* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
LINGUIST List logo Eastern Michigan University Wayne State University *
* People & Organizations * Jobs * Calls & Conferences * Publications * Language Resources * Text & Computer Tools * Teaching & Learning * Mailing Lists * Search *
* *

LINGUIST List 24.1454

Sat Mar 30 2013

Review: Syntax: Uribe-Etxebarria & Valmala (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 14-Feb-2013
From: Yosuke Sato <ellysnus.edu.sg>
Subject: Ways of Structure Building
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2969.html

EDITOR: Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria
EDITOR: Vidal Valmala
TITLE: Ways of Structure Building
SERIES TITLE: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Yosuke Sato, National University of Singapore


This volume presents an up-to-date view of current approaches in contemporary
syntactic theory regarding the nature of structure-building operations, their
triggers and constraints. The fourteen chapters here investigate this issue on
the basis of various phenomena from a rich variety of languages. Many of the
specific proposals advanced pursue a new model of explanation solely based on
the derivational mechanics of syntactic computation. This new model is
different from the standard minimalist model (e.g., Chomsky 1995), which
attempts to account for linguistic facts in terms of the interface of syntax
with the phonological/semantic components or idiosyncratic lexical properties.
The volume starts with Chapter 1 “Overview” written by Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria
and Vidal Valmala, who summarize the central proposals in the following
chapters. Chapters 2-7 in Part I (“Merge and Beyond”) present new proposals
regarding the set of possible structure-building operations, whereas chapters
8-15 in Part II (“Triggers and Constraints”) put forth specific proposals
regarding the the relevant operations.

Chapter 2 (“Constituent Structure Sets II”) by Dirk Bury and Hiroyuki Uchida
proposes a novel structure representation system called “Constituent Structure
Sets (CSS)” (p. 20), which defines a relation analogous to reflexive dominance
between subsets of the numeration (N). Under this system, with N = {V, D}
(where V = verb and D = determiner), the power set of N, namely, ℘ (N) = {{V,
D}, {V}, {D}, Ø}, is partially ordered with regards to reflexive set
containment. If the properties of reflexive dominance are attributed to
reflexive containment, this system creates hierarchical relations which
include the former relation between the subsets of the N. The CSS is less
expressive than labeled trees in that it can only represent syntactic head
copying with a provable maximal limit. This limited freedom of head
duplication provides a structural explanation for German V2 data.

In Chapter 3 (“A Parallel Merge Solution to the Merchant/Johnson Paradox”),
Barbara Citko provides a new analysis of the impossibility of voice mismatches
in gapping. The issue here is how to reconcile Merchant’s (2008) analysis of
voice mismatches in pseudogapping as applied to gapping, with Johnson’s (2009)
arguments against treating gapping as ellipsis. The fact that both
constructions disallow voice mismatches suggests they arise due to
vP-ellipsis. However, Johnson shows that gapping involves an across-the-board
movement of the gapped element above the vP-level coordination, though this
analysis cannot account for the ungrammaticality of voice mismatches in
gapping. Citko resolves this paradox using the Parallel Merge mechanism (Citko
2005), which crucially allows non-constituent elements v and V to be shared
without necessarily sharing subjects/objects.

Parallel Merge is also a central concern of Antonio Fábregas in Chapter 4
(“Evidence for Multidominance in Spanish Agentive Nominalizations”). This
chapter provides evidence for the multidominance structure in Spanish agentive
nominalizations headed by the suffix -dor. This suffix requires the base verb
to contain an initiator argument, blocking the presence of any other argument
of this kind, and the noun is created from the verbal base. Fábregas proposes
that the suffix occupies the specifier position of Initiator P and then
remerges and reprojects its N feature. This analysis provides a unified
account of various syntactic and semantic properties associated with
-dor-nominalization. He also shows that remerge of an affix is only possible
when it is ambiguous between a maximal and minimal category in the sense of
Bare Phrase Structure (Chomsky 1995).

