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Constituent Structure and Grammatical Functions in the Hebrew Action Nominal

Yehuda N. Falk

Hebrew noun phrases in general, and action nominals in particular, pose interesting theoretical and descriptive problems: construct state and other ways of realizing POSS, adverbs and accusative OBJs in the action nominal. The various patterns have been discussed in a series of studies in the Government/Binding (GB) and Minimalist Program (MP) variants of transformational theory. The analyses, although they differ from each other in details, all posit head movement from N to a functional head position (generally identified with D), and most of them hypothesize V-to-N head movement in the action nominal.

The claim made in this paper is that various aspects of this analysis are unmotivated, in particular details of the constituency and the presence of the functional category D. It will be argued that the standard GB/MP analysis is the consequence of a theory in which grammatical functions are represented in terms of constituent structure, and that an approach in which grammatical functions are modeled as a distinct dimension of linguistic structure is better able to account for both the grammatical functions and the constituency. On the other hand, it supports the hypothesis that the structure of the action nominal in Hebrew includes both verbal and nominal projections. In LFG terms, the Hebrew action nominal is what Bresnan (1997) calls a “mixed category,” and it is shown how Bresnan‘s theory accounts for the mixed properties of the action nominal without derivations and empty categories. It is also argued that the lexicalist implementation of the NP-over-VP analysis of mixed categories is superior to the derivational implementation in the analysis of Hebrew action nominals, in that it provides an account of both the pattern with accusative “objects” and the so-called “passive” pattern.

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