The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch (11/10) - Ido Benbaji & David Pesetsky (MIT)

Speaker: Ido Benbaji & David Pesetsky (MIT)
Title: E-Extension and the Uniformity of Silence
Time: Thursday, November 10th, 12:30pm – 1:50pm

Abstract: At the heart of this talk is the conjecture that all syntactic processes that silence an otherwise overt expression do the same thing: apply an E-feature to that expression (Uniformity of Silence):

Effect of E-feature
The feature E associated with an occurrence of node α silences every element reflexively dominated by α.

With this conjecture as background, we focus here on the silencing of syntactic heads and argue that at least some phenomena traditionally studied under the special rubric of ellipsis involve nothing more than the extension of an E-feature applied for independent reasons to a slightly higher node:

Optional: If Hº bears E, copy E to the smallest phrasal node containing H and its selected complement.

We propose that the phenomenon known as Sluicing is simply the result of the E-feature applied by an independently motivated rule (optional in some languages) to the complementizer in a “Doubly-Filled Comp” configuration, optionally extended to the minimal C′ by (2).

Furthermore, the family of phenomena usually studied under the rubric of VP-Ellipsis, including English Auxiliary Verb Phrase Ellipsis, are simple the result of the E-feature that silences the trace of verb raising optionally extended to the minimal V′ or AUX′ containing that verb by (2). This dovetails with proposals by Thoms (2010) and Harwood (2014), among others, which also posit verb movement as a necessary precursor to “VP ellipsis” (in somewhat different ways)

Both phenomena crucially target a phrase minimally larger than the silenced head, yielding the phenomenon dubbed Adjunct Exclusion in recent work (including Landau, passim). We argue that “Adjunct Exclusion” is a subcase of a more general phenomenon of non-complement exclusion observed in both of the ellipsis phenomena studied here, with evidence from English and Hebrew.