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Review of  A Minimalist Approach to Scrambling

Reviewer: Anna Grashchenkova
Book Title: A Minimalist Approach to Scrambling
Book Author: Simin Karimi
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Subject Language(s): Persian, Iranian
Issue Number: 16.2463

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Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2005 16:18:18 +0400
From: Anna Grashchenkova
Subject: A Minimalist Approach to Scrambling

AUTHOR: Karimi, Simin
TITLE: A Minimalist Approach to Scrambling
SUBTITLE: Evidence from Persian
SERIES: Studies in Generative Grammar 76
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2005

Anna Grashchenkova, Department of Theoretical and Applied
Linguistics, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.


The book under review (as stated in the introductory chapter) follows
three interrelated goals. The first one is to provide in-depth analysis of
syntactic structure of Persian, and primarily to account for freedom of
constituent order. The second is to relate inferences from Persian
data to that provided by other languages in which scrambling occurs.
The third one, as stated by the author is "to situate the results ...
within the framework of the Minimalist Program, specifically phase


The book consists of seven chapters.

Chapter 1: Introduction. The first chapter serves an introduction to the
monograph. It provides a brief overview of Persian syntax and
summarizes the basic theoretical assumptions, underlying the
proposed investigation.

Providing empirical reasons Simin Karimi rejects derivational approach
to word order, advanced by Kayne (1994), and follows traditional
parametric approach, considering Persian a SOV language
underlyingly. She argues nevertheless that Tense Phrase (TP) is
head-initial in this language. This assumption is based primarily on the
placement of sentential arguments of the verb, which follow the verb
obligatory. Moreover, she states, that all functional heads appear in
an initial position in this language.

Analysis advanced in the volume is based on phase theory. Following
Chomsky (2001), Karimi distinguishes two strong phases: lexical
phase vP and operator/discourse phase CP. The relevance of such a
configuration is discussed in the following chapters. Along with basic
theoretical assumptions of Minimalist Program (henceforth MP) in
section 4 she introduces the main ideas underlying the theory of
Distributed Morphology (henceforth DM), to which help she resorts in
chapter 2, when analyzing (non)specific object marking.

Some empirical data are also introduced in this chapter. It includes the
description of Persian basic word order, rather detailed analysis of
complex predicates. In section 3 a descriptive discussion of elements
that undergo scrambling is offered. At the end of the chapter Karimi
introduces the notion of Specificity that is extremely relevant to the
analysis advanced in the volume. She argues that specificity is
responsible for case marking of direct objects, as well as for other
different properties of specific and nonspecific noun phrases in object
and certain subject positions. The detailed discussion of the
phenomenon is offered in chapter 3.

In section 5 the outline of the content of the monograph is provided.

Chapter 2: Literature on Scrambling. As stated in the introductory
lines, this chapter is devoted to a review of literature on scrambling in
the last two decades. The two major approaches to scrambling are
discussed, namely base-generation approach (henceforth BGA) and
movement approach (henceforth MA).

BGA within the minimalist framework is associated primarily with
Bošcović and Takahashi (1998) paper on Japanese. These authors
suggest that "... scrambled elements are directly base-generated in
their surface positions and undergo LF movement (lowering in most
cases) to the positions where they receive theta roles". Saito and
Fukui (1998) argue within the same lines, suggesting that scrambling
is an optional operation, and thus should be treated as a special case
of Merge. Both papers maintain thesis that scrambling is semantically

In section 2.3. Karimi analyses Persian data and provides counter
evidence with respect to the outlined theories. First of all she argues
that scrambling is not semantically vacuous: a scrambled element in
Persian may be interpreted as topic or focus based on its stress,
moreover scrambling provides scope ambiguity even in case of long-
distance scrambling (henceforth LDS), and thus the copy of the
scrambled element plays a role in the interpretation of a sentence.
The most vulnerable point in Bošcović and Takahashi (1998) paper is
that only arguments are subject to scrambling. Karimi shows that
adjuncts in Persian may also undergo LSD and create ambiguity as
well (for similar evidence from Russian see for example Bailyn (2001)).
The third argument against BGA to scrambling has to do with
extraction out of islands. That is, if one assumes that scrambling is the
result of Merge, than the impossibility of occurrence of scrambled
elements within syntactic islands (attested in Persian as well as in
other scrambling languages) cannot be accounted for.

