The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 9/26 — Suzana Fong

Speaker: Suzana Fong (MIT)
Title: Long distance argument shift
Date/Time: Monday, September 26, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

Last resort and locality work conjointly to rule out sentences like (i) *John seems that cleaned the kitchen and (ii) *John saw him that cleaned the kitchen. These constructions seem to involve the movement of a DP (‘John’) out of a finite clause and from a Case position into another Case position. Though this is the correct result for a language like English, these sentences are actually attested in other languages. (i) is an instance of hyper-raising and it seems to be possible in Brazilian Portuguese, Lubukusu and Zulu. (ii) seems to be possible in Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Romanian and Sakha.

Although seemingly different, my working hypothesis is that (i) and (ii) are particular instantiations of the same phenomenon, ‘long distance argument shift’ (LDAS). In order to account for it, I propose that LDAS complements involve an extra functional projection XP on top of the finite CP. I also adopt a dynamic approach to phases (Bošković 2014), so that XP and not CP counts as a phase in an LDAS complement. I postulate that XP triggers the movement of a DP to its Spec position. From there, being at the edge of the lower phase, the DP will be accessible to a matrix probe. This is supposed to solve the locality problem. I will also try to show that the postulation of an extra functional projection, though suspicious, may capture some properties of the behavior of LDAS. XP could also be important in trying to explain the restrictions in LDAS variation within and across languages.

Furthermore, I adopt a configurational approach to case (Marantz 1991). Under this view, case itself does not cause a DP to move or to stay frozen in place, eliminating the last resort problem. Empirical motivation to adopt dependent case comes from Sakha (Baker & Vinokurova 2010), where the shifting DP is marked with accusative case, even though the matrix predicate may be unaccusative. I also assume that case can be assigned at each phase a DP moves through (cf. Levin 2016). The motivation comes from case stacking in Korean and Norwegian topicalization, which could be argued to display morphological evidence of the cases the shifting DP gets in the embedded and in the matrix clause.

The following Syntax Square dates are still open: Nov 14, Nov 28, Dec 12. Please contact Colin Davis (colind@mit.edu) or Justin Colley (jcolley@mit.edu) to claim a slot.