LINGUIST List 12.2152
Mon Sep 3 2001
Review: Hornstein, Move! Minimalist Theory of Construal
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Daniel Currie Hall, Review: Hornstein, Move! A Minimalist Theory of Construal
Message 1: Review: Hornstein, Move! A Minimalist Theory of Construal
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2001 14:48:37 -0400
From: Daniel Currie Hall <danhallchass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Review: Hornstein, Move! A Minimalist Theory of Construal
Hornstein, Norbert (2001) Move! A Minimalist Theory of Construal.
Blackwell, viii+248pp, paperback ISBN 0-631-22361-4, $34.95; hardback ISBN
0-631-22361-6, Generative Syntax series 5.
Daniel Currie Hall, Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto
[A PDF version of this review will be available at the reviewer's website
Move! presents a radical rethinking of the mechanisms
by which coreference is established between nominal
elements in a sentence. The principal goal of this book is
to eliminate the rules of construal employed by
Government-Binding theory (GB) in favour of a movement
analysis compatible with the goals of the Minimalist
Program (MP; Chomsky 1995, 1998). To this end, after a
concise statement of the minimalist methodology he adopts
(chapter 1), Hornstein presents movement-based accounts of
controlled PRO (chapters 2 and 3), 'tough'-movement and
parasitic gaps (chapter 3), and reflexives and bound
pronouns (chapter 5). These analyses rely on significant
departures from a number of prevailing theoretical
assumptions (particularly those concerning theta-roles and
restrictions on movement), the larger consequences of which
are given due consideration in chapters 4 and 6.
The analysis of (obligatorily) controlled PRO in
chapter 2 is representative of Hornstein's approach in
general. The null hypothesis, he argues, is that the empty
category in the lower subject position of a sentence like
(1) is a trace (or copy) left by movement.
(Non-obligatorily controlled PRO, Hornstein claims, is
actually little pro.)
(1) John hopes PRO to leave.
In order to treat PRO as part of a chain that also
includes 'John,' Hornstein must substantially revise
standard theta theory. He assumes that (a) theta-roles are
features assigned by verbs to DPs; (b) theta-features can
drive movement, which means that movement to theta
positions is licit; and (c) a DP may receive more than one
theta-role in the course of a derivation. Given that
Minimalist theories of syntax have independent reasons for
positing the existence of features and feature-driven
movement, this view of theta-role assignment fits rather
neatly into MP. It also permits a theta-feature on 'hopes'
to drive the raising of an already theta-marked DP from the
lower clause. The relevant steps in the derivation of (1)
are as follows:
1. 'John' merges with 'leave,' checking the verb's
2. 'John' moves to the subject position of the lower
clause, checking D on INFL.
3. 'John' moves to the specifier position of the higher vP,
checking the external theta-feature of 'hopes.'
4. 'John' moves to the matrix subject position, checking D
This movement analysis of (1) accounts for several
well-known restrictions on PRO. Since the chain headed by
'John' is produced by overt A-movement (which is subject to
the Extension Condition), PRO (i.e., the copy of 'John' in
the lower subject position) must have a local c-commanding
antecedent. The antecedent must be a single DP constituent
(*John[i] told Mary[j] PRO[i+j] to leave together). Because
the moved element receives a theta-role in the higher
clause, expletives and idiom chunks are not eligible
controllers (*There hope PRO to be three cats in the room;
*The shit expects PRO to hit the fan).
Extending the movement analysis to account for control
into adjuncts leads Hornstein to posit sidewards movement.
In (2), 'John' must be able to move from the adjunct to the
(2) John[i] saw Mary before PRO[i] entering the room.
The derivation of (2) involves the following steps:
1. The subtrees [before John entering the room] and [saw
Mary] are constructed by normal applications of Merge
2. 'John' undergoes interarboreal movement to check the
external theta-feature of 'saw.'
