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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

LingLunch | Toosarvandani (UCSD)

4 September 2018

Time: 11:00am - 12:00pm
Venue: Bancroft G07

We are pleased to welcome Dr Maziar Toosarvandani (UCSD) for an impromptu LingLunch. Title and abstract below.


Pronoun movement and probe generosity

(joint work with Steven Foley)

In a theory of attraction, an element (the goal) moves to satisfy the needs of a functional head (the probe) (Chomsky 2000, 2001). In some cases, multiple elements can move — as with clitic pronoun movement in Greek (Anagnostopoulou 2003) or wh-movement in Bulgarian (Rudin 1988) — even though the probe can be satisfied by the displacement of just one goal, as evinced by successful derivations containing just one movable element. This ability, for a probe to interact with more goals than it needs to, we might call probe generosity. It is a simple observation that poses a fundamental mystery: If elements move only to satisfy the needs of a probe, why are such apparently extraneous movements permitted? For clitic pronouns, different answers to this question have been advanced. Perhaps the probe's needs are not completely satisfied by the first goal it finds, so it must interact with other goals (Béjar & Rezac 2003, Anagnostopoulou 2003, Walkow 2012). Or, perhaps the probe interacts with all goals in parallel; no one goal, then, stops it from interacting with others (Anagnostopoulou 2005, Nevins 2007, 2011).

We advance a different conception of probe generosity: once the probe has its needs satisfied by the highest goal, as locality principles require (e.g., Attract Closest), it is free to interact with other goals just in case they would not have done a better job of satisfying these needs. This economy-driven view of probe generosity might be thought of simply as an application of the Principle of Minimal Compliance (Richards 1998) to necessary conditions on movement. We show how this unification accounts for the particularly rich system of pronominal cliticization in several Sierra Zapotec languages (Oto-Manguean: Oaxaca), which is restricted by both the Person-Case Constraint (PCC; Perlmutter 1968, Bonet 1991) and similar hierarchy-sensitive constraints based on gender. Unlike other conceptions of probe generosity, it accounts for these constraints as well as their partial obviation in ditransitives. Moreover, it allows for a principled understanding of crosslinguistic variation in what might be called, more generally, Phi-Case Constraints (ɸCCs). The attested constraints, when compared across person and gender, form a tightly constrained typology that is highly asymmetrical. This overall shape arises directly if the probe can interact with more than one goal, but it does so cyclically, one at a time.

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