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Review of  Locality

Reviewer: Sabina Halupka-Resetar
Book Title: Locality
Book Author: Enoch Oladé Aboh Maria Teresa Guasti Ian Gareth Roberts
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 26.403

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Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


This volume represents a collection of eleven papers dealing with the concept of locality in syntactic theory. The chapters, authored by fifteen eminent generative linguists, explore this key concept in linguistic theorizing, relating to the line of research Luigi Rizzi has pursued for three and a half decades. Various issues pertaining to locality are explored crosslinguistically and in both syntactic and psycholinguistic terms, which makes the present volume an extremely rich and useful reference book both for students and scholars working in the domains of linguistic theory, generative syntax and comparative syntax.

The volume opens with an introductory chapter by the editors, Enoch O. Aboh, Maria Teresa Guasti and Ian Roberts (p. 1-31), in which Luigi Rizzi’s contribution to the field is presented in context. First, the theory of locality is defined as the theory of the finite domains over which syntactic dependencies and operations apply and of their relation to the fundamentally unbounded nature of syntax. Following this, the editors sketch the development of the theory of locality of A’-movement in generative syntax in the most important works in this area (such as Chomsky 1964, 1973, 1986 and Ross 1967). This serves as an excellent brief introduction to the description of the three innovations in the theory of locality which have been extremely influential in the development of syntactic theory and are attributed to Rizzi: (a) the observation that bounding nodes/barriers in Italian are different from those in English, (b) the connection between complementizer-trace effects and the null-subject parameter and (c) relativised minimality. The chapter closes with an overview of the chapters in the volume.

Chapter 2 (p. 32-57), Richard Kayne and Jean-Yves Pollock’s ‘Locality and Agreement in French Hyper-Complex Inversion’(HCI) focuses on inversion structures like “Cela la gêne-t-elle?”, in which the postverbal subject clitic (“elle”) agrees with the preverbal object clitic (“la”) and argues that this construction arises from essentially the same mechanism as (regular) clitic inversion constructions, but here it is the object clitic and the postverbal subject clitic that form a complex DP (i.e. [la, elle], rather than the subject clitic in the canonical position and the postverbal clitic). The chapter tackles the issue of locality related to clitic climbing by showing it to be possible out of non-causative infinitive phrases. Finally, HCI raises questions of number agreement involving the licensing of two distinct subjects in a simple sentence, which is accounted for by proposing two distinct agreement morphemes, sharply distinguishing between singular and plural.

Drawing on Rizzi’s criterial approach to chains (Rizzi 2006), in Chapter 3 (p. 58-85), Ur Schlonsky discusses ‘Subject Positions, Subject Extraction, EPP, and the Subject Criterion’ and refines the approach put forward in Rizzi and Schlonsky (2007). Criterial freezing, which bans movement of a criterial goal once it has reached its criterial position, is more easily circumvented in the case of subjects than the freezing of any other criterial goal. This is due to two facts which distinguish the Subject Criterion from all the other criteria discussed in Rizzi’s work, namely (a) Subj possesses properties characteristic of both the scope/discourse domain and the phi/Case domain, and (perhaps consequently) (b) Subj has a formal existence which is loosely related to its semantic features. Schlonsky further argues that the EPP or the requirement that clauses have subjects in a canonical ‘edge’ position is not encoded as a feature of T but is rather a property of Subj and the result of the configuration of criterial satisfaction. Instead of assuming that subjects raise due to the EPP, the author proposes that T intervenes for probe by Subj, requiring the subject to raise above it so it can probe T.

In ‘Extraction from DP in Italian Revisited’ (p. 86-103) Guglielmo Cinque shows that extraction from DP in Italian (and other languages) is limited to the subject and argues that this, in today’s terms, follows from the notion of phases (Chomsky 2000, 2001, 2008) and Relativized Minimality (Rizzi 1990, 2000) as well as some other properties of the languages under consideration, such as the A-status of the highest specifier of DP (in Italian, but also in Germanic languages, Hungarian, Bulgarian). The restriction that only the subject be raised to Spec,DP (an A-position) follows from Relativized Minimality: the raising of any other argument or adjunct will cause a violation of Relativized Minimality given that the subject of the DP, also an A-position, will intervene.