3. The adjunct merges with the matrix vP.
4. The matrix INFL merges and 'John' moves to its specifier
This derivation illustrates a number of economy
principles on which Hornstein's theory depends. First, all
movement is "greedy": it must check some feature of either
the moved element or the target. Movement cannot be
implemented as Attract, because in step 2 above, the
element to be moved ('John') is not within the search space
c-commanded by the target 'saw.' Locality is thus evaluated
from the perspective of the moved element: movement of an
XP to a target T can be blocked by an intervening landing
site T', but not by an intervening XP'. (In chapter 4,
Hornstein sketches an alternative approach to the
superiority effects that have been taken as evidence for
Second, Move is deemed less economical than Merge, on
the familiar grounds that Move consists of two steps (Copy
plus Merge), while Merge involves only one. This is what
allows subjects but not objects to control into adjuncts
like the one in (2). Otherwise, the internal theta-feature
of saw could be checked by moving 'John' instead of by
merging 'Mary,' ultimately yielding "*Mary saw John[i]
before PRO[i] entering the room."
Finally, economy principles evaluate only convergent
derivations. In the derivation of [before John entering the
room], moving 'John' from its base position to Spec IP is
less economical than merging 'Mary' in Spec IP. However, if
'Mary' merged as the lower subject, 'John' would be unable
to check case. The economy of a contemplated step in a
derivation thus cannot be evaluated in isolation, but must
depend on whether the derivation can ultimately converge.
Taken together, these last two points produce a
somewhat counterintuitive view of how economy works. On the
one hand, economy conditions cannot be evaluated strictly
locally, because they cannot prevent operations that are
globally necessary for convergence. On the other hand, an
uneconomical operation earlier in a derivation cannot be
allowed simply because it permits a more economical
operation later in the derivation: in (2) moving 'John' to
check the internal theta-feature of 'saw' cannot be
permitted on the grounds that it allows the external
theta-feature to be checked by Merge. Economy is contingent
on convergence, but it cannot be calculated simply by
comparing the total cost of the steps taken by competing
convergent derivations, because it requires that more
economical operations be used first. Economy principles
must be far-sighted with respect to convergence, but
near-sighted with respect to themselves. Hornstein does not
resolve the resulting question of exactly where and how
economy is evaluated. This is, of course, a question for MP
in general, and not peculiar to Hornstein's theory;
however, it would be an appropriate question to address in
a book that challenges as many assumptions as Move! does.
In chapter 3, Hornstein explores further consequences
of sidewards movement. Movement from adjuncts is restricted
by the position to which they are adjoined. Before an
adjunct merges with the main clause, a DP in the adjunct
can undergo sidewards movement to the root of the main
clause. It cannot move to a position higher than where the
adjunct itself will merge, because then merger of the
adjunct will violate the Extension Condition. How early in
the derivation of the main clause the DP can move is
restricted by the preference for Merge over Move, as in (2)
above: movement is permitted only if it is not possible to
check the same features by merging elements from the
lexical array. Once the adjunct has merged, extraction from
it is restricted by whatever constraints produce island
effects in general. Hornstein describes these in GB terms
of barriers and Subjacency, but directs the reader to
Uriagereka (1999) for a more Minimalist account.
Hornstein's theory thus predicts that adjuncts at
different heights will permit 'control' from different
positions in the main clause, and chapter 3 provides a
number of examples. Adjuncts like the one in (2) attach at
the level of light vP, and can be controlled only by
subjects. 'For'-adjuncts like the one in (3) attach to
either VP or v', and can be controlled only by internal
arguments. (Hornstein says that control is restricted to
objects and passive subjects; Elizabeth Cowper (p.c.) notes
the presence of counterexamples such as "Mary[i] went to
prison for PRO[i] hitting a cop.")
(3) John[i] arrested Bill[j] for PRO[j/*i] speeding.
Sidewards movement from adjuncts also allows Hornstein
to account for some phenomena traditionally analyzed as
involving null operators. For example, tough-movement,
treated in GB as shown in (4a), is analyzed by Hornstein as
a. [Moby-Dick is [easy [CP 0[i] PRO[arb] to read t[i] ]]].
b. [[Moby-Dick[i] is t[i] easy] [t[i] pro to read t[i] ]].
In Hornstein's version, 'Moby-Dick' originates as the
object of 'read' and moves to Spec CP of the adjunct in
order to check a 'relative' WH feature. It then undergoes
sidewards movement to check the theta-feature of 'easy,'
and finally moves to Spec IP of the main clause, whereupon
the adjunct CP merges with the matrix IP.
