Structural Connections in Syntax and Processing: Studies in Russian and Japanese

M. A. Babyonyshev, 1996

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This thesis consists of two parts. Part I provides an analysiss of the locative inversion construction, the conjunction agreement construction, and the genitive of negation construction in Russian. These constructions are argues to share one formal property: they contain an element other than the highest nominal argument satisfying the Extended Projection Principle. The EPP is shown to be independent not only of morphological features (such as Case or agreement), but also of categorical features (such as N or D); movement to the EPP position is shown to be subject to the Minimal Link Condition for all categories, so that non-canonical subjects can move to the EPP position only when they are as “close” to it as the highest NP argument. Given our assumptions about VP structure, this happens only in sentences containing unaccusative verbs. The syntactic properties of locative inversion, conjunction agreement, and genitive of negation are shown to follow from the manner in which various general principles of Russian syntax, such as the discourse principles, the properties of covert (as opposed to overt) feature checking, the morphological Case system of Russian, the existential closure applying to all VP-internal positions in overt syntax

Part II investigates the processing complexity of unambiguous Japanese sentences. The investigation utilizes the theory of processing complexity developed in Gibson and Thomas (1996a), within which the memory cost associated with an incomplete syntactic dependency increases as a function of the number of lexical items that are processed between the point where the relationship is posited and the point where it is satisfied. Two types of processing complexity contrasts found in Japanese are discussed: those associated with the number of “stacked” sentence-initial NPs and those associated with the degree and type of center-embedding present in a sentence. Both experimental and intuitive data are provided as evidence for the existence of the complexity contrasts. It is shown that the contrasts are accounted for within the Locality Theory of Gibson & Thomas. On a more general level, this work describes the properties that any theory of processing complexity must have to successfully deal with the available Japanese data and offers a constrained and principled explanation of apparent variation in the processing complexity of similar structures across languages.

Thesis supervisors:     Dr. David Pesetsky and Dr. Edward Gibson

Table of Contents

Part I:  Syntax

Chapter 1        Introduction                                                                                        7

Chapter 2        The Extended Projection Principle in Russian                                    13

            1          The Structure of a Russian Sentence                                                  13

            2          Does the EPP Operate in Russian?                                                    21

            3          What Categories can Satisfy the EPP?                                               32

            4          The Interpretation of the EPP element                                               46

Chapter 3        The Minimal Link Condition and the EPP element: Conjunction

Agreement in Russian                                                                         58

            1          The Distribution of Conjunction Agreement                                      59

            2          An Analysis of Conjunction Agreement                                            75

            3          An Explanation of the Distribution of Conjunction Agreement         89

Chapter 4        The Genitive of Negation                                                                   101

            1          A Description                                                                                     101

            2          Genitive Case in Morphology and Syntax                                         112

                        2.1       The Framework                                                                      113

                        2.2       The Decomposition of Abstract Cases                                  117

                        2.3       An Analysis of the Syncretic Accusative                               121

                        2.4       Environments of Impoverishment: A Speculation                 135

            3          The Syntactic Analysis of the Genitive of Negation                          139

                        3.1       The Genitive of Negation and Object Shift Patterns              139

                        3.2       An Analysis of the Genitive of Negation                               147

                        3.3       An Explanation of the Distribution of the Genitive of

Negation                                                                                  159

            4          Residual Properties of the Genitive of Negation                                168