Martina Gračanin-Yuksek also discusses Parallel Merge in Chapter 5 (“Clitic
Placement and Multidominance”) but from the perspective of linearization. She
provides evidence, from Croatian multiple wh-questions and coordinated V2
clauses, that the attested linearization in multidominance structures cannot
be predicted by standardly revised versions of the Linear Correspondence Axiom
such as Wilder (1999). In the first case, the auxiliary third person singular
clitic ‘je’ c-commands some shared material, but follows it in the
linearization. In the second case, the shared subject c-commands both the V2
auxiliary and the vP but somehow ends up appearing between the two items. The
author concludes that these cases can be accommodated instead by a “Constraint
on Sharing”, which “requires all multiple highest mothers of a shared node to
completely dominate the same set of terminal nodes” (p. 113).

Chapter 6 (“Sideward Movement: Triggers, Timing, and Outputs”) by Jairo Nunes
discusses extensions and refinements of sideward movement. Nunes emphasizes
that sideward movement comes as a natural possibility within the Minimalist
Program (MP), wherein the computational system operates with more than one
syntactic object, and movement is construed as the result of interaction
between the more primitive processes of Copy and Merge. He shows that the
relevant operation is constrained by independent minimalist principles such as
Last Resort, No Look-Ahead, and phase-based local computations, just like
“normal” upward movement. He further demonstrates that sideward movement also
correctly predicts cases with non-canonical phonetic realization of copies.

In Chapter 7 (“Unconventional Mergers”), Mark de Vries proposes Parenthetical
Merge as a second type of merger in addition to Internal/External Merge to
account for the paradoxical fact that parenthetical expressions are
syntactically integrated within the host, but invisible to c-command
relationships with it. This merger, introduced by a functional projection
ParP, headed by a “parenthetical specifying coordinator” (p. 158), which
shields parentheses from establishing c-command relations with material higher
up in the host. De Vries further suggests that cleft-/wh-amalgams are the
combined result of Parenthetical Merge and External Merge.

Chapter 8 (“‘Lasnik-Effects’ and String-Vacuous ATB Movement”) by Jun Abe and
Norbert Hornstein tackles the Janus-faced character of Right-Node-Raising
(RNR): it is insensitive to locality conditions on movement but shared
quantified phrases can scope out of coordinated clauses. Adopting Sabbagh’s
(2007) across-the-board movement analysis of RNR, Abe and Hornstein propose
that string-vacuous movement must be covert, due to the interface requirement
that overt movement must bring about a PF (Phonetic Form) effect. They argue
that string-vacuous RNR cases are insensitive to locality effects, because the
tail of the movement chain is pronounced, thereby eliminating the offending
“*” feature of its head. Non-string-vacuous RNR cases exhibit locality effects
because the head of the movement chain is pronounced, resulting in a
non-convergent PF representation.

Chapter 9 (“Disharmony, Antisymmetry, and the Final-over-Final Constraint”) by
Theresa Biberauer and Michelle Sheehan provides an explanation for the
Final-over-Final Constraint (FOFC) - that no structure exists with a
head-final phrase dominating a head-initial phrase - and analyzes obligatory
CP extraposition in OV languages as a further FOFC-compliance effect. They
propose that this constraint arises from a minimality-based restriction on the
distribution of the ^ feature, akin to an edge or EPP (Extended Projection
Principle) feature, triggering syntactic movement within an extended
projection, and a layered derivation approach outlined in Sheehan (2010) where
certain phrases such as DPs are atomized for linearization. The extraposition
arises when the CP, which they argue is headed by a little n, is forced to
move to [Spec, V], followed by spell-out of the CP in its first-merge

Chomsky (2008) suggests that sentences like “Who was arrested?” involve
simultaneous movements of the object to [Spec, T] and [Spec, C]. In Chapter 10
(“Don’t Feed Your Movements When You Shift Your Objects”), Željko Bošković
explores empirical consequences of the Parallel Movement Analysis, based on
quantifier-floating in West Ulster English and experiencer-blocking effects in
Icelandic. He further shows that the contrast in quantifier floating between
object shift and relativization contexts in Icelandic provides a new argument
for the view that the landing site of object shift is higher than [Spec, v].

