Semelfactives are bigger than degree achievements: The nanosyntax of Czech and Polish semelfactive and degree achievement verb stems
This paper argues that semelfactive and degree achievement verbs are morphosyntactically distinct, despite the fact that the morphemes they are made of are often syncretic even in languages with synthetic verb morphology like Czech or Polish. We use the mechanisms of Nanosyntax, a theory of the architecture of grammar in which the lexicon stores entire syntactic subtrees, to show that there is a structural containment between semelfactives and degree achievements such that semelfactives include more syntactic structure than degree achievements. In this respect, the relative structure of these two verb classes contributes to Bobaljik’s (2012) general claim that syncretism anchors structural containment as well as to the ongoing discussion about the form of spell out in syntax. The resulting picture supports the view whereby the semantics of lexical items is determined by their fine-grained internal syntax.