The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Michelle Sheehan at MIT

Michelle Sheehan (Anglia Ruskin University) will be visiting the department this week. In addition to her Colloquium talk on Friday, she will be offering a mini-course on the evidence for and against an ‘escape hatch’ for successive-cyclic A-movement. Details below:

Speaker: Michelle Sheehan (Anglia Ruskin University)
Title: No escape hatch for A-movement: evidence and issues
Time: Wednesday, November 15th, 1:00pm-2:30pm and Thursday, November 16th, 4:00-5:30 pm
Place: 32-D461 (Wed), TBD (Thurs)

This mini-course explores the proposal that A-movement does not proceed through the phase edge. We begin by looking at simple clause-internal A-movement and note that, even if we accept Legate’s (2003) evidence that passive vP is a phase, if we also adopt Chomksy’s (2001) PIC2, there is no need for A-movement to proceed through the phase edge in such contexts. Turning to (more insightful) interclausal contexts, we examine places where A-movement is possible vs. contexts where it is blocked (notably with causative/perception ECM verbs) and note that many of these contrasts can be attributed to the lack of an escape hatch in the v- or C-related phase. For example: 
    1. *Kimi was made/had/let seen/heard/witnessed/listened to [ti sing]
    2. Kimi was made/seen/heard [ ti to sing].
    3. Kim was seen/heard/witnessed/listened to [ ti singing].
    4. Sami was made [ ti angry] by the news.
 Using independent diagnostics for the size of these ECM complements, we propose that A-movement is blocked in (1a) because it must cross two phase heads. A-movement is permitted in (1b-c) because the complement is larger and so a T-related EPP feeds successive cyclic A-movement. Finally, in (1d) the small clause complement is too small to be phasal. The same effect is observed in instances of raising, and possibly (some instances of) control. Where a phasal complement is embedded and there is no T-projection to feed A-movement before the next phase head is merged, the result is ungrammaticality. Once we have shown that this approach works pretty well for English-type languages, we will address a number of elephants in the room: (i) passivisation of causatives/perception verbs in other languages (the variation problem); (ii) languages which appear to lack an English-style EPP to feed successive cyclic A-movement; (iii) hyperraising and (iv) apparent interactions between A- and A-bar movement that appear problematic for our central claim (including Holmberg, Sheehan and van der Wal 2016, oh dear). We’ll see that many languages have restrictions on the passivisation of causatives and/or perception verbs (Italian, French, Spanish, European and Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, German, Icelandic, Hungarian), but the patterns are complex and there is a lot of variation both within and across languages. Some languages are also notable in permitting passives of causatives, e.g., Japanese (with complications), Zulu and Sotho. We’ll see how the approach can handle this variation, making testable predictions about the size of complementation in each language. There will be many puzzles left open for participants to solve and they will be encouraged to think about these issues in other languages that they know or work on.