Locality Principles in Syntax and in Parsing

A. S. Weinberg, 1988

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This thesis has three main aims.  The first is to present criteria that can be used to constrain the class of natural language comprehension devices.  We argue that a certain class of parsers: LR(k) bounded context processors can explain why grammars for natural languages must contain a Subjacency constraint.  More generally, we argue that the ability to provide a functional explanation for linguistic constraints is a major criterion for judging the adequacy of classes of processing devices.  In service of the first goal, we also consider several psycholinguistic experiments that have been taken as incompatible with the LR(k) approach and show that a more refined LR(k) theory (the Minimal Commitment Theory) can deal with these cases in an illuminating way.

Our second aim is to show that the theory of parsing forms an integral part of grammatical theory not only in the sense of providing a functional motivation for one of the theory’s major constraints, but also in its ability to explain otherwise mysterious properties of subjacency.  In particular, I claim that a parsing theoretic approach can explain why subjacency applies at S-structure, why it applies to movement, parasitic gaps, and a subset of gapping structures even though these structures do not constitute a natural class given only formal or linguistic sunstantive criteria.  thus the theory of parsing become an integral part of grammatical theory in that it, just like the functional demand of language learning dictates the form that grammars of natural languages can take.

The final aim of this theory is to propose an adequate formal theory of Subjacency and the Empty Category Principle, (ECP).  Following WAHL (forthcoming), I propose to separate the ECP into two parts: a condition of lexical government and generalised binding.  These conditions apply conjunctively and in separate parts of the grammar.  I argue for this approach by considering superiority effects and other “WH in situ” constructions.  These conditions interact with the proposed subjacency constraint in that subjacency forces overt syntactic movement to be local.  Local movement is allowed only if its output can satisfy both parts of the ECP.  We argue that this approach yields a revealing treatment of the standard syntactic island effects, the Condition on Extraction Domains, movement from NPs, and the parasitic gap construction.

Thesis supervisor:         Noam Chomsky

Title:                             Institue Professor

Table of Contents

I           Introduction                                                                                                      7

II          Constraints on the class of natural language processors: experimental

            results, determinism, and bounded context parsing                                             13

            2.1       Classes of processing devices                                                               14

            2.2       On the simulation of perceived processing complexity                17

            2.3       Empty operators and non-parallel processors                                        22

            2.4       Left context and the analysis of operator variable structure                     28

            2.5       The Minimal Commitment Theory                                                         36

            2.6       An apparent problem for non-backtracking models                               45

            2.7       Some advantages of the Minimal Commitment Theory over

                        backtracking and parallel devices                                                          48

            2.8       Conclusion                                                                                           59

Footnotes to Chapter 2                                                                                     61

III        Subjacency and the deterministic model                                                 67

            3.1       Introduction                                                                                          67

            3.2       Bounded context parsing                                                                       70

            3.3       The problem of ambiguity and left context for bounded context

parsers                                                                                                 75

            3.4       Parasitic gaps                                                                                       82

            3.5       Licensing of parasitic gaps                                                                     88

            3.6       On the distribution of epithets                                                                90

            3.7       Critical remarks                                                                                    94

            3.8       Gapping constructions                                                               98

                        3.8.1    Description of the problem                                                        98

                        3.8.2    Ambiguity and gapping                                                  103

                        3.8.3    Complement and adjunct attachment                                         110

                        3.8.4    Subjacency as an S-structure condition                         112

                        3.8.5    Subjacency as a natural condition on grammars             115

            3.9       Bounding conditions in LF                                                                     117

            3.10     Conclusion                                                                                           126

Footnotes to Chapter 3                                                                                     128

IV        Two versions of locality                                                                                    136

            4.1       The Barriers theory of government and proper government                    137

            4.2       The WAHL framework                                                                        149

            4.3       Conclusion                                                                                           172

Footnotes to Chapter 4                                                                                     174

V         Two notions of bounding                                                                                   185

            5.1       Bounding in the Barriers framework                                                      185

            5.2       Bounding in the WAHL framework                                                       192

            5.3       Concluding remarks                                                                              207

Footnotes to Chapter 5                                                                                     210

VI        A comparison of the Barriers and WAHL frameworks                          214

            6.1       Superiority                                                                                            215

            6.2       Pronouns as bound variables revisited                                       223

            6.3       General theoretical consequences of the account

                        6.3.1    Movement from NPs                                                                229

                        6.3.2    Movement from NPs in romance                                               237

            6.4       Conclusion                                                                                           244

Footnotes to Chapter 6                                                                                     246

VII       On the distribution of parasitic gaps                                                                   254

            7.1       Introduction                                                                                          254

            7.2       Indexation within the Wahl framework                                       256

            7.3       Subjacency and parasitic gaps                                                   257

            7.4       The Barriers approach to parasitic gaps                                     263

            7.5       Anti-C-command and parasitic gap licensing                                         267

            7.6       S-structure licensing                                                                              272

            7.7       A surprising asymmetry                                                             273

            7.8       Other approaches                                                                                 274

            7.9       Conclusion                                                                                           278

Footnotes to Chapter 7                                                                                     280