The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingPhil Reading Group 10/30 - on Jacobson 1995

Title: Discussion of Jacobson 1995: On the Quantificational Force of English Free Relatives
Date and time: Monday October 30, 1-2pm
Location: 7th Floor Seminar room

The late 70’s and early 80’s witnessed considerable debate as to the correct syntactic analysis of free relatives in English and other languages with a similar construction: is the internal structure of an NP free relative basically like that of an ordinary NP, or is its internal structure instead like that of other wh constituents such as wh questions? The underlying concern surrounding this debate was whether the gap in a free relative could be analyzed as the result of wh movement; this question in turn, of course, bore on the status of Subjacency and on the feasibility of reducing a large class of phenomena to wh movement. But the correct syntactic analysis of free relatives also has significant implications for the syntax/semantics map and for the theory of NP meanings, and it is to this question that this paper is addressed. In particular, I wikk present some ecidence suggesting that English free relatives do indeed have the internal strcture of other wh constituents — they contain no overt lexical head and therefore also contain no overt quantificational element.1 Just how and why, then, du these have NP-type meanings and — given the claim that there is no overt lexical quantifier — what is it that supplies them with their particular quantificational force?

The discussion will be led by Kelly.