Parasitic Gaps licensed by elided syntactic structure

Abstract

This study provides an argument for syntactic approaches to sluicing. We base our study on the novel observation that Parasitic Gaps (PG) are licensed in sluicing contexts. We show that, in order for PGs to be licensed in sluicing contexts, overt wh-movement must occur, leaving a real gap in the ellipsis site. Therefore, the ellipsis site has the full-fledged syntactic structure that licenses PGs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    All the data reported here are based on the judgments we collected from 6 native speakers of English. Note, importantly, all the judgments are relative rather than absolute. As usual, it is the relative differences in acceptability that matter. There are cases in which the contrasts are subtle, but all the speakers we interviewed reported the contrasts presented in this study.

  2. 2.

    Note that PG-locality must hold “in the right direction”: the PG-licensor must be PG-local to the PG-host, and this may well be the case without it also being true that the PG-host is PG-local to the PG-licensor.

  3. 3.

    Note that this is not always the case, as multiple sluicing is allowed in English (Bolinger 1978; cf. Lasnik 2013 and Nishigauchi 1998, who argue against the possibility of multiple sluicing in English). Although it is an interesting question what differentiates multiple sluicing from cases like (8), we set this point aside as it is not central to our discussion.

  4. 4.

    Note that the potential PG-host can indeed be fronted even if, unlike those in (9), it indeed contains a PG. For example, (i) contains a PG in the fronted PG-host, which is licensed by the RG left by heavy NP shift (this possibility was suggested by Marcel den Dikken, p.c.).

    1. (i)

      [Exactly how soon after receiving __PG] should I review __RG1 for your journal [the book that you had asked me to write a review article on]1?

    The availability of PGs in wh-phrases was also noted by Pesetsky (2000:33):

    1. (ii)

      Which girl did you persuade [which friend of __PG] to congratulate __RG?

  5. 5.

    We do not consider explicitly the non-elided version of (12) for now, because it involves an additional complication: it turns out this non-elided version is not acceptable, because the movement of the wh-phrase that becomes the remnant constitutes a wh-island violation. We return to this issue in a later section.

  6. 6.

    Note that there is nothing in general preventing a single A-bar trace from independently licensing two distinct parasitic gaps, as illustrated by the following example:

    1. (i)

      Which book did [the author of __] ask you to review __ [soon after receiving __]?

  7. 7.

    We assume syntactic/structural identity. We make no claims about whether a semantic identity condition could also be formulated that gets these facts right, but to the extent that the relevant factor distinguishing pairs like (12a) and (14b) really is the overt/covert nature of (the movement that creates) the potentially-licensing gap, it seems most easily accounted for on a syntactic/structural identity approach.

  8. 8.

    We can also imagine an attempted derivation of the sentences in (14) where the bracketed constituents are wh-remnants of a sluicing operation that elided valid PG-licensor material (namely, exactly the material that is elided in our analysis of (12)). On such a derivation, the crucial third gap is licensed by an appropriate elided PG-licensor, but this elided PG-licensor is not itself licensed because it fails to satisfy parallelism with the antecedent clause.

  9. 9.

    Note that it is also possible to have PGs in the remnant of contrast sluicing (Merchant 2001), where the remnant and the correlate are contrastively focused.

    1. (i)

      The editor told me which book I must review [soon after receiving__], but I don’t remember [how soon after discussing __].

  10. 10.

    Some speakers (3 out of 6 in our sample) recognize a slight improvement of this example if the pronoun it is replaced by an epithet like the damn thing:

    1. (i)

      The editor told me which newly published book I must review, but I don’t remember how soon after receiving __PG I must review the damn thing.

    Although this is an interesting pattern, it is not clear to us what the relation is between epithets and PGs. We leave this point open for the further research.

  11. 11.

    We have switched to using a finite adjunct clause here, rather than adjunct control as in previous examples based on (3), to avoid complications that might arise from having no overt controller for an adjunct clause’s PRO in passive cases like (19b).

  12. 12.

