External possession and the undisentanglability of syntax and semantics
Smith, Luke Madison
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Over the past decades, generative attempts to understand the formal syntactic properties of the human language faculty have become unexpectedly entangled with semantics. While classical theories assumed a wide degree of autonomy for the engine of syntax in the language faculty, empirical research into argument structure, syntactic cartography and cross-linguistic alternations has nudged the field toward an understanding of syntax fundamentally linked to a core of semantic processing. Here, I investigate External Possession as a syntactic alternation, in order to fan these flames. I argue that External Possession is a formally uniform, well-motivated and non-arbitrary alternation whose unique semantics and pragmatics come hand-in-hand with its syntactic properties. This reinforces the idea that human syntax is based on a universal structure reducible in part to semantics and pragmatics. I speculate as to the nature of this structure.