Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: van der Auwera, Johan

6 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 0.644
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.878

CiteScore 2017: 0.79

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.418
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 1.386

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 56, Issue 3


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

Arthur Stepanov
  • Corresponding author
  • Center for Cognitive Science of Language, University of Nova Gorica, Vipavska 13, SI-5000 Nova Gorica, Slovenia
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Manca Mušič / Penka Stateva
Published Online: 2018-05-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2018-0002


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.

Keywords: syntactic island; experimental syntax; Subjacency; Empty Category Principle; Slovenian


  • Aoun, Joseph, Lina Choueiri & Norbert Hornstein. 2001. Resumption, movement, and derivational economy. Linguistic Inquiry 32. 371–403.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Baayen, R. Harald, Douglas J. Davidson & Douglas M. Bates. 2008. Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language 59. 390–412.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Barbosa, Pilar. 1995. Null subjects. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Bard, Ellen Gurman, Dan Robertson & Antonella Sorace. 1996. Magnitude estimation of linguistic acceptability. Language 72. 32–68.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Barr, Dale J., Roger Levy, Christoph Scheepers & Harry J. Tily. 2013. Random effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language 68. 255–278.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bates, Douglas, Martin Maechler, Ben Bolker & Steve Walker. 2015. Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software 67. 1–48.Google Scholar

  • Bayer, Josef. 1990. Notes on the ECP in English and German. Groninger Arbeiten zur Germanischen Linguistik 30. 1–55.Google Scholar

  • Bianchi, Valentina & Cristiano Chesi. 2014. Subject Islands, Reconstruction, and the Flow of the Computation. Linguistic Inquiry 45. 525–569.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bošković, Željko. 2005. On the locality of left branch extraction and the structure of NP. Studia Linguistica 59(1). 1–45.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bošković, Željko. 2008. On the operator freezing effect. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 26(2). 249–287.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bošković, Željko. 2009. The NP/DP analysis and Slovenian. In Ljiljana Subotić (ed.), Proceedings of the University of Novi Sad Workshop on Generative Syntax, 53–73. Novi Sad: Filozofski fakultet, University of Novi Sad.Google Scholar

  • Bošković, Željko. 2011. Rescue by PF deletion, traces as (non)interveners, and the that -trace effect. Linguistic Inquiry 42(1). 1–44.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bošković, Željko. 2016. On the timing of labeling: Deducing Comp-trace effects, the Subject Condition, the Adjunct Condition, and tucking in from labeling. The Linguistic Review: Special Issue on Labels 33. 17–66.Google Scholar

  • Cecchetto, Carlo & Caterina Donati. 2015. (Re)labeling. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Chen, Evan, Edward Gibson & Florian Wolf. 2005. Online syntactic storage costs in sentence comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language 52. 144–169.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1964. Current issues in linguistic theory. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1965. Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1973. Conditions on transformations. In Stephen Anderson & Paul Kiparsky (eds.), A festschrift for Morris Halle, 232–286. New York: Holt: Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.Google Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1986. Barriers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1995. The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam. 2005. Three factors in language design. Linguistic Inquiry 36. 1–22.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Chomsky, Noam & Howard Lasnik. 1977. Filters and control. Linguistic Inquiry 8. 425–504.Google Scholar

  • Comorovski, Ileana. 1986. Multiple Wh Movement in Romanian. Linguistic Inquiry 17(1). 171–177.Google Scholar

  • De Vincenzi, Marica. 1991. Syntactic parsing strategies in Italian: The minimal chain principle. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar

  • Engdahl, Elisabet. 1986. Constituent questions. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar

  • Erteschik, Nomi. 1973. On the nature of island constraints. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Erteschik-Shir, Nomi. 1992. Resumptive pronouns in islands. In Helen Goodluck & Michael Rochemont (eds.), Island constraints: Theory, acquisition and processing, 89–108. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar

  • Featherston, Sam. 2005. That-trace in German. Lingua 115. 1277–1302.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ferreira, Fernanda & Nikole D. Patson. 2007. The ‘good enough’ approach to language comprehension. Language and Linguistics Compass 1. 71–83.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Fodor, Janet D. 1978. Parsing strategies and constraints on transformations. Linguistic Inquiry 9. 427–473.Google Scholar

  • Franks, Steven. 2014. The Slovenian orphan accusative, empty pronouns and noun phrase structure. In Lilia Schurcks, Anastasia Giannakidou & Urtzi Etxeberria (eds.), The nominal structure in Slavic and beyond, 129–182. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Frazier, Lyn & Charles Clifton. 1989. Successive cyclicity in the grammar and the parser. Language and Cognitive Processes 4. 93–126.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Georgopoulos, Carol. 1991. Syntactic variables: Resumptive pronouns and binding in Palauan. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar

  • Golden, Marija. 1995. Interrogative wh-movement in Slovene and English. Acta Analytica 14. 145–187.Google Scholar

  • Golden, Marija. 1996. K-premik in skladenjski otoki v slovenski skladnji. Razprave SAZU, Razred II 15. 237–253.Google Scholar