Hornstein's analysis of parasitic gaps, illustrated in
(5), is similar:
(5) Which book[i] did you read t[i] before t[i] Fred
'Which book' merges in the position of the "parasitic"
gap, WH-moves to Spec CP of the adjunct, moves sidewards to
check the internal theta-feature of 'read,' and finally
WH-moves to the matrix Spec CP. The fact that the
"parasitic" gap in the adjunct must be licensed by the
"true" gap in the matrix clause follows from the fact that
the adjunct attaches to the matrix clause too low to permit
'which book' to move directly to the higher Spec CP; it
must pass through the matrix VP first. Here, in contrast to
(2), the element that moves out of the adjunct must target
the matrix verb's internal theta-position rather than its
external one. As in (2), economy principles would prefer
that the internal theta-feature of read be discharged by
merging 'you' rather than by moving 'which book.' In (5),
however, this alternative, like the economical derivation
that yields the ill-formed passive version in (6), is ruled
out by the requirements of convergence.
(6) *Which book[i] t[i] was read t[i] by you before t[i]
Fred reviewed t[i]?
In (6), the trace of 'which book' in the matrix Spec IP
c-commands the "parasitic" gap in the lower object
position. In GB terms, this configuration violates
Principle C: the lower case-marked trace (variable) is
illicitly A-bound by the higher one. Hornstein recasts
Principle C in Minimalist terms by proposing a Scope
Correspondence Axiom (SCA) similar to the Linear
Correspondence Axiom (LCA) of Kayne (1994). The SCA holds
at LF and states that if alpha c-commands beta, then alpha
takes scope over beta. Assuming that both case-marked
copies of 'which book' are subject to this axiom, neither
may c-command the other, because the SCA would then require
'which book' to scope over itself. Since this is
impossible, the economical derivation fails to converge at
LF, and so (5), although uneconomical, is permitted.
In addition to sidewards movement, Hornstein's analyses
of 'tough'-movement and parasitic gaps depend on the
possibility of movement from an A'-position (Spec CP in the
adjunct) to an A-position. This is another departure from
standard assumptions, but within MP there is no a priori
reason to suppose that such movement is illicit.
Chapter 5 asks, "Is the Binding Theory Necessary?"
Hornstein argues that it is not. Having analyzed
obligatorily controlled PRO as a copy left by movement, he
suggests a similar treatment for reflexives. In chapter 2,
Hornstein proposed that sentences like (7) involve movement
from object to subject position within a single clause:
(7) John[i] washed t[i].
Verbs like 'wash,' Hornstein claims, assign accusative
case to their objects only optionally; if no accusative
case is assigned, then the object can become the subject
without receiving conflicting case features. When
accusative case is assigned (as it is obligatorily with
verbs like 'see'), coreference between subject and object
can be achieved only through the use of a reflexive, as in
(8) John[i] saw him[i]+self.
Hornstein proposes that in (8), the object that merges
with 'saw' is 'Johnself.' Accusative case is checked by
'self,' and 'John' moves to become the subject. The trace
left by 'John' is deleted (to satisfy the LCA), but 'him'
must be spelled out in its place to support the bound
So far, Hornstein has reduced Principle A to conditions
on movement, and replaced Principle C with the more
Minimalist SCA. To eliminate Principle B, he argues that
(bound) pronouns are inserted by the syntax as a costly
last resort when movement is impossible. Essentially, (9a)
and (10a) are grammatical because (9b) and (10b) are not:
(9) a. Everyone[i] loves his[i] mother.
b. *Everyone[i] loves t[i]'s mother.
(10) a. Which person[i] is it that John denied the claim
that Mary liked him[i]?
b. *Which person[i] is it that John denied the claim
that Mary liked t[i]?
Consider the derivation of (9). Once [loves everyone's
mother] has been constructed, the external theta-feature of
'loves' must be checked. There are no more nominals in the
lexical array. Moving 'everyone' is disallowed by the Left
Branch Condition and perhaps also by the resulting conflict
between genitive and nominative case. So, as a last resort,
the computation "demerges" 'everyone,' inserts 'his' in its
place, and remerges 'everyone' at the root. This process
(Demerge + Insert Pronoun + Merge) is more costly than Move
(Copy + Merge), and so it is available only where Move is
not. Since anaphors are generated by Move, syntactically
inserted pronouns will appear precisely where anaphors
cannot. (Deictic pronouns, as in "Mary[i] saw her[j]," are
present in the lexical array and act like proper names.)