Chapter 5 (p. 104-137), ‘French Reflexive “se”: Binding and Merge Locality’ by Dominique Sportiche puts forward an up-to-date analysis of the distribution and the properties of the French reflexive clitic “se” and of “se” constructions. The author rejects as untenable Sportiche’s (1990) analysis, which rests on the intrinsic combinatory property of “se” that it bear an external theta-role, and shows that Rizzi’s (1986) “Condition on Chains”, requiring each link to be a case of local binding, must be modified to account for the properties and the distribution of “s-” in the Romance languages. Sportiche argues that there is only one “s-” across the verbal and nominal domains (reflexive “se”, middle “se”, inchoative/anticausative “se”, possessive “son/sien”, pronominal “soi”), that it is an underspecified DP, which must be bound by the closest binder, whereas as a clitic, it is licensed in the verbal domain by a reflexive/middle voice head which selects a v and takes an A-position as subject. This enables “s-” to be licensed by moving via the A-position at the periphery of VP, i.e. in line with the minimality constraint Rizzi’s original approach reduces to.

In the next chapter of the volume (p. 138-165), Anna Cardinaletti discusses some instances of clitic climbing and NP-raising across a wh-element. Given that the wh-element seems to mark a clause boundary, these instances of movement present a problem for earlier analyses (Rizzi 1982; Cinque 2004). In the examples under scrutiny, locality is apparently violated and yet the sentences are grammatical. ‘Locality in Restructuring’ argues that the constructions in question do not yield a minimality violation because the wh-element in such sentences is not an interrogative element (hence it does not occur in the CP) but rather a wh-indefinite licensed in negative or non-negative operator contexts (such as questions) which sits in a low IP-internal position. The analysis Cardinaletti develops accounts for the limited productivity of the constructions discussed: the type of movement analysed is only possible across wh-indefinites which, like personal pronoun clitics, can only realise VP-internal complements. Such weak, deficient elements cannot be moved long distance like their interrogative counterparts.

Virginia Hill’s contribution entitled ‘DE-Infinitives as Complements to Romanian Nouns’ (p. 166-185) offers an account of the asymmetry Romanian nouns display with respect to sentential complementation, which can be infinitive or subjunctive for nouns in object position, but only infinitive for nouns in subject position. The prepositional complementizer “de” is obligatory in infinitive complements to N, but not in infinitive complements to verbs. This property distinguishes Romanian from other Balkan languages, which allow subjunctive complements with nouns in any environment. Taking Rizzi’s (1997) cartographic hierarchy as a template, Hill argues that the observed contrast in complementation is due to the extent of the clausal projection in the CP field: while Romanian displays ForceP structures in subjunctive and infinitive clauses (with obligatory verb raising to Force), in other Balkan languages subjunctive clauses project only to FinP or MoodP. Additionally, the account of the infinitive/subjunctive asymmetry in Romanian reduces to the licensing of T in the two types of clauses.

‘Locality and the Distribution of Main Clause Phenomena’ by Liliane Haegeman (p. 186-222) explores the distribution of main clause phenomena (MCP), which have been argued to depend on assertion (Hooper and Thompson 1973), associated with a functional projection in the left periphery (Cinque and Rizzi 2008, 2010) and lacking in domains incompatible with MCP. The author claims that the clausal reduction approach can be derived in syntax by assuming that MCP are excluded from those clausal domains which are derived by moving a TP-internal clause-typing operator to the left periphery, i.e. that the ban on MCP in such domains follows from locality conditions on movement. Haegeman shows how the proposed analysis accounts for the restricted distribution of argument fronting in “that”-clauses.

