Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 24, 2018

Two (non-) islands in Slovenian: A study in Experimental Syntax

Arthur Stepanov, Manca Mušič and Penka Stateva
From the journal Linguistics

Abstract

There exists a controversy in the literature and among the speakers of Slovenian concerning the grammaticality of wh-island and subject island constructions in this language. We conducted an acceptability rating study of wh-islands and subject islands in Slovenian, using the factorial definition of island. This definition provides for a possibility to isolate a true island effect while controlling for two complexity factors that potentially interfere in speakers’ evaluation of the relevant sentences: the length of the respective movement dependency and the presence of an island structure itself. We found that (i) Slovenian speakers do judge the wh-island sentences worse than the respective controls, but the observed degradation cannot be attributed to a true island effect; (ii) subject extraction out of a wh-island leads to a so called reverse island effect whereby the acceptability is higher than expected even if the above two complexity factors are taken into consideration; and (iii) speakers are sensitive to the subject island effect, as predicted by the mainstream theories of syntactic locality. The results of our study contribute to establishing a solid empirical base for further theoretical investigations of the island effects and raise new questions about the role of processing factors in speakers’ evaluations of island constructions.

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the participants of the 8th Conference on Syntax, Phonology, and Language Analysis (SinFonIJA 8) at the University of Ljubljana, and to two Linguistics reviewers for their very helpful comments concerning both the theoretical and the experimental parts of this work. We also thank Dušan Štolfa and Marija Vidmar at the Srečko Kosovel School Centre in Sežana, Slovenia, for help in recruiting the participants for this study. This work was partially supported by the EU 7th Framework project “Advancing the European Multilingual Experience” (ATHEME, Grant Agreement 613465), and by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS) program No. P6-0382.

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Published Online: 2018-05-24
Published in Print: 2018-06-26

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