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Experimental Evidence on Island Effects in Spanish Relative Clauses

  • Laura Stigliano EMAIL logo and Ming Xiang
From the journal Probus


Research on islands has been central to linguistic theory for more than 50 years. Its importance relies on the theoretical consequences islands posit for movement and long distance dependencies. In this paper we aim to explore the contrast between a variety of islands in Spanish relative clauses to reveal whether there is any gradience in the strength of the island effects. In order to tease apart fine-grained contrasts we run an acceptability judgment study based on the factorial definition of island, an experimental paradigm that aims to isolate the various factors that can affect the acceptability of a sentence involving island violations. Overall, we found that the five constructions tested (embedded wh-questions, whether-clauses, adjuncts, complex NPs and relative clauses) show island effects in Spanish and that there are limited differences in the size of these effects, which points to a more categorical view of islands.

Corresponding author: Laura Stigliano, Department of Linguistics, The University of Chicago, Division of the Humanities, 115 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637-1511, USA, E-mail:


We wish to thank the anonymous Probus reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. We are also grateful to the audiences at the Language, Evolution, Acquisition and Processing Workshop at the University of Chicago and the 50th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages for feedback and discussion. Thanks, also, to Eszter Ronai for all her help. All mistakes and shortcomings are our own.


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Published Online: 2021-11-11
Published in Print: 2021-09-27

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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