Phoevos Panagiotidisis Professor of Theoretical Linguistics and Chair of English Studies. He earned his PhD from Essex University in 2000. He is the author of two monographs: Pronouns, Clitics and empty nouns (Benjamins, 2002) and Categorial Features: a generative theory of word class categories (Cambridge University Press, 2015); he is also the author of a successful Greek-language popular science introduction to Linguistics, Μίλα μου για γλώσσα [‘Talk to me about language’](Crete University Press, 2013). He has presented over 180 papers and talks and has published extensively in international journals and in jointly authored volumes. His research interests include lexical categories, adjectives, roots, pronouns, the nominal domain, mixed projections, and the syntax of Greek and Balkan languages.
This talk will offer an overview of a current understanding of the content and the form of linguistic roots. It first reviews the cases i) against semantic content of uncategorised roots and ii) for Late Insertion of roots; then it investigates how native speakers identify roots. First, the idea that roots may be polysemous or may encode the shadow of a denotation is refuted. Second, the existence of a spectrum of content to which roots belong, with roots ranging from contentless to semantically specific and concrete, is also shown to be illusory, and to result from the actual productivity of the words derived from them. Harley’s arguments for Late Insertion of roots are then reviewed and updated, divorcing roots from the forms that realise them. These points are systematically combined with Acquaviva’s analysis of roots as abstract indices, i.e. as the syntax-internal criteria of lexical identity. Finally the approach at hand is taken to its logical conclusion: if roots are indeed abstract indices, then they cannot be identified either by the semantic content they realise within grammatical structures or by their forms. Roots are hence identified just once by native speakers over their lexicon at a given moment and on the basis of three heuristic principles: one form-based, one based on the feature content and the exponence of the structures in which roots are embedded, and one taking care of root suppletion.