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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Thursday, 21 April 2005

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface


In the following I shall show that there is not one single notion of phase in Chomsky (2001) and that each of the different formulations have diverse consequences.

The set of analyses and conclusions delineated in my paper (forthcoming) and Chomsky?s (1999) proposals converge to the notion that the phases of a derivation are propositional. Indeed, as Chomsky himself acknowledges, verbal phrases have full argument structure and CPs force indicators. However the same notion of phase in Chomsky (2001) is derived throughout other four different paths.

The first path to derive the notion of phase, which Chomsky has chosen, departs from the inclusiveness condition. He maintains his 1995 idea that the input of a derivation is an array of items taken from the lexicon (LA), but divides it into sub-arrays. Each phase is determined by a sub-array LA{ i } of LA, placed in the active memory. When the computation exhausts LA{ i }, forming the syntactic object K, L returns to LA, either extending K to K' or forming an independent structure M to be assimilated later to K or to some extension of K.

These premises seem to pervade Chomsky?s thoughts, but in discussing what categories demark the phases, i.e., how to label them, he presents a second view, which furthers the first vie. So, he argues that a sub-array LA{i} must be easily identifiable and so contain exactly one lexical item that will label the resulting phase. If one accepts that substantive categories are selected by functional categories, namely V by a light verb v and T by C, then one gets the following thesis:
MT(1) Phases are CP and vP, and a sub-array contains exactly one C or v.

The third alternative to circumscribe phases consists of finding and summoning facts that maintain and correlate PF and LF integrity more generally, what Chomsky claims to be independent support:
MT(2) CP and vP are reconstruction sites, and have a degree of phonetic independence.

The fourth way consists of adopting the idea that the main functional categories, which may have an EPP feature and so function as targets for movement, are phases, but there are divided accordingly to their strength:
MT(3) CP and vP are strong phases, all the others are weak.
Accordingly to the thesis embraced, the spell out operation will apply simply at a phase or at a strong phase level. The options might all seem very stipulative, put this way, but they all play a crucial role in Chomsky?s consistent argumentation in favour of the idea that only the phonological component proceeds in parallel, and not the syntactic and semantic ones. This is expressed in the minimalist thesis bellow:
MT(4) a. There is no overt-covert distinction with two independent cycles; rather, a single narrow-syntactic cycle;
b. The phonological cycle is not a third independent cycle, but proceeds essentially in parallel.

We have already explained the distinction between delete and erase in Section 1, which underlies the reasoning above: by making the deleted features disappear, convergence at LF is allowed. In order to reduce computational burden and allow the phonological component to slight earlier stages of the derivation, another stipulation, the phase impenetrability condition, is added:
(PIC) Only H and its edge are accessible to operations outside a strong phase HP.

The edge being either specs or elements adjoined to HP. Under PIC, operations apply at the accessible elements of HP within the smallest strong ZP phase containing HP and not beyond, and the phonological component spells out elements that move no further. But this means that spell out interprets H and its edge as parts of ZP in a structure like:
(1) [ZP Z... [HP _ | [H YP]]]

Which leads to Ev1, already mentioned.
Let us summarise the dilemmas resulting from these views:
D1 a. A phase is the product of derivational procedures that divide lexical arrays, obeying the inclusiveness condition.
b. A phase is a special functional selector category.

D2 a. The motivation to postulate the existence of phases is semantic: they are characterised as propositional and as reconstruction sites.
b. The motivation to postulate the existence of phases is phonological: they are characterised by the cyclic application of spell-out.

D3 a. Functional categories are divided into phases and non-phases.
b. All functional categories are phases. Phases are divided into weak and strong types.

