Wh-Movement and the Theory of Feature Checking

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Wed Aug 1 2001

PRO can either be controlled " obligatory control " or uncontrolled " optional control ". It can sometimes be bound, is sometimes co-referenced in the sentence, and does not fit into binding theory. The agreement-marking on the verb in Spanish allows the subject to be identified even if the subject is absent from the spoken form of the sentence. This does not happen in English because the agreement-markings in English are not sufficient for a listener to be able to deduce the meaning of a missing referent. Chinese is an example of a pro-drop language , where both subjects and objects can be dropped from the pronounced part of finite sentences, and their meaning remains clear from the context.

In pro-drop languages, the covert "pro" is allowed to replace all overt pronouns, resulting in the grammaticality of sentences that do not have a subject nor object that is overtly pronounced:. This example illustrates how a Chinese question might be asked with "Zhangsan" as the subject and "Lisi" as the object: [17]. Below is an example of a response to the question above. Both subject and object are optionally pronounced categories. The meaning of the sentence can be easily recovered, even though the pronouns are dropped.

Round brackets indicate an optional element. Where the chance of picking [John] as the antecedent for [him] is clearly greater than that of picking any other person. In example 3 , the null object must be referring to the matrix clause subject [Zhangsan] but not the embedded subject [Lisi], since condition C of the Binding Theory states that it must be free.

Square brackets indicate that an element is covert not pronounced , as in the second English translation. In certain syntactic environments e. DP-trace is found in complementary distribution to PRO [5]. This English example shows that DP [Cheri] is originally introduced in the specifier position of the embedded infinitive clause, before moving to the specifier position of the matrix clause.

This movement happens in order to check the features of the raising verb [seem] [19] , and leaves behind a DP-trace tDP in the original position of the DP. You can use the position of the DP-trace to identify where the DP is introduced in the underlying structure. DPs can move for another reason: in the case of Wh-questions. The responses to these questions cannot be yes or no; they must be answered using informative phrases.

To form a Wh-question in the example below, the DP [who] moves to the specifier of the CP position, leaving a Wh-trace in its original position. These additional movement operations are not shown in the given example, for simplicity. The tree to the right illustrates this example of WH-trace. After the Wh-item [who] is relocated to the specifier position of CP, the empty position is left at the end, in the original position of [who].

What is left in its place is the WH-trace. In this example, the complementizer or the WH-item can have null categories, and one or the other may show up as null. However, they cannot both be null when the WH-item is the subject. An important note to remember is that DP-trace and WH-trace are the result of movement operations, while "pro" and "PRO" must be base generated.

Not only can DPs be empty; functional categories can be empty as well. Null determiners and null complementizers are empty categories that are the result of more recent research. These null heads are positions which end up being unpronounced at the surface level but are not included in the anaphoric and pronominal features chart that accounts for other types of empty categories.


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Null determiners are used mainly when the Theta assignment of a verb only allows an option for a DP as a phrase category in the sentence with no option for a D head. Proper nouns and pronouns cannot grammatically have a determiner attached to them, though they still are part of the DP phrase. The null determiners are subdivided into the same classes as overt determiners are, since the different null determiners are thought to appear in different grammatical contexts: [24].

Complementizerless environments phrases which lack an overt C element have often been attested in cross-linguistic data. In many cases, the complementizer is optionally present in a phrase:. In the following example, round brackets represent an optional element. In example b , the optional element has been left out, leaving the C position empty. The existence of null complementizers has led to theories that attempt to account for complementizerless environments: the CP Hypothesis and the IP Hypothesis.

Empty category - Wikipedia

The CP Hypothesis states that finite subordinate clauses that lack an overt C at the surface level contain a CP layer that projects an empty or unpronounced C head. In addition to this, some compelling data from the Kansai dialect of Japanese , in which the same adverb can evoke different meaning depending on where it is attached in a clause, also points towards the existence of a Null C.

As demonstrated by c , the adverb should evoke a different meaning than in a if it is attached to any item other than C. Because a and b yield the same interpretation, this suggests that the adverbial particle must be attached at the same spot in both clauses. In a , the adverb "dake" is clearly attached to C; so even in the complementizerless environment b , the adverb "dake" must still attach to C, thus pointing to the existence of a null complementizer in this phrase.

The IP Hypothesis , on the other hand, asserts that the complementizer layer is simply nonexistent in overtly complementizerless clauses. Literature arguing for this hypothesis is based upon the fact that there are some syntactic environments under which a null C head would violate the rules of government under the Empty Category Principle, and thus should be disallowed. It states that under the CP Hypothesis, both clauses are CPs and thus should display the same adjunction possibilities; this is not what we find in the data. Instead, disparities in grammaticality emerge in environments of topicalization and adverbial adjunction.

In Icelandic , for example, the verb " vonast til" selects for an infinitival complement: [30]. However, while both hypothesis possess some strong arguments, they also both have some crucial shortcomings. Further research is needed in order to concretely establish a more widely agreed-upon theory. Verbs that select for three arguments cause an issue for X-bar theory , where ternary branching trees are not allowed.

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In order to overcome this, a second VP, called a "VP shell," is introduced in order to make room for the third argument. As a consequence, a null V is created: [31]. The verb "put" moves to the higher V in order to assign case to the second argument, "the key. Farghal, M. The syntax of wh-questions and related matters in Arabic. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Indiana University. Fassi-Fehri, A. Issues in the structure of Arabic clauses and words. Dordrecht: Kluwer.


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In: Greenberg, J. Grimshaw, J. Linguistic Inquiry Structural markedness and syntactic structure: A study of word order and the left periphery in Mexican Spanish. Hamdallah, R.

Kaplan, A. Patterns of relativization and recent formulations of markedness. Karger, R. Optimality Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Keer, E. Som and Optimality Theory. Unpublished manuscript, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Available from Rutgers Optimality Archive, Lassadi, B. The syntax and semantics of optional wh-movement: The case of Egyptian Arabic.


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