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Theoretical Linguistics

An Open Peer Review Journal

Editor-in-Chief: Krifka, Manfred

Ed. by Gärtner, Hans-Martin

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Some notes on cyclic linearization

Øystein Nilsen1


Citation Information: Theoretical Linguistics. Volume 31, Issue 1-2, Pages 173–183, ISSN (Online) 1613-4060, ISSN (Print) 0301-4428, DOI: 10.1515/thli.2005.31.1-2.173, July 2005

Publication History

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Fox and Pesetsky (this issue, henceforth F&P) argue that the ‘‘edge effects’’ derived by stipulation within standard phase theory can be explained in their version, where a phase crucially triggers linearization of its constituents. Later phases may add ordering statements to an ordering tablein a monotonic fashion, but no information can be erased or altered once it has entered the ordering table. Suppose a phase A contains the constituents x, y, z, and that they are linearized in that order. Then movement within the next phase can’t result in reordering of x, y, z. So x, being the leftmost element, can move leftwards freely within the next phase, while y can only move leftwards provided that x moves even further leftwards. This is, in essence their explanation of Holmberg’s Generalization (Holmberg, 1986, 1999) (HG). To see this, imagine that y in our setup is an object trying to shift, and that x is the verb. They also show that, if y moves to the left edge of A prior to its linearization, this may end up blocking leftwards movement of x in what they term the ‘inverse Holmberg’s Generalization’, and they have empirical support for the existence of that pattern. This gives a version of phase theory where phases are not entirely opaque to outside syntactic probing. Their proposal is highly innovative and elegant, and it succeeds in deriving an impressive range of facts. The following paragraphs present some relatively minor empirical problems with their treatment of HG which unfortunately seem to conspire to uncover a major one.

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