The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 11/28 - Elise Newman

Speaker: Elise Newman (MIT)
Title: Middles produce easily if you have enough stuff
Date and time: Tuesday November 28, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

It has been proposed in the literature that Anti-locality (Abels 2003, Erlewine 2016) can help us understand a number of subject-object asymmetries in A-bar movement. However, it has been stipulated that such a restriction cannot exist for A-movement due to the idea that subjects move string-vacuously to Spec TP. In this talk, I argue that such subject-object asymmetries also occur with A-movement, and that they also can be explained by Anti-locality. I propose that middles are a direct reflection of this, as can be seen by regarding novel facts about middle formation that previous semantic accounts cannot explain. 
Middles look like inchoative unaccusatives except for a few key differences:
  • They have unexpressed external arguments
  • They have an adverb restriction
(1) a. The ice melted (quickly) (all by itself).
     b. The book read *(quickly) (*all by itself).
I propose that objects of middles move through the canonical subject position on their way to Spec TP. The adverb restriction is a result of the object’s sensitivity to Anti-locality as it undergoes this movement chain. The two (arguably 3) types of adverb restrictions pattern with how embedded the object is at the beginning of the derivation.