Karimi further reviews the literature on scrambling from a movement
point of view. She presents a brief survey of clause-bound scrambling
into Case position, revealing properties of A(rgument)-movement
(such as raising and passive constructions), such as locality, anti-
Weak Crossover (WCO) effects, FQ (Floating Quantifiers), binding
relations and lack of reconstruction.

The discussion in this chapter also suggests that scrambling exhibits
some characteristics of A'- movement (such as wh-movement), such
as licensing a parasitic gap and reconstruction.
Then attested instances of atypical A and A' movement are discussed.
Karimi argues for example, following May (1977, 1985), that
reconstruction sometimes is possible from an A-position. She also
provides evidence of Persian LDS that allow FQ, and other instances
of movement that exhibit properties of A as well as A'-movement

She also sketches Webelhuth's (1992) proposal (which suggests that
the landing site of scrambled elements exhibits mixed properties) and
its criticism. She concludes discussion of MA pointing out that such an
approach in terms of A-A' distinction as well as BGA also faces some

In the final section of this chapter the author examines properties of
scrambling languages and their differences from non-scrambling ones.
She reviews several approaches (Fukui (1993), Müller and Sternefeld
(1993), Bošcović and Takahashi (1998)), designed to account for this
problem. She suggests that previously proposed factors (such as
adjunction sites) cannot be parameterized to account for these
differences. Following the most recent trends in scrambling theory,
Karimi advances a hypothesis that scrambling is a feature-driven
movement, and thus is not an optional syntactic operation. Under this
assumption all differences between scrambling and non-scrambling
languages are reduced "to the choice of selecting a certain type of
feature from the lexicon".

Chapter 3: Local Scrambling and A-movement. This chapter is
devoted to local scrambling in Persian and its clause structure in

Section 2 provides an in-depth analysis of Persian subjects.
Discussing different types of construction (including unaccusatives, so-
called passives as well as raising, subjectless, ECM (exceptional case
marking) and 'tough' constructions) Karimi comes to the conclusion
that subject in Persian is base-generated within the vP phase. She
argues that the theme of unaccusatives and so-called passives are
merged inside the PredP (complement of v). Based on position of
prepositional phrases and vP adverbials with respect to subjects in
these constructions, Karimi suggests an asymmetry between specific
and non-specific subjects (similar to that of objects). She further
argues that only specific subjects move out of PredP to Spec of vP to
receive specific interpretation. Case and Agreement are also checked
in this position. Non specific subjects are argued to stay in-situ, in
PredP domain that is neutral with respect to Case and Agreement (this
assumption is supported by necessary evidence). Subjects of
transitive verbs are claimed to be merged directly in the Spec of vP
(this is supported by the fact that agents are obligatorily [+ Specific]).

Additional evidence for the vP-internal hypothesis comes from
absence of expletives (as argued by Karimi overt as well as covert).
Karimi claims that "no element needs to appear in the vP external
position in a situation when the entire propositional phrase is
focused". Based on this assumption she further argues that EPP in
Persian, similar to Nom Case is satisfied by the rich morphological
inflection on Persian verb. This assumption in its turn calls in question
the existence of pro and PRO. Karimi argues that their existence is
justified by two independent factors. pro is suggested to be required
by Nom Case feature of the verb that must be checked. The presence
of PRO is argued to be unrelated to Nom Case and determined by

In section 3 the analysis of direct objects is proposed. Similar to
subjects, direct objects are also claimed to be generated within the
PredP. As well as subjects only specific objects escape the domain of
existential closure and move into the lower Spec of vP in order to
receive interpretation and to check case features. Their nonspecific
counterparts remain in-situ and are not marked by Case, as long as
Acc Case feature is locally checked by Agree between the specific
object in the lower Spec of vP and v.

