LINGUIST List 12.3021

Tue Dec 4 2001

Books: Syntax

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  1. Ora Matushansky, Syntax: Investigations of Covert Phrase Movement

Message 1: Syntax: Investigations of Covert Phrase Movement

Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 21:57:59 -0500
From: Ora Matushansky <matushanMIT.EDU>
Subject: Syntax: Investigations of Covert Phrase Movement

MIT PhD thesis 2001

Jonathan W. Nissenbaum; Investigations of Covert Phrase
$12. For ordering information, visit our Web page:


The status of covert movement in Universal Grammar has been a
perennial source of trouble in the study of language. What kinds of
structures does it derive? To what extent is it similar to overt
movement? What is its place in the overall architecture of the

In this thesis I present several case studies bearing on these
questions, providing new evidence for the existence of covert phrase
movement. These studies contribute to the growing body of evidence
that grammatical conditions hold only at interface levels [Chomsky
1993]. Further, I attempt to show that, taken together, the
investigations reported here lead to a model of grammar in which the
interface representations are computec cyclically, by successive
applications of the basic grammatical operations merge, move and
spellout on each phase of derivation.

The first studies demonstrate that covert movement licenses parasitic
gaps and feeds Condition A, reversing longstanding assumptions. The
apparent counterevidence that has obscured these properties of covert
movement, I argue, results from a general constraint on movement (the
Tucking-in condition [Richards 1997]) that prevents the formation of
the required configurations in the classic experimental paradigms. In
addition, the study on parasitic gaps provides evidence for the
Y-model's sequencing of overt before covert operations. However, an
investigation of adjunct extraposition from NP (a report of joint work
with D. Fox) yields evidence for the opposite conclusion: that a
covert operation can be followed by an overt one (late adjunction to
the raised NP).

Finally, I show that these conflicting results are resolved by a theory
of successive-cyclic computation of structure in which spellout
applies repeatedly throughout a derivation. I argue that the correct
characterization of the cyclic model captures Y-model effects such as the
failure of covert movement (typically) to license PGs, while allowing
'anti-Y-model effects' typified by extraposition. I propose a condition
that limits countercyclic adjunction to the linear edge of already
computed structures. This condition in turn predicts an intricate pattern
of further generalizations about extraposition. The resulting theory thus
unifies the overt and covert cycles in a manner consistent with the
evidence for covert phrase movement.

Ora Matushansky
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Monday, July 23, 2001