The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 10/23 - Philip Shushurin (NYU)

Speaker: Philip Shushurin (NYU)
Title: A head movement approach to second position clitics: The case of Russian polar particle li
Time: Wednesday, October 23rd, 5pm – 6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: In many languages of the world, certain clitics are restricted to appear in the second position of the clause. Russian polar particle li, for instance, cannot follow branching phrases (2) and cannot contain focussed material to its right (3).

(1) Kvartiru li Anna kupila?
apartment LI Anna bought
`Did Anna buy an apartment?’

(2) *Doroguju kvartiru li Anna kupila?
expensive apartment LI Anna bought
int. `Did Anna buy an expensive apartment?’

(3) Doroguju li kvartiru Anna kupila?
expensive LI apartment Anna bought
`Did Anna buy an expensive apartment?’ — OK
`Did Anna buy an expensive apartment?’ — not possible

I suggest that the ban on phrasal constituents in the pre-li position is a consequence of the Head Movement Constraint: the associated constituent must head move and left-adjoin to li, which is supposed to be the head of the polarity phrase (Sigma) merged directly above the associated constituent. Phrasal constituents, like the one in (2) are unable to do so yielding ungrammaticality. Only those constituents that move to li can get polar interpretation, explaining the pattern in (3). The resulting complex head (X+li) acts as a constituent largely equivalent to a wh-word: at later stages of the derivation, it is attracted to the left periphery of the clause. li can be seen as an analogue of a wh-morpheme, which merges with different morphemes to form a wh-word. Treating X+li as a constituent allows to reduce the second position requirement of li to the left edge requirement on the X+li, a requirement often postulated for wh-words. Next, I show that X+li is different from wh-words in that X+li must always be at the left edge of the DP, while wh-words need not to. I suggest several explanations of this asymmetry.