The aim of this work is to test the explanatory power of novel approaches to denominal verbs such as to dance, to shelve the books, to hammer the metal a.o in English, and a dansa ‘to dance’, a adăposti ‘to shelter’ or a ciomăgi un om ‘to club a person’ in Romanian. Rather than adopting an incorporation or conflation account (Hale & Keyser 1998, 2002), which considers denominals to be derived either via movement of noun roots into v (incorporation) or via merge (conflation), the work investigates to what extent the same phenomena can be captured by a phrasal spell-out approach according to which a single item can spell out a syntactic structure encompassing several nodes (Starke 2009, 2011), as well as by a spanning approach according to which an item can spell out a span, i.e. a sequence of heads in a single (extended) projection (Brody 2000, Adger 2010, Svenonius 2010, Bye & Svenonius 2010, Ramchand 2014). Starting from the intuition that a verb phrase like shelve the books may be paraprased as and may even be derived from something like put the books on the shelves, the work tries to expore various analyses making use of silent items, or making no use of them whatsoever both in the nanosyntactic framework and in the spanning framework. The monograph also looks at the distributed morphology framework (Halle & Marantz 1993, 1994, Harley & Noyer 1999, Borer 2005, Arad 2003, 2005), according to which lexical items spell out terminal nodes, and fusion can account for mismatches. The conclusions seem to suggest that a DM model and a spanning model with no silent items seem to capture denominality in a more economic and elegant fashion than nanosyntax.
The monograph is organized in 7 Chapters: in the first chapter, I try to clarify the concept of denominal verb, advocating for the view that denominals are derived from nominal roots/ bare nouns, and that, in the case of English, one cannot really tell if a verb is derived from a nominal root or a bare noun. This problem is further amplified by the nominal root having the same form as the bare noun, and the verb also having the same form. As for Romance, one could argue for a clear difference between a noun (rană ‘wound’) and a nominal root (ran-), from which it could be said a verb like răni (‘wound’) is derived. However, even this is debatable, as one could very well say the verb is derived from the noun, and there are phonological operations which affect the vowels. In Romanian, the difference between a noun and a denominal is very clear, as the verb presents an additional verbal suffix with respect to the noun/ nominal root. In Chapter 2, I examine the relationship between the properties of the root (boundedness) and the properties of the verb (telicity), trying to see whether they are related, and how Romanian behaves in this respect. The results from a research conducted on a database created by selecting all the denominal verbs from a bilingual dictionary may be interpreted as pointing towards the idea that verbs are not derived from nouns, but from categorized roots. Moreover, it seems to be the case that the telicity of the verb goes beyond the boundedness or unboundedness of the root from which it is derived. In Chapter 3, I present various approaches to denominal verbs, from syntactic to morphological views such as distributed morphology and the nanosyntax framework. In Chapter 4, I present the spanning framework, trying to apply it to denominals in English and Romanian. In Chapter 5, I focus on verbs incorporating Themes, pseudo-agent verbs, and verbs ambiguous between an unaccusative and an unergative reading, trying to account for their behaviour in the nanosyntactic and the spanning framework. In Chapter 6, I deal with location, locatum verbs, and the locative alternation, while in Chapter 7, I try to provide an account of instrumental verbs. The conclusion would be that the spanning framework accounts for denominals better than the nanosyntactic framework.
I have organized the chapters of this monograph depending upon the theta-role of the root noun from which the verb is derived, very much in the Hale & Keyser (2002) spirit. However, in doing so, I have not meant to imply that it is the case that these theta-roles actually exist in an ontological sense, or embrace a particular view concerning theta-roles. My move was rather meant to organize the data along the lines of capturing in new frameworks the classes of denominals the Hale & Keyser (2002) framework had already dealt with, and seeing how a phrasal spell-out account or a spanning account could represent these classes. In fact, there is a serious inconsistency at this point, given that I have organized the classes of denominals according to the theta-roles of the root nouns, but, at the same time, I have embraced a more or less Ramchandian (2008) view, arguing for a different labelling of roles (Initiator, Undergoer, Result, Path, Rheme), and for the possibility of a theta-role to be composite (Initiator, Undergoer, for instance, in the case of dance). In this sense, there is no theta-role Agent, only <Initiator> or <Initiator, Undergoer> or <Initiator, Undergoer, Resultee>. The organization of denominals into thematic classes is, hence, to be taken simply as a means of coping with data already dealt with, making use of the traditional theta-role terminology in a loose sense, rather than a very strict point of view.