In section 4 Karimi advances the hypothesis that Persian is a topic-
prominent language. This assumption is based primarily on the fact
that Persian does not use grammatical constructions (such as
passive) to extract a non-subject topic as subject-prominent
languages do. She argues (and discusses it in detail in chapter 4) that
elements extracted out of vP are discourse marked. She further
argues that T in Persian optionally selects the feature [+Topic], and
thus Spec of TP is a topic position in this language.

In conclusion Karimi briefly surveys the nature of the landing site of
the vP internal scrambling in Persian (Spec of vP) and comes to the
conclusion that it cannot be considered a typical A-position. (It is
discussed in more detail in chapters 5, 7). And thus local scrambling is
not a typical A-movement as has been suggested throughout the

Chapter 4. Operator/Discourse Domain and A'-Scrambling. This
chapter addresses syntactic properties of the operator/discourse
phase. Karimi proposes the following phrase structure for this domain:

[CP [TopP [FP [TP [T' [...]]]]]]

Discussion in this and previous chapters is based on distinction of two
different types of EPP: the first one is based on Chomsky's (1982)
original idea regarding the requirement that every sentence have a
subject. This type is labeled *grammatical* EPP (EPPg). The other
EPP, based on Chomsky (2000), is suggested to be a strong feature
responsible for movement of phrasal categories. This type is called
*syntactic* EPP (EPPs). In chapter 3 Karimi advanced the idea that
EPPg in Persian is satisfied by rich verbal inflection. In this chapter
she argues that movement out of vP (lexical phase) is trigged by
EPPs, which places the XP in the Spec of FocP or one of the two topic
positions. In the case of the former, the XP receives a contrastive
focus (as apposed to informational focus that does not involve
movement) interpretation. The higher topic position (Spec of TopP) is
reserved for the switched topic, and the lower one (Spec of TP)
represents the background topic. The claim that all these movements
are feature-driven is supported by the fact that the movement of two
(for example, scope-bearing) elements belonging to the same
category is subject to MLC (Minimal Link Condition (Chomsky 1995)).

Providing evidence of cooccurrence of wh-phrase together with
complementizer, Karimi argues that wh-phrases do not undergo
movement to Spec of CP, but may move to Spec of FocP to receive
contrastive interpretation. She then distinguishes wh-arguments and
wh-adjuncts, assuming that the former have a D-head, while the latter
are purely quantificational (and thus move to a different position). In
order to account for an interrogative interpretation of a sentence in
the absence of a wh-phrase in the Spec of CP, Karimi assumes
(following (Aoun and Li 1993)) that there is a wh-operator in the Spec
of CP and the wh-feature moves to C for a local Agree relation with
the wh-operator. It is further argued that the focus feature of non-wh-
phrases moves to be adjoined to Foc. These claims are based on the
fact that the movement of a Foc feature and wh-feature is blocked
when the XP carrying one of them is in the domain of another scope
bearing element (such as Negative Polarity Item).

Chapter 5: Scrambling, Scope and Binding. This chapter concentrates
on the semantic impact of scrambling with respect to scope and
binding relations.

Section 2 is devoted to scope marking. Karimi provides evidence that
movement of quantificational elements local as well as long-distant
alters their scope. In a similar way scrambling affects scope between a
quantified element and a wh-phrase. Scope of adjuncts and
interaction of negation with existential and universal quantifiers also
contradict the assumption that LDS is subject to radical reconstruction.
Analyzing these data Karimi arrives at the conclusion that scope
relations are determined in overt syntax and that there is no need for
covert XP movement, as suggested by Chomsky (1995).

Section 3 concentrates on scrambling with respect to anaphoric
relations. Analyzing Persian data Karimi suggests that scrambling
does not affect Principle A, feeds but does not bleed Principles B and
C of the Binding Theory. However some typological data, presented in
this chapter, evidence that at least some languages allow scrambling
to feed Principle A. Karimi suggests that this possibility is subject to
parametric differences between languages.

