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Review of  The Complementizer Phase

Reviewer: Jason Ginsburg
Book Title: The Complementizer Phase
Book Author: Phoevos E. Panagiotidis
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Subject Language(s): Bavarian
Greek, Modern
Issue Number: 22.2098

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EDITOR: Panagiotidis, E. Phoevos
TITLE: The Complementizer Phase
SUBTITLE: Subjects and Operators
SERIES: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2010

Jason Ginsburg, Center for Language Research, University of Aizu


This book is an edited collection of nine papers that, from the perspective of
the Minimalist Program, examine complementizers and syntactic structures that
contain complementizers.

Chapter 1. ''Introduction: Complementizers and Their Phase'' by E. Phoevos

In this chapter, Panagiotidis introduces the rest of the chapters in the book,
stating that the primary focuses of the chapters are on 1) ''the role of
complementizers in subject extraction phenomena'' (p. 3), and 2) ''the nature and
feature make-up of complementizers, mainly as witnessed by the kind of material
they can host in their specifiers'' (p. 3). Panagiotidis summarizes each chapter
and explains how they relate to each other, as well as to the main themes of
this volume.

Chapter 2. ''On Some Properties of Criterial Freezing'' by Luigi Rizzi

This chapter focuses on what Rizzi refers to as Criterial Freezing. The clause
periphery contains criterial positions, which are ''scope-discourse positions''
(p. 18) that attract phrases to their Spec positions. According to the notion of
Criterial Freezing (Rizzi 2006), a phrase in a criterial position is frozen in
place. A chain can only have a single s-selectional position and only a single
criterial position because these positions ''are unique'' and because ''they
delimit the chain'' (p. 19). For example, in (7b) ''which candidate'' satisfies the
Q criterion in the embedded clause. Thus, it undergoes Criterial Freezing and
cannot undergo further movement. Rizzi argues that subjects undergo Criterial
Freezing because they appear in the specifier of a functional Subj head, which
is a criterial position that expresses what a clause is about.

(7b) *Which candidate does Bill wonder [ t' Q [ you voted for t ]] (p. 20)

Rizzi proposes that subextraction from an XP in a criterial position can occur.
He argues that a criterial head agrees with a criterial goal - the head of an XP
in a criterial position. However, subextraction of an element from this frozen
XP may be possible, as long as the subextracted element is not a criterial goal.
Rizzi provides analyses of several constructions in which there is subextraction
from XPs, including subjects, that are in criterial positions.

Chapter 3. ''(Non-) Extraction from Subjects as an Edge Phenomenon'' by George

In this chapter, Kotzoglou focuses on the Subject Condition (Ross 1967, Chomsky
1973, Huang 1982); a ban on extraction from subjects, as in (1b).

(1b). *Who did [a picture of ___] annoy our neighbours? (p. 33)

To account for the possibility of subject extraction in null subject languages
such as Greek, as in (7b), Kotzoglou proposes the Restriction on Copy Reduction
(RCR) (26), a modified version of ''Chain Reduction'' (Nunes 2004).

tinos ipes oti [i epimoni ___] ekseplikse tus krites?
whose said.2sg that the insistence surprised the judges
'Whose insistence did you say surprised the judges?' (p. 35)

(26) Restriction on Copy Reduction (RCR) (phonological deletion of copies under
identity) can apply to at most one pair of copies of an element in each phase.
(p. 43)

The RCR boils down to a requirement that only one member of a movement chain can
be erased within a strong phase. If there are multiple deleted copies of an
element within a single phase, a derivation crashes, which Kotzoglou suggests
occurs because ''PF gets conflicting instructions as to the spell-out of one
copy'' (p. 42).

The RCR predicts that subextraction from subjects is banned in languages that
require [Spec, TP] to be filled; i.e., in non-null subject languages such as
English. If an XP is subextracted from a subject, the result is a phase that
contains two unpronounced copies. In (1b), the CP phase contains two
unpronounced copies of ''who'', one in [Spec, TP] and one in [Spec, vP], thus
violating the RCR.

When the RCR is not violated, subextraction may occur. In the null subject
language Greek, which the author assumes lacks a [Spec, TP] position that houses
a subject, when there is subextraction from a subject, the subextracted phrase
does not move through [Spec, TP]. Thus, the CP only contains one copy, in [Spec,
v*P], of the subextracted phrase. Furthermore, Kotzoglou argues that
subextraction from objects and ECM subjects in languages such as English is
permitted because this type of subextraction does not violate the RCR.

