The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MIT Colloquium 11/17 - Michelle Sheehan (Anglia Ruskin)

Speaker: Michelle Sheehan (Anglia Ruskin)
Title: Different routes to partial control: German/English = French + Icelandic
Time: Friday, November 17th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Venue: 32-155
One of the biggest challenges to the movement theory of control (Hornstein 1999, et seq.) is the existence of partial control (PC), whereby (descriptively speaking) big PRO denotes the controller plus some other contextually given individual(s) (Landau 2000, 2003, 2004):
  1. Johni wants PROi+ to part company now. 
Early accounts of this phenomenon attribute it to an imperfect control relation between the controller and PRO, mediated by C, which allows PRO to be syntactically singular but semantically plural (Landau 2000, 2004). More recent accounts, however, recognise the problems such an account and attribute PC to either the semantics of attitude predicates (Pearson 2013, 105, Landau 2015) or the presence of an associative marker on the embedded predicate (Landau 2016). On the latter kinds of approaches, note, PC seems less problematic for the movement theory of control. Moreover, Boeckx, Hornstein and Nunes (2010) propose an account of PC which is straightforwardly compatible with the movement theory of control: PC involves exhaustive control with a covert comitative.
In this paper, I give experimental data from a number of languages to show that PC remains problematic for the movement theory of control in some (but not all) languages. That is to say that PC is not a uniform phenomenon. While there are languages in which PC does reduce to exhaustive control plus a covert comitative (French), there are also languages in which it only sometimes does (German, English, European Portuguese) and others in which it never does (Icelandic, Russian). There are thus two types of PC, which I label fake PC and true PC. Moreover, in instances of true PC in languages with rich case/agreement morphology, we can see that PRO is actually plural in instances of true PC, and also that it has its own case specification. This raises serious problems for the claim that control is always derived via movement.
As a solution to this puzzle, I propose that there are two syntactic routes to control: movement and failed movement. Where a complement CP lacks case/phi-features, an argument in spec TP is indeed free to move to the thematic domain of the matrix clause, according to PIC2 (Chomsky 2001). This gives rise to an exhaustive control reading. Following van Urk and Richards (2015), however, I claim that where the complement CP has case/phi-features, as it can in Icelandic, Russian, European Portuguese and German, this movement is blocked as the clause is an intervener. In such cases, a matrix thematic head can only agree with an embedded subject, but the latter cannot move. A distinct DP is therefore externally merged with that thematic head. At PF, the two arguments form a partial chain, leading to deletion of the lower copy and at LF the two arguments are required to be non-distinct, leading to partial control. 
An extended abstract is also available.