricting noun incorporation: root movement



This paper argues that the phenomenon of noun incorporation in Inuktitut derives from the fact that the set of verbs involved are all light verbs in the sense of being functional elements excluding lexical or root material. Verbs found in noun incorporation in Inuktitut are in little v and syntactically Merge with a nominal root complement. A parameter which requires that the first root must syntactically move to the top of the tree results in the leftmost position of the root and its apparent incorporation. Unlike Mohawk, where classical noun incorporation is a result of argument licensing, Inuktitut noun incorporation is a subset of a general syntactic operation which targets roots. The light verb analysis of noun incorporation predicts that the set of verbs found in noun incorporation are a finite class with a restricted and predictable semantic range. It is further proposed that obligatory noun incorporation universally involves light verbs. Data in support of this claim are shown from Wakashan and Chukchi. In contrast to a grammaticalized account of this class of verbs, it is argued that these light verbs are universally available as elementary syntactic components. Thus, the limited range and incorporating nature of this class of verbs is explained by their being light verbs.


Noun Incorporation Inuktitut Root movement Light verbs Roots 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics, Robarts LibraryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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