The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

24.956, Fall 2022: “Topics in Syntax”

Instructors: Danny Fox and Mitya Privoznov
Monday 2-5pm; 32D-461, https://canvas.mit.edu/courses/16353
This class will focus on restrictions on overt and covert A-bar movement and on what these might tell us about the principles that determine the nature of syntactic derivations.
We will begin with the study of three strong islands (the Subject Condition, the Coordinate Structure Constraint and the Adjunct Condition) and their apparent violations attested cross-linguistically. Each of these islands can be stated as an absolute configurational restriction along the lines of Huang’s (1982) Condition on Extraction Domain (CED), which in turn can be construed as a condition on the application of External Merge and Spell Out. However, the islands have also been argued to be selectively violated across languages. For example, the Subject Condition is claimed to be violable in Russian, Turkish and Japanese – see the debate in Jurka et al. (2011) vs. Fukuda et al. (2016, 2018). This creates a tension between the configurational approaches and various alternative weaker proposals (Takahashi 1994, Rizzi and Shlonsky 2007) We will go through argumentation on both sides for each of the island effects and discuss their wider implications, presenting arguments from Privoznov (2021) that the governing factor pertains to structural configurations determined prior to movement. [We might also discuss possible connections to the theory of discourse anaphora.] 
From there we will move to the study of the (locality) conditions that determine how multiple specifiers are stacked at the edge of various projections, with a focus on wh-movement – overt and covert – and parasitic gap licensing (Richards, 2000, 2003; Nissenbaum 2000, Fox and Nissenbaum 2018, Davis 2020). As usual for advanced seminars, we expect the discussion to place us in unanticipated locations, hence no syllabus at this stage. For some of the very initial readings, please visit the website.