Karimi's analysis of binding relations (as well as that of scope
interaction) contradicts the traditional assumption that scrambled
elements are radically reconstructed.

Finally Karimi argues that movement theory based on phase cannot
account for some cases of binding relations (such as relations
between pronominal and its antecedent, when the latter is in the
higher clause, or Principle C violations). She concludes assuming
that "binding interpretations are not established by derivation, but
rather by representation". This issue is discussed in more detail in
chapter 7.

Chapter 6: Long Distance Scrambling and Island Constraints. In this
chapter Karimi examines the differences between LDS and typical
instances of operator movement such as structural wh-movement and

In section 2 Karimi shows that LDS is not subject to the type of
constraint that blocks wh-movement. LDS in Persian can dislocate
several elements out of CP, without rendering a sentence
ungrammatical. This contrasts with structural wh-movement in English
and German, where wh-phrases move cyclically through the same
intermediate position, namely Spec of CP. Karimi argues that in case
of LDS when more than one element represents contrastive focus,
they occupy multiple specifiers of FocP.

In section 3 Karimi provides a set of novel LDS data. She shows that
an element cannot scramble into a higher clause if another element
with the same grammatical function already exists in that clause or in
the intermediate clause. Karimi formulates this condition as follows:

(1) Condition on LDS
LSD is blocked in the configuration:
*[phase YP1α XPα ....... [t1]], where α represents a specific
grammatical function (e.g. subject)

She shows that this condition does not hold in case of a typical
operator movement such as wh-movement in English. Karimi further
argues that this condition cannot be accounted for on the basis of
processing theories. Two processing strategies are introduced and
rejected in section 4.

In section 5 additional data are provided in defense of (1). Karimi
argues that (1) is not a restriction on A-movement into the argument
position, based on facts that pro in the target clause does not block
movement of the embedded subject, and that LDS of adjuncts is also
subject to (1). She further suggests that this condition (when restated
in terms of features) accounts for operator movement as well. The
only distinction is the domain of application of this constraint: while CP
is the island domain for operator movement, vP serves as the island
domain for LDS.
Karimi further argues, that since this condition accounts for both A and
A' movements, it represents a problem for the typology of movement.
This issue is discussed in more detail in the final chapter.

In section 6 Karimi discusses the instances of left-dislocation and ATB
(Across the Board) and argues as in the previous chapter that
interpretation cannot be solely based on cyclic derivations within a
phase, but need to be applied representationally in certain cases.

Chapter 7: Theoretical Consequences. This chapter concentrates on
the theoretical outcome of the analysis advanced in this work.

Section 2 reviews the typology of movement. Karimi examines three
types of syntactic properties that have been assumed throughout the
literature to be diagnostic for A/A' distinction. These are reconstruction
(suggested to be exclusively the property of A'-movement), Anti-WCO
effects and FQ (both considered to be possible only when A-
movement is involved). The data provided in this section show,
however that there is no clear cut distinction between A and A'
movement based on these factors.

In section 3 the improper interaction of movement is considered.
Karimi discusses impossibility of interaction of wh-movement with
scrambling and topicalization in English and German (languages that
exhibit structural movements for both wh-phrases and topic). She then
presents two solutions previously offered to account for this problem:
Epstein's (1992) approach, based on Economy of Derivation and
Müller and Sternefeld's (1993, 1996) account based on Principle of
Unambiguous Binding (PUB). She further proposes an alternative
account, suggesting that the observed restrictions on interaction of
different types of movement is determined by the position where XP
receives interpretation, rather than by the typology of movement. That
is if XP moves into a Spec of a functional head, where it receives its
interpretation, it cannot move into a new position to receive a different
interpretation. Based on this assumption the following constraint is

(2) Constraint on Interpretation (CI):
Within the functional domain, If XP receives interpretation in α it
cannot be interpreted in β.