    The unacceptability of example (20b) supports the position that sluicing does not tolerate voice mismatch (Merchant 2008, 2013a). If, in (20b), the elided TP could be active voice as illustrated in (i) (as it is in (20a)), then there would be a PG-local A-bar gap to license the PG. Thus the violation of the anti-c-command condition could be circumvented. The fact that (20b) is unacceptable argues against the possibility of such voice-mismatched structure in sluicing.

    1. (i)

      …but I don’t remember [how soon after he receives __PG] the editor told me which newly published book __RG I must review __.

  13. 13.

    The two sentences in (21) differ in two (arguably independent) respects: first, the category of the “real gap” differs, and second, the category of the potentially parasitic gap differs. Examples where the categories of the two gaps do not match are also unacceptable. It is arguably unclear whether this should be taken as a fact specifically relating to PG-licensing, or whether it reflects some more general property perhaps of subcategorization and/or chain uniformity. In any case, this pattern also carries over to the sluicing/sprouting cases.

  14. 14.

    Movement of an adjunct like how soon out of wh-island incurs a subjacency problem as well as an ECP problem. It has been claimed that PF-island violations, some of which can be subsumed to subjacency violations, can be repaired by ellipsis as ellipsis is understood as PF-deletion (Merchant 2001; Lasnik 2001, 2005, 2007), but it is not clear whether the violation of the ECP, which constrains LF-movement as well as overt movement (Lasnik and Saito 1984, 1992; Huang 1982), can be repaired by PF-deletion as well (see Nakao and Yoshida 2007; Nakao 2009 for the related discussion). We discuss the problem of the ECP in Sect. 3.2.

  15. 15.

    Note that Ross (1969) does not claim that sluicing completely salvages island violations. He claims, “it is perceived to be less ungrammatical” (Ross 1969:276). However, in this study, following the standard reported judgment, we assume that island violations are acceptable under sluicing.

  16. 16.

    Likewise, analyses that tie island-amelioration effects under sluicing to the availability of a resumptive pronoun at the base position of the wh-remnant (Boeckx 2008; Wang 2007; cf., Rottman and Yoshida 2013) are not compatible with examples like (30a). This is because English lacks a resumptive element that can resume an adjunct wh-clause (see Merchant 2001 on the related discussion). Since no possible resumptive pronoun exists to occupy the base position of the sluicing remnant, such an analysis predicts (30a) and similar examples to be ungrammatical, contrary to fact.

  17. 17.

    The suggestion to consider the possibility that a novel kind of short-source analysis might be available came from an anonymous reviewer.

  18. 18.

    Among the many issues, an anonymous reviewer points out that if the ellipsis site is understood as defined by a phase domain (either the phase projection of the complement of phases) (Bošković 2014), eliding a segment of CP is not an option. Alternative approaches that do not tie ellipsis to phases, and which adopt a split-CP structure (Rizzi 1997) and assume that sluicing targets the lowest CP projection (Baltin 2010) could propose that the second wh-phrase moves into the lower Spec_CP, and the lower CP, including the second wh-phrase but excluding the first wh-phrase, is elided in sluicing.

  19. 19.

    We take this to be the only available reading of (34), but note that if it were shown that (34) had a distinct additional reading that were adequately captured by (35), this would not affect our argument. The existence of the “long” reading that we focus on suffices to establish that the “long source” structure we propose is licit, and therefore that sluicing can repair island violations. A second reading adequately captured by (35) would show only that (34) is ambiguous between this shorter island-free structure and the longer island-repair structure.

  20. 20.

    That these sprouting examples should pattern this way is somewhat surprising, given that in cases such as (i), it is generally accepted that Condition-C reconstruction of adjuncts is optional. Many thanks to an anonymous reviewer for reminding us of this important issue. It is possible that this difference between (i) and (36) is a result of the “form-chain” operation, as opposed to ordinary movement, which produces sprouting under Chung et al. (1995) analysis.

