The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 9/12 - Danfeng Wu (MIT)

Speaker: Danfeng Wu (MIT)
Title: Ellipsis As A Diagnosis Of Movements In The Expletive There and It Sentences
Date and time: Tuesday, September 12, 1:00-2:00pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I present an argument from ellipsis that there and it are initially merged within vP or lower in the structure. I adopt Takahashi and Fox’s (2005) proposals concerning MaxElide and parallelism and Hartman’s (2011) extension of their proposal. Hartman attributes the contrast between TP-ellipsis and VP-ellipsis of (1) to an interaction between A-movement of the subject and wh-movement.

(1) John will buy something, but I don’t know what (*he will).

Building on his analysis, I show that there and it behave just the same:

(2) There will be something in the room, but I don’t know exactly what (*there will).

(3) We all know that it will be possible for scientists to achieve something in ten years, but we don’t know what (*it will be).

By showing that the expletives behave exactly like non-expletive subjects across the entire ellipsis paradigm, I argue that they are similarly base generated internal to the vP.

My analysis suggests that semantically vacuous elements can create variable-binding configurations at LF by movement, similar to the effects created by the movement of a null operator previously proposed in semantics. This also adds to Hartman’s observation that semantically vacuous movement of otherwise contentful elements creates the same effects, such as head movement. Movement brings about semantically relevant consequences in a mechanical way, independent of the semantics with which they may interact.