LINGUIST List 12.1196

Mon Apr 30 2001

Review: Pesetsky, Phrasal Movement

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  • Radu Daniliuc, review of Phrasal Movement and Its Kin by David Pesetsky

    Message 1: review of Phrasal Movement and Its Kin by David Pesetsky

    Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 22:55:22 -0700
    From: Radu Daniliuc <>
    Subject: review of Phrasal Movement and Its Kin by David Pesetsky

    Pesetsky, David (2000) Phrasal Movement and Its Kin, MIT Press (Linguistic Inquiry Monograph No. 37), ISBN 0-262-66166-7, 144 pp., $18.00/�12.50 (paper)

    Reviewed by Laura and Radu Daniliuc School of Modern Languages, Department of Linguistics The Australian National University

    The study under review here investigates the types of movement and movement-like relations that link positions in syntactic structure. David Pesetsky argues that there are three such kind of relations. Besides the Chomskian overt phrasal movement, Pesetsky brings evidence for other two distinct types of movement without phonological effect: covert phrasal movement, "a phenomenon in its own right", and feature movement. Focusing on wh-questions, he shows how his classification of movement-like relations allows for a better understanding of the syntactic behavior of wh-questions in which an otherwise inviolable property of movement, "Attract Closest" in Pesetsky's terms (in fact a restatement of Chomsky's Superiority Condition for movement) appears to be violated. By demonstrating that more movement takes place in such configurations than previously suspected, he shows that Attract Closest is actually not violated at all in these cases. This conclusion draws on recent research in both syntax and semantics, particularly Beck (1996) and Richards (1997), and depends crucially on Pesetsky's expanded repertoire of movement-like relations. His general view of movement leads to a cross-linguistic explanation of the syntax of wh-questions. Based on the three kinds of movement relations, the author concentrates on what he calls "minimal triplets" in which movement to a particular head shows up sometimes as overt phrasal movement, sometimes as covert phrasal movement, as sometimes as feature movement. Identifying such a triplet, Pesetsky believes, improves the ability to investigate the coexistence of phrasal movement with feature movement in the grammar. The main part of the book is represented by the analysis of such a triplet, namely the interrogative wh-constructions. To support his view, Pesetsky brings evidence from English and Bulgarian. The choice of Bulgarian, a Slavic language, is motivated by the fact that, unlike English, a Germanic language, Bulgarian shows multiple instances of overt phrasal wh-movement to the left periphery of CP. Besides, if one takes into consideration the feature movement proposal, the peculiarities of English multiple questions turn out to faithfully reproduce the peculiarities of Bulgarian multiple questions. The pronunciation of wh-phrase movement structures is shown to be the only difference between English and Bulgarian multiple questions, whose syntax is otherwise identical.

    The book consists of five chapters that follow a logical succession of ideas and theories.