Neither alternative in the third dilemma is actually good, for phase should be maintained as a derivational notion and not treated as categorial one, by which reason (D1b) must also be discarded. Perhaps (D2) can never be solved, but it permits us to sustain the view that the notion of phase rests upon the application of an operation.
Indeed it has already been argued for the elimination of PIC in the literature. For instance, Stjepanovic' and Takahashi (2003) claim that the effects of PIC can be derived from independently necessary computational mechanisms, such as multiple spell-out and pied-piping. But any arguments in this direction also provide the means to derive the notion of phase from the application of spell-out. If, on the other hand, spell-out is not the only correspondence operation that maps the Syntactic Structure onto a representational level, i.e., if spell-out has a sister reading operation that interacts with the semantic level, then the two operations may be ordered, the application of second operation culminating in the formation of a phase. The only argument for assuming that the second correspondence operation is reading is the empirical observation that the Phonetic Structure seems always to be delayed in relation to the Conceptual Structure.
So, we have the point that PIC is not necessary, for it can be a mere effect of the cyclic application of different operations, as well as a consequence of a version of Godel?s diagonal lemma. Nevertheless, (D2b) also reveals the weak point of the narrow syntax hypothesis: it does not explain why the phonological cycle should essentially proceed in parallel, as stated in MT(7), but the semantic one should not.
(D1a) is the truly principled alternative among all others.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 22 April 2005 01:44 BST
Sunday, 27 March 2005

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. The semantics of middles and its crosslinguistic realization

By Marika Lekakou

This study explores the ways in which the semantics of personal middle constructions is encoded across languages. In Dutch, German and English, middles are syntactically unergative and the implicit Agent is syntactically inert. In Greek and French, middles are syntactically indistinguishable from generic passives: they exhibit a derived subject and a syntactically represented Agent. What unites the two types of middle is the interpretation they receive. The cross-linguistic variation invites the following question: what determines the choice of structure employed to convey the middle interpretation?

keywords: middles, genericity, aspect, reflexives, syntax, semantics


Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:30 GMT
Monday, 24 January 2005

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface

Fragments and ellipsis

By Jason Merchant

Fragmentary utterances such as `short' answers and subsentential XPs without linguistic antecedents are proposed to have fully sentential syntactic structures, subject to ellipsis. Ellipsis in these cases is preceded by A'-movement of the fragment to a clause peripheral position; the combination of movement and ellipsis accounts for a wide range of connectivity and anti-connectivity effects in these structures. Fragment answers furthermore shed light on the nature of islands, and contrast with sluicing in triggering island effects; this is shown to follow from an articulated syntax and the PF theory of islands. Fragments without linguistic antecedents are argued to be compatible with an ellipsis analysis, and do not support direct interpretation approaches to these phenomena.

Note: To appear in Linguistics and Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 15:10 GMT
Tuesday, 4 January 2005

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface


I am happy that someone is working with the extended Larsonian Shell hypothesis that I proposed in my MA thesis. Of course, Butler has probably not read or heard about my thesis, for it is not written in English, but I like to know that somehow he uses it anyway!


By Jonny Butler

I argue that phases should be defined as domains of quantificational closure. I propose that a phase consists of a core predicative category (V, T), topped by l-syntactic little heads (v, t) that introduce situation variables; this whole structure then topped off by a CP level which closes off the variables introduced by the little heads. This derives a theory of temporal construal akin to that of Stowell (1996). The system is extended to cover aspectual notions like perfect/progressive, where evidence from their interaction with modality suggests that perfect and progressive aspect should be considered to head their own phases.

Source: lingBuzz/000065

Posted by Tony Marmo at 19:31 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 January 2005 19:34 GMT
Saturday, 27 November 2004

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface
Note: The asymmetry Panagiotidis & Tsiplakou mention is also found in Romance. Take for instance the spanish sentences (S) below:
(S) 1. La madre de Sofia{1} la{1} beso.
2. La*{1}/{2} beso la madre de Sofia{1}.

The difference is that in (S1) de Sofia is a PP and not a DP in the genetive case. As a complement of la madre, the PP de Sofia does not c-command la.

