Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 1079–1121 | Cite as

Head movement and ellipsis in the expression of Russian polarity focus

  • Vera Gribanova


This paper argues, based on the interaction of head movement and ellipsis possibilities in Russian, that certain types of head movement must take place in the narrow syntax. It does so by examining a variety of Russian constructions which are unified in several ways: they express some type of polarity focus; they involve head movement of the verbal complex to a high position (Pol), resulting in discourse-marked vso orders; and some of them involve ellipsis (of either vP or TP). Investigation of the interaction of the head movement and ellipsis possibilities of the language yields three of four logically possible patterns. I argue that the unattested pattern should be explained using reasoning that invokes MaxElide (Merchant 2008)—a principle normally used to explain why the larger of two possible ellipsis domains must be chosen if Ā-movement has occurred out of the ellipsis site. Extending this logic to the interaction of head movement and ellipsis requires that we take head movement to be a syntactic phenomenon.


Ellipsis Head movement Polarity focus MaxElide 



For generous feedback and discussion on aspects of this project, I thank Jonathan Bobaljik, Sandy Chung, Cleo Condoravdi, Amy Rose Deal, Donka Farkas, Julie Goncharov, Boris Harizanov, Beth Levin, Jason Merchant, Jim McCloskey, Luis Vicente, and audiences at NELS 45, University of Maryland, University of Connecticut, and UCSC. Special thanks are due to Chris Potts and Daria Popova, who worked with me in the early stages of thinking through a number of the puzzles presented here. I’m grateful to three anonymous reviewers who provided extensive and very helpful comments. Thanks to Dina Brun, Alla Oks, Julia Kleyman, Anya Desnitskaya, Asya Pereltsvaig, Ekaterina Kravtchenko, Asya Shteyn, Maria Borshova, Allen Gessen, David Erschler, Natasha Sergeeva, Alla Zeide, Flora and Anatoly Tomashevsky, and Irina and Alexander Gribanov for providing judgments and discussing the data with me. I am grateful to the Stanford Humanities Center for financial and practical support. Errors are the author’s responsibility alone.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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