Lexical derivation

Richardson, John T. E. (1977). Lexical derivation. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 6(4) pp. 319–336.

URL: http://doi.org/10.1007/BF01068302


A recent point of controversy in linguistics has been the correct treatment of derived nouns such as refusal, destruction, and eageness. Two positions, the transformationalist approach and the lexicalist approach, have been proposed to account for the relationship between these nouns and their base forms (refuse, destroy, eager). The two approaches differ over how they resolve an incompatibility among the basic assumptions of transformational grammar. Positive linguistic arguments given by Chomsky (1970) favor the lexicalist account. Empirical predictions are suggested from the application of the two approaches to psycholinguistic situations. Experimental findings are reviewed, including those from a research program contrasting lexical derivation and the attributes of imageability and concreteness. The results fail to support either position, and throw doubt upon the idea that there is a genuine phenomenon to be investigated. This gives rise to a dilemma over the relationship between linguistics and psychology, which may be resolved either by rejecting the conception of linguistics as the explanation of linguistic intuitions or by rejecting the notion of a direct link between linguistics and psychology.

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