Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax
A long-standing issue in syntactic theory, and argument structure in particular, involves the relationship between particular lexical items and the syntactic structures they are embedded in. Lexical roots seem to be choosy about the structures they are able to appear in, but are at they same time very flexible. Complicating the matter further, roots are in some cases able to appear in certain structures only with a certain special meaning. In this paper, I focus on the causative alternation in Icelandic, and propose that we can understand root distribution (the inability of certain roots to appear in certain structures) as a special case of root allosemy (the special interpretation of certain roots in certain structures). This allows for a model where roots have no formal features whatsoever, even if they appear to select for particular structural features, and offers an explanation for cases where it is shown that the putative features of a root cannot be responsible for the interpretation of external arguments directly.
Wood, Jim, 2016. How roots do and don’t constrain the interpretation of Voice, Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax, Vol. 96, 1-25.