Chapter 11 (“Structure Building That Can’t Be”) by Samuel Epstein, Hisatsugu
Kitahara and Daniel Seely attempts to deduce cyclic transfer from third-factor
principles. Given Chomsky’s (2008) feature-inheritance analysis and the Law of
Conservation of Relations (“In narrow syntax, syntactic relations (among
existing terms) cannot be altered throughout a derivation,” p. 256), subject
raising cannot insert a DP into the C-rooted object but instead creates two
distinct, intersecting set-theoretic objects which share a term with no single
node. Given the Label Accessibility Condition (“Only the label of an entire
syntactic object, the root, is accessible to narrow syntax,” p. 254), however,
these objects cannot undergo merge, causing the derivation to crash. The
authors propose that one of these objects must therefore be eliminated,
thereby deducing Cyclic Transfer. This analysis accounts for object agreement
facts in Icelandic. They further show that the invisibility of [Spec, T] to C
follows in this theory under the derivational approach to c-command in Epstein
et al. (1998).

It is widely acknowledged in the minimalist literature that the Minimal Link
Condition (MLC) overlaps with Phase Impenetrability Condition in deriving
locality effects. In Chapter 12 (“Specificity-driven Syntactic Derivation”),
Antje Lahne argues against the MLC and proposes instead that syntactic
derivation is driven by the General Specificity Principle (GSP) -- that when
there is more than one goal for Agree/Move, the operations target the more
specific goal, where specificity is defined morphosyntactically. Lahne shows
that the GSP covers both MLC-effects (e.g., A-over-A cases as illustrated in
Breton agreement and phi-agreement in English gerunds) and anti-MLC-effects
(e.g., Bulgarian multiple wh-questions and German adverbial fronting).

Chapter 13 (“Structure Building from Below: More on Survive and Covert
Movement”) contributed by Winfried Lechner provides a new formulation of the
Survive Principle which analyzes movement as a consequence of repulsion of
incompatible sets of features. Specifically, Lechner proposes that movement of
an element is triggered when it is incompatible in its local environment with
respect to features or logical-semantic types. Coupled with an independent
theory of reconstruction, Lechner’s proposal correctly predicts a wide array
of complex scope possibilities, such as scope freezing effects in double
object constructions and the impossibility of the intermediate scope reading
of subjects in inverse linking constructions. He further demonstrates that the
scope facts in the prepositional frame (DO + IO), as well as in VP-fronting,
fall into place from the new Survive Principle.

In Chapter 14 (“On Transparent Adjuncts in Japanese”), Yoichi Miyamoto
investigates the status of adjuncts. It has been commonly held since Huang
(1982) that adjuncts are inherent barriers for movement. Miyamoto argues
against this approach based on his detailed investigations of comparative
deletion in Japanese, where extraction of the comparative clause from the
secondary predicate oozei “many” is prohibited when the predicate is
subject-oriented, but is possible in certain well-defined circumstances when
it is object-oriented. Miyamoto proposes that the critical factor which makes
the latter case transparent for extraction is the Agree relation between the
Aspect head and the object (which inherits the boundedness feature from its
floating quantifier). Subject-oriented secondary predicates are barriers, on
the other hand, because they are merged too high in the syntactic derivation
to enter into Agree with the Asp head.

Chapter 15 (“Feature-Splitting Internal Merge: The Case of
Tough-Constructions”), by Miki Obata and Samuel Epstein, presents an analysis
of tough-constructions as a case of “proper improper movement” (p. 367) which
draws on their earlier theory of “feature-splitting internal merge” (p. 366;
see also Obata and Epstein, 2011). Assuming that [uCase] is valued as [null
Case], they propose that a tough-construction results when the embedded V is
associated with [uCase]. The surface subject DP in this construction is merged
with the V [uCase] and is valued as [Null Case]. When the matrix T [uCase] is
merged later, it agrees with the DP, revising its Case to [Nom Case]. They
also elaborate the feature-splitting analysis in this chapter to ensure that
it correctly distinguishes between classic cases of improper movement (e.g.
*John seems that Mary likes) and tough-constructions.