    1. (i)
      figureaa

    Common analyses of this more familiar pattern in (i) would attribute the optionality of reconstruction to the fact that the how soon clause is an adjunct (rather than a complement) (Freidin 1986; Lebeaux 1988, 1995; similar observations in an earlier framework are made in Ross 1969, Lees and Klima 1963 and Langacker 1969), although this generalization has been questioned (Lasnik 1998, 2003; Kuno 1997) and alternative approaches have been proposed (Barss 1986, 1988; Huang 1993; Heycock 1995).

  21. 21.

    Marcel den Dikken (p.c.) pointed out to us that in an example like (i) the coreference of the pronoun he and the name John is somehow blocked, even though the example does not involve ellipsis and the pronoun and the name do not clearly stand in a c-command relation.

    1. (i)

      *He1 loves her but John1 doesn’t know it yet.

    This example may suggest that the contrast in (36) does not stem from a Binding Condition C violation. But this does not seem to be a consistent effect: the following analogous sentences seem to be more acceptable than (i).

    1. (ii)

      He1 loves her but John1 can’t marry her.

    1. (iii)

      He1 loves her but John1 doesn’t know he loves her yet.

    In light of (iii), one possible explanation is that the unacceptability of (i) has something to do with the use of the “clausal pronoun” it; this would be consistent with the fact that (iv) is also quite degraded.

    1. (iv)

      *He1 loves her and John1 knows it.

    It is not clear to us how the clausal pronoun might be affecting the possibility of coreference, but we tentatively conclude on the basis of (ii) and (iii) that whatever is going wrong in (i) is not a factor in (36a), and therefore that the contrast in (36) is indeed due to the Binding Condition C violation.

  22. 22.

    A finding that ECP violations are not repaired would receive a straightforward analysis under the T-model of grammar: since the ECP has been thought to be a constraint that applies at LF (Lasnik and Saito 1984, 1992; Huang 1982), it is to be expected that ellipsis—taken to be a process of PF deletion—cannot rescue ECP violations. Natural as this picture might be, there is nothing incoherent about supposing that a constraint can both (i) apply to covert movement and (ii) have its violations repaired by ellipsis.

  23. 23.

    L&P’s examples involve sprouting. If the examples are changed to merger-type sluicing with an explicit correlate, the acceptability markedly improves.

    1. (i)

      (i) Mary found out who met three teachers from some Midwestern city, but I don’t know from which city [].

    Six native speakers we interviewed found that (i) is much more acceptable than (40a). The contrast between (i) and Lasnik and Park’s (40a) suggests that sprouting is somewhat more sensitive than merger-type sluicing, as has been noticed before (Chung et al. 1995; Romero 1998), although the question of why this should be remains open.

    Note, the repair effect seen in (i) can also be accounted for by the proposals of Bošković (2005, 2013, 2014), which attempt to exclude the ECP-based explanation of the unacceptability of adjunct extraction from NPs. First, Bošković argues that DP is a phase in English, and that adjunct extraction out of NP is excluded because the adjunct cannot move to Spec_DP in the following configuration:

    1. (ii)

      [DP …[NP [NP…] [PP…]]]

    In (ii), the movement from the adjunct position to the Spec_DP is too local, as the movement does not cross a full phrasal node (an anti-locality violation: Abels 2003; Bošković 1994, 1997; Grohmann 2003; Saito and Murasugi 1999 among others). As a result, the movement of the adjunct PP must violate the Phase Impenetrability Condition (PIC: Chomsky 2000, 2001). On the other hand, Bošković has independently shown that PIC/anti-locality violation can be rescued by PF-deletion. Therefore, from Bošković’s theory of NPs, Phases and Rescue-by-PF-deletion (Bošković 2011, 2013), the amelioration effect in (i) follows without appealing to the amelioration of ECP-violations.

  24. 24.

    Six native English speakers whom we interviewed reported that in (42b) and (42c) the non-island violating short-source interpretation (why/how he fixed cars) is much easier to access than the long-distance reading. However, all the speakers agreed that it is possible to have the long-distance interpretation.