Chapters 9-11 present the results of research in the domain of psycholinguistics/language acquisition. In ‘Locality and Interference in the Formation of Object Questions’ (p. 223-253), Maria Teresa Guasti tackles the complex issue of subject-object asymmetry in wh-questions from a crosslinguistic perspective in both child language and some adult languages. The author proposes that the asymmetry comes about because object extraction potentially interferes with Agree between the Agr/T head and the thematic subject, which is responsible for the realization of morphological agreement on verbs. Guasti shows that there is cross-linguistic difference with respect to the ways in which this interference is dealt with and that the choice made by a language may affect the dynamics of language acquisition and call for more processing time. This fact leads the author to re-examine the grammar-parser dichotomy and to suggest that there is no such dichotomy but that some operations (such as object question formation) are challenging for the linguistic capacity because linguistic computations must obey locality.

In ‘The Left Periphery and Agrammatism’ (p. 254-273) Anne Mette Nyvad, Ken Ramshøj Christensen and Sten Vikner present the results of three experiments conducted with four agrammatic Danish patients with the goal of establishing whether the Tree Pruning Hypothesis (Friedmann and Grodzinsky 1997, Friedmann 2001) correctly predicts all main clauses to be impaired (since all main clauses involve movement to Spec,CP and C) and whether agrammatic comprehension in Danish is predicted to manifest active/passive and subject/object asymmetries and a contrast between referential and non-referential wh-elements. The performance pattern of the patients shows three crucial distinctions: (1) between A- and A’-movement (the former being more impaired, the latter showing the subject-object asymmetry only in embedded contexts), (2) main clause CP vs. embedded CP (both CPs are impaired, but the former to a lesser degree), and (3) subject vs. object (with the former significantly more impaired in wh-movement). The results provide a principled account of the asymmetry in A-movement and symmetry in A’-movement in main clauses and the inverse pattern in embedded clauses, resembling the “that-trace” effect.

The last chapter in the volume, Tal Siloni’s ‘Grammatical Processing’ (p. 274-302) seeks to establish the relationship between grammatical knowledge and parsing by exploring the processing of garden path sentences and the problems it raises. In order to account for the structural misanalysis and reanalysis that this type of sentences involves and that brings about a conscious breakdown (unlike other cases of misanalysis and reanalysis that parsers overcome automatically), Siloni proposes that movement is a tool allowing automatic reanalysis and if movement is impossible, a conscious breakdown is sensed. More specifically, the author claims that reanalysis, an operation that moves a constituent to a position c-commanding the source, is required to get out of a parsing path that leads to crash. Reanalysis movement is thus sensitive to c-command, it is triggered by semantic (thematic) requirements, it does not leave a copy (because the source position is occupied by distinct material), and it cannot change word order because in processing word order is dictated by the input and cannot be changed. Siloni’s proposal thus tackles the dichotomy between grammar and processing, illustrating that the division of labour between them is not always clear-cut.

The volume ends with a language index (p. 303-304), name index (p. 305-308) and subject index (p. 309-316).


The volume ‘Locality’ represents a well-structured, consistent and coherent collection of papers. As the very title of the volume suggests, all the papers centre around the concept and the theory of locality and tackle various aspects of the empirical domain in which locality is most apparent, i.e. A’-movement. This is, by and large, the domain which Luigi Rizzi has extensively researched for the past three and a half decades, with heavy influence on the general development of syntactic theory.

Although the concept and the theory of locality are explored in the book both from a purely syntactic and a psycholinguistic perspective, the chapters are well-connected. This is partly due to the fact that the introductory chapter provides a neat overview of the development of locality in generative grammar and the key problems that have driven research, gives a brief but comprehensive account of Rizzi’s seminal contributions in the theory of locality and syntactic theory in general, as well as a short summary of the remaining ten chapters. However, the editors have also done a good job of organizing the papers in such a way that each contribution connects to a topic, problem set or existing analysis already mentioned in the previous chapters. No less importantly, the three papers that discuss psycholinguistic/language acquisition issues build naturally on the previous seven (syntactic) chapters.

