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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton November 21, 2011

Bare phrase structure, label-less trees, and specifier-less syntax. Is Minimalism becoming a dependency grammar?

  • Timothy Osborne EMAIL logo , Michael Putnam and Thomas M. Gross
From the journal The Linguistic Review


Due to the programmatic nature of Minimalism, there are many directions that variations of this formalism can take. This paper demonstrates that one trend in Minimalism is steering toward Dependency Grammar (DG): bare phrase structure, label-less trees, and specifier-less syntax are all aspects/developments of/within Minimalism that are steering toward a dependency-based (as opposed to a constituency based) understanding of syntax and grammar. With this trend in mind, a version of Merge is introduced that completes the development. This version generates dependency-based structures in a strictly left-to-right manner, i.e., in the manner that all natural language is spoken and processed. The particular innovation that makes this concept of Merge possible is the catena. The catena is a novel unit of syntactic analysis that is unique to dependency-based structures. A number of empirical considerations support catena-based left-to-right Merge, e.g., garden path sentences, restrictions on center embeddings, aspects of coordinate structures, subject-auxiliary inversion, the distribution of pronouns, etc.

Published Online: 2011-11-21
Published in Print: 2011-September

©Walter de Gruyter

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