Chapter 4. ''Subextraction from Phase Edges'' by Angel J. Gallego

In this chapter, Gallego examines extraction from v*P and CP edges, and argues
that movement of an XP to a position in which all of its features are satisfied
freezes the XP, as stated in (44).

(44) Movement to a ('maximal') feature checking position yields freezing (p. 74).

With respect to v*P edges, Gallego argues that evidence supports the Activity
Condition (Chomsky 2000, 2001), which is the notion that a DP becomes frozen
when it receives structural Case and it is phi-complete. Otherwise, it is not
frozen and extraction is possible. Gallego compares this view with the Edge
Condition, which refers to a hypothesis developed by Chomsky (2008), that
''Syntactic Objects in phase edges are internally frozen'' (p. 56). Gallego
presents evidence against the Edge Condition and for the Activity Condition; for
example, in Spanish and Dutch, extraction is possible from post-verbal subjects
of transitive verbs, even though these subjects are in an edge position ([Spec,
v*P]). On the other hand, extraction is marked in these languages when it comes
from a pre-verbal subject, which is presumably in a non-edge Case position.

With respect to CP edges, Gallego argues that the evidence supports Rizzi's
(2006) Criterial Freezing, which blocks movement of a phrase from a criterial
position. Note that this differs from Rizzi's revised formulation of Criterial
Freezing, presented in chapter 2 of this book, which allows subextraction from a
frozen XP in a criterial position. Gallego argues that an XP that appears to
have undergone subextraction from a complex phrase in a CP edge is actually an
aboutness phrase that is base-generated outside of the complex phrase, and thus
subextraction does not occur. To support this view, Gallego presents ill-formed
examples in Spanish in which binding requires a ''non-aboutness pattern'' (p. 70).
Gallego also discusses instances in which subextraction occurs from a complex
in-situ wh-phrase in English and Spanish. This subextraction is possible because
it occurs from an in-situ wh-phrase which has not had its criterial feature

Chapter 5. ''Subjects on the Edge'' by Anna Roussou

In this chapter, Roussou examines the behaviors of complementizers and the
subjects of embedded complement clauses. Crucially, Roussou argues that
that-trace, raising, and control phenomena result from whether or not a
complementizer requires a complement clause that has a pronounced (lexicalized)

Roussou takes the position that ''there is a single 'to' whose distribution
varies depending on its complement'' (p. 81). The lexical item 'to' is a locative
which occurs in the lower left periphery of a clause and that can take either a
DP complement (the preposition 'to') or a verbal complement (the infinitival
'to'). Roussou argues that the English 'to' introduces ''a variable corresponding
to the EPP'' (p. 83) in a manner akin to the Italian affix '-re'. A crucial
component of this proposal is that there is no null subject in control and
raising constructions. Rather, following Manzini and Roussou (2000), a DP is
Merged directly in its surface position. The EPP variable associated with 'to'
gets its interpretation from another DP or a generic operator in control and
raising constructions.

Just as there is a single 'to', Roussou argues that there is a single nominal
'that'. The complementizer 'that' ''takes a propositional complement'' (p. 98),
the demonstrative 'that' takes an NP complement, and the pronominal 'that'
''appears without a restriction'' (p. 98). When 'that' takes a propositional
complement, it requires what Roussou refers to as ''a lexicalized EPP'' in its
complement, as formulated in (21).

(21) 'That' requires a lexicalized EPP position that closes off the proposition.
If this requirement cannot be met, 'that' has to be absent (p. 94).

(22a), which demonstrates a typical that-trace effect, is ill-formed because
'that' requires a propositional complement with a lexicalized EPP. In (22b),
there is no EPP present in the embedded clause (Roussou assumes that 'who' is
base generated in its surface position) and there is no 'that' present that
requires a lexicalized EPP. There is a variable associated with the embedded
predicate that is bound by the wh-operator of 'who'.