The final chapter of Move! steps back from the
technical details of Hornstein's approach and considers
some larger questions about what makes his theory a
Minimalist one. If the operation Move is uneconomical, is
Hornstein's approach any more Minimalist than GB-style
rules of construal? Hornstein argues, contra Chomsky
(1995), that Move can be less economical than Merge without
being conceptually inferior. Move consists of Copy plus
Merge. The need for Merge is unquestioned; as for Copy,
Hornstein suggests that it is necessary for lexical
access--the process of copying items from the lexicon into
the numeration. Move is thus composed of two operations
independently necessary to Minimalist syntax. A theory of
coreference based on movement, then, is conceptually more
congenial to MP than one that requires the addition of a
separate construal module.
Hornstein's writing style throughout the book is
engagingly colloquial without ever seeming to condescend.
Nor does the informal style come at the expense of formal
precision; Hornstein will occasionally characterize an
ill-formed sentence as "not kosher," but he always makes
sure the reader understands exactly which step in the
derivation was treyf, and why. The overall effect is that
of a friendly and enthusiastic colleague talking about his
latest ideas. (One occasionally wishes there were a
blackboard in the room; all structures are given as
bracketed strings rather than trees.)
From the stated goal of the Generative Syntax series
("The books in this series serve as an introduction to
particular aspects or modules of this theory") or the blurb
on the back cover ("...provides an accessible, in-depth,
and empirically oriented look at Chomsky's Minimalist
Program"), one might infer that Move! is intended as a
textbook on MP. The first chapter does indeed provide a
concise introduction to Minimalist concepts and constructs
for anyone familiar with GB. The main contribution of this
book, however, is not in explaining MP, but in advancing
it. Hornstein takes very seriously the conceptual premises
of Minimalism, and Move! does a remarkable job of pushing
these premises to their empirical limits. No theoretical
assumption is immune to questioning. The result is a theory
that looks very different even from other Minimalist views
of syntax, but which manages to replace the Binding Theory,
and makes inroads into a variety of other areas
(superiority effects, quantifier raising, relative clauses)
along the way.
Empirical questions left unanswered in Move! (e.g., how
does the pronominal part of a reflexive get its case and
phi-features?) are for the most part acknowledged in the
text or in the endnotes. There are, however, a few gaps in
the theoretical discussion. While Hornstein devotes a
section of chapter 6 to justifying the role of Move in MP,
he does not do the same for the costly operations Demerge
and Insert Pronoun, on which his reanalysis of Principle B
depends. Without such a discussion, it is difficult (on the
one hand) to say whether these operations are
methodologically preferable to a construal module, or (on
the other hand) to be certain that they are less economical
than the operations that insert self into a derivation (as
must be the case in order for "John[i] saw him[i]+self" to
block "*John[i] saw him[i]").
In some places, Move! could benefit from further
synthesis with other work in MP. References to
phases--currently the primary means of accounting for
locality restrictions on movement in MP--are unfortunately
few, oblique, and confined to the endnotes. It would also
be interesting to set Hornstein's view of control beside
the structures proposed by Wurmbrand (1998) for
restructuring and non-restructuring infinitives.
(Wurmbrand's structures would, I think, account for the
scope facts discussed in section 7.2 of chapter 2.)
On the whole, however, Move! is impressive both in its
attention to technical and empirical detail and in its
sensitivity to the larger questions at issue. It offers an
exciting view of what the Minimalist Program can achieve
when its principles are put to the test.
Chomsky, Noam. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.
Chomsky, Noam. 1998. "Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework."
MIT Occasional Papers in Linguistics 15.
Kayne, Richard. 1994. The Antisymmetry of Syntax.
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Uriagereka, Juan. 1999. "Multiple Spell Out." In S.D.
Epstein and N. Hornstein, eds., Working Minimalism,
251-82. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Wurmbrand, Susi. 1998. Infinitives. Doctoral dissertation,
Daniel Hall is a graduate student at the University of