An A-binding asymmetry in Greek

and its significance for Universal Grammar

By Phoevos Panagiotidis & Stavroula Tsiplakou

Principle C of the Binding theory is set up to capture why the grammaticality of the coreferential reading between the pronominal and the R-expression is precluded in sentences such as (1) below

(1) She{i} called Sophia{i}/{j}'s mother.

on the basis that the R-expression is illicitly bound by the pronominal. By the same token, the coreferential reading in sentences such as (2) below

(2) Sophia{i}'s mother called her{i}.

is not disallowed as the R-expression is free everywhere.
In Modern Greek, a language which displays largely free constituent order, the equivalent of the English sentence in (2) can have two different realizations, shown in (3) and (4) below, and the following A-binding asymmetry obtains:

(3)i mitera tis Sofias{i}/{j} tin{i} fonakse
the mother-NOM the Sophia-GEN her-ACC called

(4) tin*{i}/{j} fonakse i mitera tis Sofias{i}
her-ACC called the mother-NOM the Sophia-GEN

Sophia's mother called her

The coreferential reading between the pronominal and the R-expression tis Sofias is obtainable in (3), where the R-expression is contained within the preverbal subject phrase [ i mitera [tis Sofias ]], but it is absolutely disallowed in (4), where the R-expression is contained in the postverbal subject. This sharp asymmetry, first noted in Tsiplakou 1998, is surprising in view of the fact that, at least at first blush, the object clitic pronoun tin should not be able to bind into the subject at the level where the Binding Principles operate. The question that naturally arises is whether this asymmetry should be ascribed to some particularity of the syntax of Greek or whether it has more far-reaching implications for Binding theory as it is currently formulated within the Minimalist framework. (...)

Bind it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 03:50 GMT
Updated: Saturday, 27 November 2004 21:17 GMT
Thursday, 11 November 2004

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface


Inspired by Kent Bach's The Top 10 Misconceptions about Implicature, I shall try to write a little bit about misconceptions in Syntax and, inasmuch as possible, semantics.

One common misconception is
One can determine to which category one lexical item belongs and which kind of structural configuration is obtained by meaning constraints.

Although meaning differences count in tests, this is not a sure path to detect structure or classify items.

First of all, there is one empirical problem that meaning does not determine structure. In making a compositional analysis, one has to assume a function relating structure and meaning. A function, not a bi-function. Accordingly, one maps structure onto meaning and not the other way round. This is due to the well known fact that the relation between structure and meaning is something of more than one to one.

Now examine the sentences below:
(1) a. Joe intentionally killed Bill.
b. Joe killed Bill with intention.
(2) Joe intended to kill Bill.

Although the three seem to be equivalent, there are important structural and semantic differences. (1a) and (b) are true iff Bill is really dead, while (2) may be true regardless of whether Bill really died. (It is possible to claim (2) in a larger sentential context like Joe intended to kill Bill, but failed or Joe intended to kill Bill, that is why Bill died). This difference is an evidence of the contribution made by the different categories involved. In (1a) intentionally is an adverb, while intended is a verb in (2).

On the other hand, the PP with intention is not an adverb, even if there is no meaning difference between (a) and (b). (to be continued...)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 20:49 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 11 November 2004 20:53 GMT
Monday, 1 November 2004

Topic: Syn-Sem Interface

Explaining the locality conditions of QR:
Consequences for the theory of phases

By Carlo Cecchetto

In this paper I offer an explanation for the fact that QR tends to be more local than other types of A-bar movement (i.e., in typical cases, QR cannot take place out of a finite clause). My explanation assumes (and offers evidence for) the Phase Impenetrability Condition (cf. Chomsky 2001a, b) and an Economy Condition that requires that each step of (possibly successive cyclic) QR be motivated (cf. Fox 1999). After showing why QR is local in typical cases, I consider new evidence, involving a counterpart of ACD in Italian, which indicates that QR takes place long distance, as other types of A-bar movement do, whenever each step is independently motivated. It follows that it can be maintained that the locality conditions on QR are not construction specific, as expected given the general format of the theory.

You may download an earlier draft version of this paper from Cecchetto's site. The final published version is available through the Natural Language Semantics Journal (Winter 2004, Volume 12, Issue 4).

Questions: Do we really need the Phase Impenetrability Condition? Isn't a multiple spell-out approach equally capable of covering the same material? I shall let the readers speak their minds.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 November 2004 09:07 GMT

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