  25. 25.

    Even though we are citing (44a) as an example of an ECP-violation, since this is how Chung et al. (1995) describe it, (44a) is at least not a typical ECP violation. The wh-remnant in (44a) originates as the complement of an adjunct PP embedded inside a complex NP island and a wh-island, so this is actually a case of the violation of the Condition on Extraction Domains (CED: Huang 1982). On the other hand, (44b) does involve the movement of an adjunct wh-phrase why.

  26. 26.

    Here we concentrate on the LF-copying approach specifically in the context of sluicing. However, as long as PGs are licensed in other ellipsis contexts (see Kennedy 2003 for discussion on VP-ellipsis and PGs), we believe that the same problem arises with the LF-copying approaches to ellipsis contexts other than sluicing (Fiengo and May 1994; Shopen 1972; Wasow 1972; Williams 1977 among others).

  27. 27.

    Unless otherwise specified, “movement” refers to full phrasal movement, not just movement of formal features.

  28. 28.

    Bošković (2002) reports other PG data which, admittedly, already pose serious problems for this view: in Romanian, PGs can be licensed by wh-in-situ as well as by overt wh-movement (Bošković 2002:374–375). This effect carries over to sluicing examples parallel to those we have been considering in English: the PG is licensed not only by the overt wh-movement gap in (ia), but also by the wh-in-situ in (ib).

    1. (i)
      figureak

    This situation makes sense if the relevant Romanian in-situ wh-phrases are indeed indistinguishable from fronted wh-phrases from the point of view of narrow syntax and simply pronounced in their base positions, but this suggests that in-situ wh-phrases in English cannot be analyzed in this way, since they do not license PGs.

    An additional puzzle for analyses of the connection between overt/covert movement and PG-licensing arises from the observation that at least sometimes, English in-situ wh-phrases do seem to license PGs. Nissenbaum (2000:12) cites the following examples.

    1. (ii)
      figureal

    This might be interpreted as evidence that whatever kind of wh-in-situ occurs in Romanian that licenses PGs can at least sometimes occur in English too.

  29. 29.

    Again we are assuming here that the key issue underlying the contrast between (4a) and (4b) really is the overt/covert distinction. It is possible that the underlying distinction is in fact something else that is confounded with the overt/covert distinction: for example, restricting attention to (4a) and (4b), we can not rule out the possibility that the more accurate generalization is that the object position of a single-interrogative is a PG-licensor whereas the object position of a multiple-interrogative is not.

  30. 30.

    There have been some attempts to explain “S-structure effects” in PG licensing from the perspective of the Minimalist Program, in which “S-structure” is abandoned as a level of representation (Nissenbaum 2000; Nunes 2001, 2004 among others). However, even within these explanations, the distinction between the overt cycle and the covert cycle is maintained.

  31. 31.

    This requires, of course, that whatever constraint distinguishes (47a) from (47b) can be stated representationally, rather than being something that is inherently derivational in nature. But we see no reason to doubt that a representational statement of the relevant constraint should be possible.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions. We would also like to thank Mark Baltin, Matthew Barros, Sandy Chung, Jeroen van Craenenbroeck, Alex Drummond, Tomohiro Fujii, Theresa Gregoire, John Hale, Norbert Hornstein, Chris Kennedy, Dave Kush, Bradley Larson, Howard Lasnik, Jeff Lidz, Jim McCloskey, Jason Merchant, Jeff Runner, Koji Sugisaki, Kensuke Takita, Gary Thoms, Gregory Ward and Ming Xiang, for their valuable comments and suggestions to the earlier version of this work. We are grateful to the audience of GLOW 37 and CLS 49. This work has been supported in part by NSF grant BCS-1323245 awarded to Masaya Yoshida.

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Yoshida, M., Hunter, T. & Frazier, M. Parasitic Gaps licensed by elided syntactic structure. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 33, 1439–1471 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-014-9275-3

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Keywords

  • Sluicing
  • Parasitic Gaps
  • PF-deletion
  • LF-copying