(22a) *Who do you think that left? (Adapted from p. 94)

(22b) Who do you think left? (Adapted from p. 94)

Roussou also extends this analysis to 'for', 'if', and 'whether'. She argues
that 'if' and 'for' take propositional complements and thus, require there to be
a lexicalized EPP in a complement. The distribution of 'whether' and 'if'
differs in that 'if' requires a finite complement, since a finite complement has
a lexicalized EPP, but 'whether', being an XP, does not require a finite
complement, and thus does not require, although can occur with, a lexicalized EPP.

Chapter 6: ''On the Necessity of Phi-features: The Case of Bavarian Subject
Extraction'' by Clemens Mayr

This chapter develops an account of subject-object asymmetries that relies on
the idea that an extracted element (e.g., subject or object) must be along a
projection line of an attracting probe, and that a subject is not along this
projection line unless it forms a phi-feature agreement relation with its local
head. This proposal accounts for subject-object asymmetries, exemplified by the
that-trace effect in English, and the lack of a subject-object asymmetry in

Mayr's proposal hinges on what he refers to as a ''projection line'', which refers
to the main spine of a derivational tree. A functional head F is in a projection
line with an object goal O if ''all the heads from F down to O stand in
selectional relations with their complements'' (p. 130). A subject, which is in
a specifier position, is outside of the main projection line ''because it is not
directly selected for by any of the heads within the clausal projection'' (p.
132). However, Mayr proposes that if a subject undergoes phi-feature agreement
with its local head, then it becomes part of the projection line of the local head.

These proposals account for object extraction. In English and Bavarian, an
object can undergo wh-movement, and in Bavarian an object can also undergo
topicalization, regardless of whether or not there is a complementizer. This is
expected since the object is in the same projection line as a probe (e.g. a
probe in C) that attracts it, and thus no phi-feature agreement is required to
put the object in the relevant projection line.

These proposals also account for the (non)-availability of subject extraction.
In Bavarian, a subject can be extracted (wh-movement or topicalization) only if
a local complementizer undergoes phi-feature agreement with the subject, thus
putting it into the projection line of an attracting probe. In English, on the
other hand, as exemplified by the that-trace effect, 'that' is unable to undergo
phi-feature agreement with a local specifier. When 'that' is present, a subject
wh-phrase remains outside of the projection line of a probe in a higher clause.
When 'that' is absent, Mayr takes the position that there is no CP in the
relevant clause. The subject moves directly from [Spec, TP], which is possible
because the subject undergoes phi-feature agreement with T, thus putting it in
the same projection line as the attracting probe.

Chapter 7. ''Apparent Hyper-raising in Brazilian Portuguese: Agreement with
Topics Across a Finite CP'' by Ana Maria Martins and Jairo Nunes

In this chapter, Martins and Nunes develop an account of apparent hyper-raising
constructions in Brazilian Portuguese (BP). In this type of construction, as in
(3b), there is a resumptive pronoun in a finite embedded clause that is
coreferenced with a higher raised subject in a matrix clause.

Os meninos parecem que eles viajaram ontem
the boys seem-3PL that they travelled-3PL yesterday
'The boys seem to have travelled yesterday.' (p. 145)

The authors develop the following analysis. The lower pronoun appears in the
embedded [Spec, TP] and the higher coreferential subject is a topic that
originates in [Spec, TopP] of the embedded clause. The matrix T agrees with the
embedded topic and attracts it to the matrix [Spec, TP] where it satisfies an
EPP feature. Martins and Nunes argue that this is not a problem for the Phase
Impenetrability Condition as formulated in Chomsky (2001), whereby the
complement of an embedded CP phase head is sent to Spell-Out ''only when the next
strong phase head is introduced in the derivation'' (p. 158). In a construction
such as (3b), Spell-Out of the complement of the embedded C does not occur until
the matrix C is Merged, since the vP of raising verbs is not a strong phase.
Therefore, the topicalized phrase in the embedded clause is accessible to the
matrix T. The authors go on to account for the unique properties of the raised
subject, which behaves like a topic, as a result of being base generated in
TopP, and which also behaves like a subject, as a result of raising to an
A-position, [Spec, TP].

