The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 4/26 - Nick Longenbaugh

Speaker: Nick Longenbaugh (MIT)
Title: Medium-distance movement
Date: Tuesday, April 26th
Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm
Place: 32-D461

Many filler-gap dependencies traditionally analyzed as involving A’-movement of a null operator show constraints on the gap site that are not observed with other types of A’-movement (Stowell 1986; Cinque 1990; Rezac 2006; a.o.) wh-question formation, finite relative clause formation). In this talk, I focus on four such cases: degree-clauses, purpose clauses, non-finite relatives, and tough-movement. In each of these constructions, intervening finite clauses (but not infinitives) degrade object gaps and completely block subject gaps. I term this constrained movement medium-distance movement (MDM).

(1) Intervening finite CPs degrade object gaps
a. ?(?)That book was hard [Inf to convince Sally [CP that John wrote t]].
b. ??Sally was too smart [Inf to convince Arthur [CP that the professor had failed t]].
c. ??I chose this piano [Inf to convince Bill [CP that Mozart had practiced on t]].
d. ?(?)I’m looking for a book [Inf to convince Sue [CP that Roth would love t]]

(2) Intervening finite CPs block subject-gaps
a. *John was hard [Inf to convince Sally [CP t wrote that book]].
b. *Sally was too smart [Inf to convince Arthur [CP t failed the test]].
c. *I chose Sue [Inf to convince Bill [CP t won the race]].
d. *I’m looking for an author [Inf to convince Sue [CP t wrote this book]]

I argue that the constraints on MDM arise due to type-theoretic constraints on the interpretation of the top link in the relevant movement chain. I show that in each of the four cases under discussion, the top link in the movement chain must be interpreted as a predicate over individuals (type ). Adopting van Urk’s (2105) type-driven approach to the A/A’-distinction, where A- and A’-movement differ in the type of abstraction they are associated with at LF, this precludes precluding any pure A’-movement step in the course of the derivation of these constructions. Instead, I suggest, following van Urk (2015) and Longenbaugh (2016), that the relevant mechanism is composite A/A’-movement, and that finite CPs (but not infinitives) are islands for such movement in English. MDM out of a finite clause is thus island-violating movement, which captures Cinque’s (1990) observation that MDM shows the same constraints as wh-island-violating movement. This analysis both provides a straightforward explanation of the constrained nature of the movement involved in these constructions and furnishes new evidence for the ubiquity of composite A/A’-movement in natural language.