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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
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

Saturday, 4 December 2004 - 09:49 GMT

Name: Phoevos Panagiotidis
Home Page:

The full story -- as well as an attempt for an explanation -- about A-binding asymmetries between SV and VS orders in null subject languages (including Greek, Romance, varieties of Arabic and Malayalam) can now be found on

Feedback is more than welcome.

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