The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 11/17 - Cater Chen (MIT)

Speaker: Cater Chen (MIT)
Title: The tough path to passive
Time: Tuesday, November 17th, 1pm – 2pm

Abstract: The Mandarin BEI-construction, where BEI introduces an eventuality proposition that the subject of BEI undergoes, is known to show mixed A-/Aʹ-behavior similar to the English tough-construction. An analysis of the BEI-construction that has been widely accepted involves base-generation of the subject of BEI and Aʹ-movement of a null operator to the left periphery of the eventuality complement, akin to Chomsky’s treatment of the tough-construction. In this talk, I argue that a different derivation of the BEI-construction must be possible (and the default), due to its distinct behaviour when interacting with IP-external topicalization (that shows Aʹ-behavior under the standard diagnostics) and IP-internal topicalization and focalization (that shows mixed A-/Aʹ-behavior), which have also been proposed to involve null operator movement. Specifically, I use the subject-oriented long-distance reflexive ziji as a diagnostic for subjecthood to reveal that two moved objects must conform to a nesting path when BEI-construction and IP-external topicalization are involved, but they must conform to a crossing path when BEI-construction and IP-internal topicalization/focalization are involved. By comparison, when two objects undergo IP-external topicalization and/or IP-internal topicalization/focalization, no systematic nesting/crossing asymmetry is found.