Constructions with mixed syntactic properties combine the external distribution of one category with the internal structure of another; for example, constructions with nominalizations often have a nominal distribution but partly verbal internal structure.
Based on evidence from constructions that combine properties of noun phrases and verb phrases, this dissertation argues for a particular account of category mixing, which relies on the distinction between the lexical properties of the construction's head (most importantly, the set of abstract grammatical functions it subcategorizes for, such as subject, object, or oblique) and language-specific phrase structure constraints that determine whether and how these lexical properties can be instantiated (for example, whether an object function can be expressed within a noun phrase).
The flexibility of the account is illustrated by two case studies in nominalization in Italian and in Wan (Mande), each dealing with its own kind of “unusual” mixed category that is problematic for the previously proposed approaches to category mixing.
The behavior of nominalized infinitives in Italian points to a discrepancy between the selection of an object function (nominalizations of transitive verbs must retain the verb's object) and the range of available syntactic configurations (object functions cannot be expressed in a construction with a nominal head). This discrepancy results in a somewhat surprising pattern of ineffability of arguments corresponding to the verb's objects: verbs that cannot occur without an object cannot be nominalized. Theories that do not treat lexical properties and syntactic configuration as two dissociated levels of structure have no way of accounting for the lack of a syntactic expression for an obligatory argument.
The unique features of nominalization in Wan are due to an unusual property of the syntax of PPs: instead of being realized NP- and VP-internally, next to the nominal or the verbal head that selects for them, PPs must appear at the level of IP and do not form a syntactic constituent with their subcategorizer. While regular nouns never select for oblique functions and cannot be associated with PPs, nominalizations can retain the oblique function of their base verb. In this sense, deverbal nouns share some syntactic properties with verbs. At the same time, due to the non-local realization of oblique arguments, the mixed syntax of deverbal nouns is not captured by accounts that project argument structure directly into syntax, without the mediating level of grammatical function assignment. Similarly, this pattern of mixing cannot be explained by accounts that rely on mixed syntactic projections as the source of category mixing.
In addition to discussing the consequences of such unusual patterns of category mixing for syntactic theory, the study extends the investigation of category mixing beyond synchronic analysis proper. Properties of mixed categories are argued to depend in a predictable way on their historical source, and the proposed synchronic account is supported by the contrast in the development of two types of constructions combining verbal and nominal properties: mixed nominalizations (illustrated with Middle English, Basque, and Old Church Slavonic) and mixed nonfinite forms of the verb (illustrated with Vedic infinitives, Celtic verbal nouns, and the Slavic supine). More broadly, the analysis of the diachronic development of the two types of mixed categories illustrates how historical evidence can be used to justify a synchronic account, suggesting that the study of formal syntax should be integrated with the study of language change.