Chapter 8. ''The Structure and Interpretation of (Romance) Complementizers'' by M.
Rita Manzini

This chapter focuses on what Manzini refers to as ''the Romance che-type''
complementizer, exemplified by the Italian 'che'. Manzini argues that this type
of complementizer, which can function as either a complementizer or a wh-phrase,
is an NP head. The wh-phrase version of 'che' introduces a variable that ''ranges
over individuals'' (p. 170), while the complementizer 'che' introduces a variable
that ''ranges over situations/possible worlds'' (p. 170). Thus, there is only a
single complementizer which differs with respect to the type of variable that it
introduces. In a sentence such as (1), Manzini takes the position that the
matrix verb takes an NP complement that is headed by 'che', and 'che' takes the
embedded sentence as its complement. The wh-phrase 'che', as in (3), is argued
to be an NP that appears in an operator position above C.

So che fai questo
I.know that this
'I know that you do this.' (p. 169)

Che fai?
'What are you doing?' (p. 169)

Manzini provides a variety of examples from different Italian dialects to
elaborate on the structure of the phrase housing a che-type complementizer. In
some dialects, a clausal complement of a che-type complementizer can have a V2
structure. Manzini assumes that this verb is in C, thus indicating that the
complementizer must be in a higher position; the complementizer is a noun with a
clausal complement that contains a verb in C. In addition, Manzini demonstrates
that in some Italian dialects, a che-type complementizer can be preceded by a
wh-phrase, as well as by other topicalized phrases. This is taken to be evidence
that the complementizer has a left periphery of its own.

Manzini argues that her approach is preferable to a cartography-style approach,
such as Rizzi (1997). Manzini's approach accounts for the same data as
cartography approaches. In addition, whereas a cartography approach requires ''a
hierarchy of functional categories'' (p. 184), in Manzini's approach, only a
single complementizer position is required. An elaborated left periphery results
from ''the recursion of predicate-argument structures'' (p. 184).

Manzini also extends her approach to account for other types of complementizers,
arguing that although the che-type complementizer is nominal and is associated
with a wh-element, there is no requirement of the language faculty that all
complementizers be like this. For example, in Buru, a complementizer appears to
be a verbal element.

Chapter 9. ''Nested Interrogatives and the Locus of Wh'' by Omer Preminger

In this chapter, Preminger examines Hebrew nested interrogatives. In (3b), one
wh-phrase moves to the edge of the embedded clause and the other moves to the
edge of the matrix clause, thus giving a structure with ''multiple interrogative
clauses nested within one another'' (p. 202).

[ma]_2 Dina saxexa [le-mi]_1 Dan natan t_1 t_2?
what Dina forgot DAT-who Dan gave
'[What]_2 did Dina forget [to whom]_1 Dan gave t_2 t_1? (p. 201)

Preminger accounts for the formation of nested interrogatives as follows. There
is a FocP projection which houses wh-phrases, and that occurs below a CP
projection which houses a complementizer. Evidence for this FocP comes from the
phenomenon of Sub-Complementizer Topicalization in which a topicalized phrase
appears in a position below a complementizer. In addition, Preminger proposes
that a wh-phrase contains an uninterpretable wh-operator feature and Foc
contains an interpretable wh-operator feature. This interpretable wh-operator
feature on Foc attracts the higher wh-phrase ('DAT-who' in (3b)) to [Spec,
FocP], where the uninterpretable wh-operator feature of the wh-phrase is
checked. The higher C contains an interpretable but unvalued operator feature
that attracts the lower wh-phrase ('what' in (3b)) to [Spec, CP]. Crucially,
since the operator feature on C is unvalued, the uninterpretable wh-operator
feature on the wh-phrase remains active. Thus, the wh-phrase undergoes further
movement to a higher [Spec, FocP], where a valued wh-operator feature of Foc
checks the corresponding operator feature of the wh-phrase. Preminger explains
how this analysis accounts for superiority effects that result when there are
crossing wh-movements, and for wh-island effects in cases of long wh-movement
which involve ''movement of a constituent to the periphery of a clause outside of
the one where it was base-generated'' (p. 208). In addition, Preminger explains
how this analysis is compatible with the Phase Impenetrability Condition
(Chomsky 2000, 2001).