In spite of occasional misprints (e.g. three patients on p. 27 whereas the paper reports four patients, p. 259; inconsistent references, e.g. p. 29, 135, 257 or missing references, e.g. p. 84) and a few typos (mostly on p. 247), the volume is an extremely rewarding read, not only because the chapters in it are well-written, explaining how the issues discussed in each one of them relate to Luigi Rizzi's work and to other literature on the topic, but also because of the large pool of data analysed in them and the multitude of languages explored. This is what makes the present collection an equally exciting read for both students and scholars.

Naturally, the work presented in the book opens up many directions of future research, both theoretical and empirical, with perhaps one of the most important and recurring questions concerning the controversial dichotomy between grammar and parser.


Chomsky, N. 1964. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory. The Hague: Mouton.

Chomsky, N. 1973. Conditions on Transformations. In S. Anderson and P. Kiparsky (eds.), A Festschrift for Morris Halle (pp. 232-86). New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston.

Chomsky, N. 1986. Knowledge of Language. New York: Praeger.

Chomsky, N. 2000. Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework. In R. Martin, D. Michaels and J. Uriagereka (eds.), Step by Step: Essays on Minimalist Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik (pp. 89-155). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. 2001. Derivation by Phase. In M. Kenstowicz (ed.), Ken Hale: A Life in Language (pp. 1-52). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. 2008. On Phases. In C. Otero, R. Freidin and M.-L. Zubizarreta (eds.), Foundational Issues in Linguistics (pp. 133-166). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cinque, G. 2004. Restructuring and Functional Structure. In A. Belletti (ed.), Structures and Beyond: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Vol. 3 (pp. 132-191). New York: Oxford University Press.

Cinque, G. and Rizzi, L. 2008. The cartography of syntactic structures. StiL Studies – Studies in Linguistics, Vol. 2. CISCL Working Papers. Available at: doc_pub/cinque-rizzi2008-The_cartography_of_Syntactic_Structures.pdf

Cinque, G. and Rizzi, L. 2010. The cartography of syntactic structures. In B. Heine and H. Narrog (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Grammatical Analysis (pp. 51-65). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Friedmann, N. 2001. Agrammatism and the psychological reality of the syntactic tree. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 30: 71-90.

Friedmann, N. and Grodzinsky, Y. 1997. Tense and agreement in agrammatic production: Pruning the syntactic tree. Brain and Language 56: 397-425.

Hooper, J. and Thompson, S. 1973. On the applicability of root transformations. Linguistic Inquiry 4: 465-497.

Rizzi, L. 1986. On Chain Formation. In H. Borer (ed.), The Syntax of Pronominal Clitics (pp. 65-95). New York: Academic Press.

Rizzi, L. 1982. Issues in Italian Syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.

Rizzi, L. 1990. Relativized Minimality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Rizzi. L. 1997. The fine structure of the left periphery. In L. Haegeman (ed.), Elements of Grammar (pp. 281-377). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Rizzi, L. 2000. Comparative Syntax and Language Acquisition. London: Routledge.

Rizzi, L. 2006. On the form of chains: Criterial positions and ECP effects. In L. L. Cheng and N. Corver (eds.), Wh-movement: Moving on (pp. 97-134). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Rizzi, L. and Schlonsky, U. 2007. Strategies of subject extraction. In H. M. Gärtner and U. Sauerland (eds.), Interfaces + recursion = Language? Chomsky’s Minimalism and the view from syntax-semantics (pp. 115-160). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Sportiche, D. 1990. Movement, Agreement and Case. Ms. Appeared as Chapter 3 in Sportiche (1998), Partitions and Atoms of Clause Structure (pp. 88-243). London: Routledge.
Sabina Halupka-Rešetar is an Assistant Professor of English language and linguistics at the Department of English, University of Novi Sad, Serbia. Her research interests include syntax and theoretical linguistics, and her current projects center around wh-elements and focusing at the syntax-discourse interface.

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