The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 10/21- Kenyon Branan

Speaker: Kenyon Branan (MIT)
Title: A long distance subject/object extraction
Date/Time:Thursday, October 21, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

There are a number of ditransitive verbs that are able to take both a DP and a CP complement. A subset of these verbs exhibit an interesting asymmetry: long distance object extraction of a DP is grammatical, whereas long distance subject extraction of a DP is ungrammatical, even when licensing conditions for long distance subject extraction are fulfilled. Examples of ungrammatical subject extraction are given below.

(1) a.* Who did we convince them [ __ sighted Bigfoot]?
b.* Who did they persuade themselves [ __ should move to Canada]?
c.* What did they assure each other [ __ has sunk]?

Previous accounts of this [Stowell (1981), Bošković and Lasnik (2003)] attribute this ungrammaticality to licensing conditions for elements moved out of subject position. We take a different approach. We show that this ungrammaticality obtains only in cases where the extracted subject is a DP. We give evidence from two tests which suggest that the matrix subject of these verbs originates below [spec,vP]. Putting these two together, we argue that the ungrammaticality of sentences like (1) is the result of an intervention effect. The movement of a DP containing a wh-word to [spec,vP] creates a structure where T is unable to Agree with the low subject, the moved DP acting as an intervener.

We propose that there is a structural difference between long distance subject movement and long distance object movement. Long distance subject movement involves movement of a subject from the CP to matrix [spec,vP]. Long distance object movement involves two steps: movement of the CP to [spec,vP], and subextraction of the object DP from the CP. Crucially, long distance object movement does not create the asymmetric c-command relationship between two syntactic objects of the same type which characterizes intervention effects.