Chapter 10. ''Complex Wh-phrases Don't Move: On the Interaction Between the Split
CP Hypothesis and the Syntax of Wh-movement'' by Jereon Van Craenenbroeck

In this chapter, Craenenbroeck proposes an analysis of wh-questions in which a
complex wh-phrase is base generated in its surface position. Craenenbroeck
assumes that there is a CP_1 projection that is responsible for clausal typing
(akin to the ForceP of Rizzi (1997)). In addition, there is another lower
projection, CP_2 (akin to the FocP of Rizzi (1997)) that hosts an operator. In a
wh-question, the higher C_1 has a Question feature [+Q] and the lower C_2 has an
operator feature [+Op]. Craenenbroeck argues that a simple wh-phrase undergoes
movement from a base position first to [Spec, CP_1], where it checks the [+Op]
feature, and then it undergoes further movement to [Spec, CP_2], where it checks
a [+Q] feature. A complex wh-phrase, such as ''which boy'', on the other hand, is
argued to lack an operator feature, which results in it being Merged directly in
the higher [Spec, CP_2] position. Although the complex wh-phrase is Merged
directly in its surface position, there is a co-indexed empty operator, base
generated in theta-position, that undergoes movement to [Spec, CP_1], where it
checks the [+Op] feature of C_1. Note that the general proposal is that a simple
wh-phrase moves through CP_1 and lands in CP_2. However, the option of movement
to only CP_2 may be available in some languages; in Frisian and dialectal Dutch,
Carenenbroeck takes the position that a simple wh-phrase need only move to
[Spec, CP_2], from where it can somehow check the operator feature of CP_1.
Craenenbroeck demonstrates how this analysis accounts for differences in
behaviors between simple and complex wh-phrases in ''doubly filled COMP phenomena
in Frisian and dialect Dutch, swiping in English, wh-copying in German, free
relatives in Dutch, preposition stranding in Dutch, and spading in dialect
Dutch'' (p. 260).


A strength of this book is the variety of analyses that it presents for both
well-known and lesser known phenomena. This book provides new analyses of
familiar phenomena, such as the 'that-trace' effect, subject-object asymmetries,
and asymmetries between complex and simple wh-phrases. It also provides analyses
of some lesser known phenomena, such as apparent hyper-raising in Brazilian
Portuguese, and nested interrogatives in Hebrew.

Notable is that this book provides differing, and not necessarily compatible,
analyses of similar phenomena. This can be seen with respect to subextraction
from subjects. Rizzi's chapter 2 accounts for subject subextraction phenomena
with the proposal that a subject XP is frozen due to a Subject Criterion, but an
element contained within the subject may undergo subextraction. Kotzoglou's
chapter 3 accounts for the same phenomena in a very different manner by
proposing that there is a general ban on multiple copies being pronounced within
a single phase. Gallego's chapter 4, on the other hand, supports Rizzi's
original Criterial Freezing position, which bans movement out of an XP that has
all of its features satisfied. Subextraction can only occur out of subjects that
do not have all features satisfied and some apparent cases of subextraction are
really base generated aboutness phrases. Similarly, a variety of analyses are
proposed for that-trace effects. Rizzi's chapter 2 suggests that-trace effects
result from criterial freezing of a subject, whereas Roussou's chapter 5 takes
the position that the 'that' trace effect is the result of a requirement that
the complement clause of 'that' have a lexicalized EPP. In addition, Mayr's
chapter 6 proposes that the that-trace effect results from the inability of
'that' to undergo phi-feature agreement with a subject. Comparison of these
differing proposals regarding subextraction from subjects, that-trace effects,
and other phenomena should lead to a better understanding of these and related

The collection of papers in this book sheds light on the structures of the
phrases that contain complementizers, as well as on the behaviors of
complementizers, and the analyses raise a number of interesting questions. This
book should be of interest to syntacticians, especially those working in the
Minimalist Program, who are interested in complementizers and their projections.


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Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by phase. In M. Kenstowicz (ed.), Ken Hale: A
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Rizzi, Luigi. 2006. On the form of chains: Criterial positions and ECP effects.
In Lisa Cheng and Norbert Corver (eds.), Wh-Movement: Moving on. Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 97-134.

Ross, John R. 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax. Ph.D. dissertation,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jason Ginsburg is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Language Research at the University of Aizu in Japan. He has a PhD in linguistics and an MS in Human Language Technology, both from the University of Arizona, and an MA in TESOL from American University. His research interests are in syntactic theory (in the framework of Generative Grammar), computational modeling of syntactic theory, and applications of syntactic theory and natural language processing for teaching languages.

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