    Chapter I - Introduction - defines some of the key words Pesetsky uses in his study: overt and covert phrasal movement, feature movement and superiority effects. In Pesetsky's framework, 'phrasal movement' is used as a cover term for movement of any syntactic unit that is word-sized or larger. Basically, overt phrasal movement refers to a word or phrase pronounced in an "unexpected" position, while covert phrasal movement refers to a moved element pronounced in a trace position. If Chomsky claims that feature movement is the proper reanalysis of covert phrasal movement and covert movement is the default, Pesetsky views feature movement as a subcomponent of phrasal movement. To support his position, the author brings evidence from such sources as ACD (antecedent-contained deletion) and intervention effects and mostly from the typology of wh-constructions. The last subchapter of the introduction deals with the Superiority Effect, which arises in a multiple question when more than one wh-phrase is relevant to the answering patterns for the question. It also describes what Attract Closest implies, namely movement viewed as triggered by particular features of a "target" head K. Or, in Pesetsky's words, alpha can raise to target K only if there is no legitimate operation Move beta targeting K, where beta is closer to K. However, some minimal changes in a multiple question, such as D-linking (see Pesetsky 1987), more than two wh-phrases, and translation into German (issue mainly discussed in the last chapter), produce apparent exceptions to the Superiority Effect. Chapter 2 presents two observations about Bulgarian, namely a complementizer that requires multiple specifiers (at least two wh-phrases) and superiority effects and the principle of minimal compliance (for further reference, see Richards 1997). The complementizer has a wh-feature that can and must be deleted after attracting more than one instance of a corresponding wh-feature to it, either by phrasal movement or feature movement. After considering the order of wh-phrases in a Bulgarian multiple question, Pesetsky is able to formulate the Bulgarian variant of the Superiority Effect as follows: the leftmost wh-phrase in a Bulgarian multiple question is the wh-phrase that was highest before movement (wh1 in Pesetsky's terms) and the one that moves overtly in the corresponding English multiple question. This leads to the formulation of a pronunciation rule for Bulgarian stating that all wh-phrase movement to C is overt, in that wh is pronounced in its new position and unpronounced in its trace positions. Chapter 3 tries to answer the question if wh1-in-situ undergoes covert phrasal movement. Based on examples from English, Pesetsky argues that in D-linked exceptions to the Superiority effect wh1-in-situ does not undergo covert phrasal movement. Further on, he considers some of the explanations offered in the literature for ACD resolution through the eyes of covert phrasal movement. The criterion for the classification of these explanations points to the degree of limitation to special types of constituents that is manifested by covert phrasal movement. Chapter 4 investigates what happens to wh1-in-situ and examines several apparent exceptions to the Superiority Effect. As Superiority effects disappear in nonbinary multiple questions and in questions with D-linking, Pesetsky points to the fact that the grammar of multiple questions contains a multiple-specifier requirement and his conclusion is supported by the similarity between English and Bulgarian with respect to multiple questions. An interesting discussion is the question concerning the quality of "Feature Movement" to be really FEATURE Movement or Feature MOVEMENT. Chapter 5, "The Intervention Effect and the Typology of Interrogative Complementizers", is the longest of this research. Its starting point is the idea that multiple questions are introduced by a complementizer that requires wh-movement to establish a multiple-specifier configuration. It investigates the Intervention Effect (following Hagstrom's 1998 terminology) in English Multiple Questions, in German Separation Constructions and in German Multiple Questions. Pesetsky argues that the differences between the intervention effect in German and English (and Bulgarian) multiple questions are mainly due to a lexical difference, namely the complementizer requiring a single specifier (in German) and the complementizer which must be associated with more than one specifier (in English and Bulgarian). A complementizer that tolerates no specifiers whatsoever is to be found in Japanese and Korean. This chapter also includes a discussion of Fanselow's scrambling proposal (1997) and a typology of wh-specifiers according to the environments in which intervention effects are found in wh-questions. In the end of his study Pesetsky signals some unanswered questions about the typology such as the repertoire of complementizers in a given language and the possible existence of pronunciation patterns for multiple phrasal wh-movement (beside those of English and those of Bulgarian described in the book).

    In spite of the "loose ends" Pesetsky keeps mentioning throughout his study, this study is a successful attempt to describe the types of movement and movement-like relations that link positions in syntactic structures. The focus is on wh-questions, seen through the eyes of movement-like relations, a topic which would be interesting to investigate in less studied languages. Pesetsky's theory is vigorously supported by evidence from several languages and his ideas, though some of them may surprise at first sight, manage to convince the reader through the light of the examples discussed in detail.

    David Pesetsky is Ferrari P. Ward Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is one of the editors of Is the Best Good Enough? Optimality and Competition in Syntax (MIT Press, 1998) and the author of Zero Syntax. Experiencers and Cascades (MIT Press, 1994). Is the Best Good Enough? examines from a broad range of empirical and theoretical perspectives the role of competition in syntax and in syntactic interfaces with semantics, phonology, and pragmatics, as well as implications for language acquisition and processing. Zero Syntax develops the idea that the availability and syntactic positioning of arguments is not a matter of chance but arises from laws governing the structure of lexical entries and from laws governing syntactic structures themselves.

    References: Beck, Sigrid. 1996. Quantified structures as barriers for LF movement. Natural Language Processing 4, 1-56. Fanselow, Gisbert. 1997. Minimal Link effects in German (and other languages). Ms., University of Potsdam. Hagstrom, Paul. 1998. Decomposing questions. Doctoral dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, Mass. Pesetsky, David. 1987. Wh-in-situ: Movement and unselective binding. In Eric Reuland and Alice ter Meulen, eds., The Representation of (in)definiteness. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press Richards, Norvin. 1997. What moves where in which language? Doctoral dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, Mass.

    Laura and Radu Daniliuc are the authors of the first Romanian translation of Ferdinand de Saussure's Cours de linguistique g�n�rale (Curs de lingvistica generala, Editura Cuv�ntul nostru, Suceava, 1998) and of Descriptive Romanian Grammar. An Outline (Lincom Europe, Munich, 2000).