Karimi's approach allows not to stipulate an LF movement to account
for the problematic data.
Section 4 concentrates on the interaction of phase theory with
interpretation that was briefly discussed in chapter 5. She discusses
several cases that pose problem to phase theory with respect to
interpretation. Karimi argues that co-reference of an embedded
pronoun with the left-dislocated DP cannot be accounted for within a
purely derivational model based on phase. Additional problems are
provided by ATB cases and resumptive pronouns in island
constructions, where movement is not an option. Based on this data
Karimi suggests "that UG (Universal Grammar) must allow
interpretation based on representation, in addition to derivation, if
phase theory is to be maintained".

Karimi concludes the final chapter with a brief discussion of
unresolved issues, left for further research.


It is perfectly obvious that Karimi's book represents an important
contribution to scrambling as well as to syntactic theory in general.
Analysis advanced in this work addresses the main problems that
scrambling poses to the syntactic theory. It is argued in this volume
that scrambling is triggered by EPPs, has a semantic effect on the
output of the derivation and is not syntactically optional. Moreover a
set of novel interesting data, not previously attested in scrambling
languages, is provided.

Certain imperfection of the work that pretends to postulate universal
patterns seems to be the lack of typological data. Some
generalizations (such as the [+Topic] feature of T), made by the
author, call for a more representative sample of languages. It should
be mentioned in conclusion that the book is highly reader-friendly.
Each chapter opens with an introductory section and concludes with a
brief summary of the most important issues. And the whole book is
structured in the same way.


Aoun, Joseph and Yen-hui Audrey Li (1993) Wh-elements in-situ:
Syntax of LF? Linguistic Inquiry 24 (2): 199-238.

Bailyn, John (2001) On scrambling: A reply to Bošcović and
Takahashi. Linguistic Inquiry 32(4): 635-657.

Bošcović, Željko and Daiko Takahashi (1998) Scrambling and last
resort. Linguistic Inquiry 29 (2): 347-366.

Chomsky, Noam (1982) Some Concepts and Consequences of the
Theory of Government and Binding. Cambridge/London: The MIT

Chomsky, Noam (1995) The Minimalist Program. Cambridge/London:
The MIT Press.

Chomsky, Noam (2000) Minimalist inquiries: The framework. In Step
by Step: Essays on minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik, R.
Martin, D. Michaela, and J. Uriagereka (eds.), 89-155.
Cambridge/London: The MIT Press.

Chomsky, Noam (2001) Derivation by phase. In Ken Hale: A life in
language, M. Kenstowicz (ed.), 1-52. Cambridge/London: The MIT

Epstein, David (1992) Derivational constraints on A'-chain formation.
Linguistic Inquiry 23 (2): 235-259.

Fukui, Naoki (1993) Parameters and optionality. Linguistic Inquiry 24
(3): 399-420.

Kayne, Richard (1994) The Antisymmetry of Syntax.
Cambridge/London: The MIT Press.

May, Robert (1977) The Grammar of Quantification, Ph. D. Diss.,
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. MIT. [Published 1990, New York: Garland]

May, Robert (1985) Logical Form: Its Structure and Derivation.
Cambridge/London: The MIT Press.

Müller, Gereon and Wolfgang Sternefeld (1993) Improper movement
and unambiguous binding. Linguistic Inquiry 24 (3): 461-507.

Müller, Gereon and Wolfgang Sternefeld (1996) A'-chain formation
and economy of derivation. Linguistic Inquiry 27 (3): 480-511.

Saito, Mamoru and Naoki Fukui (1998) Order in phrase structure and
movement. Linguistic Inquiry 29 (3):439-474.

Webelhuth, Gert (1992) Principles and Parameters of Syntactic
Saturation. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Anna Grashchenkova has defended her diploma work at the Moscow
State University, Russia. Her graduate work deals with reflexive
binding within the Adjective Phrase. Her research interests include
syntax, syntactic theories and typology.