This introductory chapter sets out the book’s main themes. A comprehensive theory of linguistic representations must minimally (i) define the nature of the primitive building blocks that enter into linguistic computation; (ii) characterize the manner in which the basic units combine into complex representations; and (iii) identify the ways in which languages may differ with respect to their inventory of possible representations. This book aims to meet the requirements in the domain of verbal argument structure, focusing on the question of how arguments that are not, in a sense, “core” arguments of the verb get introduced into argument structures. It argues that, to a large extent, noncore arguments are introduced by seven functional heads that belong to a universal inventory of functional elements from which a particular language must select. The book further argues that cross-linguistic variation has two sources: (i) Selection; and (ii) the way a language packages the selected elements into syntactic heads.
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