All the contributions in this volume are high-quality papers suggesting a
highly indigenous solution to a particular issue regarding structure building
within the MP. Many chapters explore further theoretical and empirical
ramifications of the recent minimalist proposals (parallel merge,
multidominance, sideward movement, the phonological theory of movement,
parallel A/A′- movement, cyclic transfer, agree and feature-splitting internal
merge) whereas other chapters advance a radically new approach to various
issues of structure-building (telescope-based constituency structures,
parenthetical merge, specificity-driven movement, and the Survive Principle)
with various empirical consequences worthy of further investigation. As the
editors note in chapter 1 (pp. 1-2), a common thread among the contributions
is that all the main proposals advanced in each chapter crucially rely on the
computational properties of syntactic derivation themselves rather than on
properties of syntax-external interface systems or lexical parameters. The
volume is a useful guide not only to the current state of the art in
minimalist syntax, but also to possible future directions of syntactic
research within the MP.

I suspect that many syntacticians working within the MP must have felt at some
point or another that current minimalist papers have been becoming
progressively difficult and technical, due to stringent methodological
boundary conditions imposed on the logical space of analytic options permitted
within the MP (Chomsky 1995). Some might have taken this as a sign that
generative syntax is “passé”, having reached “full maturity” with no further
clear goals in sight, at least within the area of purely theoretical syntax.
After all, we have only a handful of mechanisms such as Merge, Agree, Phase,
Transfer, and Feature-Inheritance; what else can we do with these? This might
be a truism for many students of the “minimalist generation”, but the current
volume shows that there is so much we can do even within the rigorous
methodological guidelines set by the MP. The volume also serves to remind us
that creative endeavor is needed more than anything to advance the minimalist
enterprise, much more so compared to the earlier Government-Binding era
(Chomsky 1981) where a fixed set of working principles (X′-theory, binding,
the Empty Category Principle) were provided in a top-down fashion to
accommodate a wide range of linguistic phenomena. Therefore, this collection
should be of tremendous value for syntacticians who would like a new research
topic to work on within the MP.

I recommend this volume for all researchers and advanced graduate students in
the minimalist, generative syntax enterprise.


Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.

Chomsky, N. 1995. The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. 2008. On phases. In Robert Freidin, Carlos Otero and Maria-Luisa
Zubizarreta (eds.), Foundational issues in linguistic theory: Essays in honor
of Jean-Roger Vergnaud, 133-165. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Citko, B. 2005. On the nature of merge: External merge, internal merger, and
parallel merge. Linguistic Inquiry 36: 475-496.

Epstein, S., Groat, E., Kawashima, R. and Kitahara, H. 1998. A derivational
approach to syntactic relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Huang, C.-T. J. 1982. Logical relations in Chinese and the theory of grammar.
Doctoral dissertation, MIT.

Johnson, K. 2009. Gapping is not (VP) ellipsis. Linguistic Inquiry 40:

Merchant, J. 2008. An asymmetry in voice mismatches in VP ellipsis and
pseudogapping. Linguistic Inquiry 39: 169-179.

Obata, M. and Epstein, S. 2011. Feature-splitting internal merger: Improper
proper movement, intervention and the A/A′-Distinction. Syntax 14: 122-147.

Sabbagh, J. 2007. Ordering and linearizing rightward movement. Natural
Language & Linguistic Theory 25: 349-401.

Sheehan, M. 2010. Extraposition and antisymmetry. In Jeroen van Craenenbroeck
(ed.), Linguistic Variation Yearbook 10: 203-254.

Wilder, C. 1999. Right node raising and the LCA. In Sonya Bird, Andrew Carnie,
Jason D. Haugen and Peter Norquest (eds.), Proceedings of the 18th West Coast
Conference on Formal Linguistics, 586-596. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.


Yosuke Sato received his PhD in Linguistics from the University of Arizona.
After a post-doc at the University of British Columbia, he moved to Singapore,
where he's currently assistant professor in the Department of English Language
and Literature at National University of Singapore. His research specialties
are in Generative syntax and linguistic interfaces. His current interests lie
in the syntax of Singapore English and the biological foundations of language.
Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Page Updated: 30-Mar-2013

Supported in part by the National Science Foundation       About LINGUIST    |   Contact Us       ILIT Logo
While the LINGUIST List makes every effort to ensure the linguistic relevance of sites listed on its pages, it cannot vouch for their contents.