The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Syntax Square 2/23 - Enrico Flor (MIT) and Stan Zompì (MIT)

Speaker: Enrico Flor (MIT) and Stan Zompì (MIT)
Title: CSC-Violating Head Movement in English Conditional Inversion
Time: Tuesday, February 23rd, 1pm - 2pm
Location: Zoom
Note: MIT Touchstone authentication will be required to enter this week’s Syntax Square zoom meeting.

Abstract: The ban on asymmetric extraction from coordinate structures, commonly known as Coordinate Structure Constraint, is crosslinguistically very robust and has found very few counterexamples in English (Postal 1998 and references therein). We document a new challenge to the general validity of CSC, represented by sentences like:

(1) Sadie would not have proposed, had Olivia ignored her calls and had forgotten her birthday.

(2) Should we support Carmen and she were to win, she would allow us to drive her Ferrari.

We call the construction exemplified by the antecedents of (1) and (2) Asymmetric Conditional Inversion (ACI). Assuming that Conditional Inversion involves T-to-C Head Movement (Pesetsky 1989, Iatridou & Embick 1994), we use interpretive evidence to argue that the only viable analysis of ACI sentences is one in which the Auxiliary is T-to-C extracted out of the first conjunct in violation of the CSC, as it is normally stated.

LingLunch 2/25 - David Pesetsky (MIT)

Speaker: David Pesetsky (MIT)
Title: Lack of ambition
Time: Thursday, February 25th, 12:30pm - 1:50pm
Location: Zoom
Abstract: In this talk, I suggest a non-standard strategy for explaining the limited range of semantics available to constructions in which certain elements of a normal finite TP are phonologically absent. These include English AUX-drop questions (Fitzpatrick 2006) and infinitival clauses (Wurmbrand 2014), where the proposal suggests an answer to some particularly vexing questions arising from the derivational (“Exfoliation”) theory of infinitivization that I have advanced elsewhere (Pesetsky 2019/2021). The core idea attributes apparent restrictions on the constructions themselves to restrictions on a hearer’s creativity in positing possible identities for material deleted in the speaker’s derivation (“hearer” here understood as an abstract concept, including self-monitoring by the speaker). The key principle is the following:

Principle of Unambitious Reverse Engineering (PURE)
When determining the identity of unpronounced material in the course of “reverse ­engineering” a speaker’s syntactic derivation, the language system of the hearer considers only the minimally semantically contentful possibilities compatible with the morphosyntactic environment.

Fitzpatrick, Justin M. 2006. Deletion through movement. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 24:399–431. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-005-3606-3

Pesetsky, David. 2019/2021. Exfoliation: towards a derivational theory of clause size. Unpublished ms., MIT. https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/004440

Wurmbrand, Susi. 2014. Tense and aspect in English infinitives. Linguistic Inquiry 45:403–447. https://doi.org/10.1162/ling_a_00161