  • Hubert Haider. 1993. Deutsche Syntax – Generativ: Vorstudien zur Theorie einer projektiven Grammatik. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.Google Scholar

  • Hawkins, John A. 1999. Processing complexity and filler-gap dependencies across grammars. Language 75. 244–285.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hladnik, Marko. 2015. Mind the gap: Resumption in Slavic relative clauses. Utrecht: LOT.Google Scholar

  • Hofmeister, Philip & Shravan Vasishth. 2014. Distinctiveness and encoding effects in online sentence comprehension. Frontiers in Psychology. 5. doi:.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Huang, C.-T. James. 1982. Logical relations in Chinese and the theory of grammar. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Jurka, Johannes. 2010. The importance of being a complement: CED effects revisited. College Park, MD: University of Maryland dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Kandybowicz, Jason. 2006. Comp-trace effects explained away. In Donald Baumer, David Montero & Michael Scanlon (eds.), Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 220–228. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.Google Scholar

  • Kluender, Robert & Marta Kutas. 1993. Subjacency as a processing phenomenon. Language and Cognitive Processes 8. 573–633.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Krivochen, Diego Gabriel & Peter Kosta. 2013. Eliminating empty categories. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar

  • Kroch, Anthony. 1981. On the Role of Resumptive Pronouns in Amnestying Island Constraint Violations. In Roberta .A. Hendrick, Carrie S. Masek & Mary Frances Miller (eds.), Papers from the 17th Regional Meeting, Chicago Linguistic Society (CLS 17), 125–135. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.Google Scholar

  • Lasnik, Howard & Mamoru Saito. 1992. Move a: Conditions on its application and output. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Lutz, Uli. 1996. Some notes on extraction theory. In Lutz Uli & Jürgen Pafel (eds.), On extraction and extraposition in German, 1–44. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Maling, Joan. 1978. An asymmetry with respect to wh-islands. Linguistic Inquiry 9. 75–89.Google Scholar

  • Marvin, Tatjana. 2000. Past participles in reduced relatives. In Marjo Van Koppen, Erica Thrift, Erik Jan Van Der Torre & Malte Zimmermann (eds.), Proceedings of ConSOLE IX, 141–156. Lund: University of Lund.Google Scholar

  • McCloskey, James. 2005. Resumption. In Martin Everaert & Henk Van Riemsdijk (eds.), The Blackwell companion to syntax, vol. 4, 94–117. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar

  • Pesetsky, David. 1987. Wh-in situ: Movement and unselective binding. In Eric J. Reuland & Alice G. B. Ter Meulen (eds.), The representation of (in)definiteness, 98–129. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Pesetsky, David & Esther Torrego. 2001. T-to-C movement: Causes and consequences. In Michael Kenstowicz (ed.), Ken Hale: A life in language, 355–426. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Phillips, Colin, Nina Kazanina & Shani H. Abada. 2005. ERP effects of the processing of syntactic long-distance dependencies. Cognitive Brain Research 22. 407–428.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Polinsky, Maria, Carlos G. Gallo, Peter Graff, Ekaterina Kravtchenko, Adam Milton Morgan & Anne Sturgeon. 2013. Subject islands are different. In Jon Sprouse (ed.), Experimental syntax and island effects, 286–309. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Preminger, Omer. 2010. Nested interrogatives and the locus of wh. In E. Phoevos Panagiotidis (ed.), The complementizer phase, 200–235. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • R Core Team. 2014. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. http://www.R-project.org/.

  • Reinhart, Tanya. 1981. A second Comp position. In Adriana Belletti, Luciana Brandi & Luigi Rizzi (eds.), Theory of markedness of grammar – Proceedings of the 1979 GLOW conference, 515–557. Pisa: Scuola Normale Superiore.Google Scholar

  • Richards, Norvin. 1997. What moves where when in which language. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Rizzi, Luigi. 1982. Violations of the wh-island constraint and the subjacency condition. In Luigi Rizzi (ed.), Issues in Italian syntax, 49–76. Dordrecht: Foris.Google Scholar

  • Rizzi, Luigi. 1990. Relativized minimality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Rizzi, Luigi. 1996. Residual verb second and the Wh-criterion. In Adriana Belletti & Luigi Rizzi (eds.), Parameters and Functional Heads, 63–90. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Ross, John Robert. 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Rudin, Catherine. 1988. On multiple questions and multiple wh-fronting. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 6. 445–501.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Safir, Ken. 1986. Relative clauses in a theory of binding and levels. Linguistic Inquiry 17. 663–689.Google Scholar

  • Salzmann, Martin. 2006. Resumptive prolepsis: a study in indirect A’-dependencies. Utrecht: LOT.Google Scholar

  • Schütze, Carson T. 1996. The empirical base of linguistics: grammaticality judgments and linguistic methodology. Chicago, Il: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

  • Sells, Peter. 1984. Syntax and semantics of resumptive pronouns. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Shlonsky, Ur. 1992. Resumptive pronouns as a Last Resort. Linguistic Inquiry 23. 443–468.Google Scholar

  • Sprouse, Jon & Diogo Almeida. 2013. The empirical status of data in syntax: A reply to Gibson and Fedorenko. Language and Cognitive Processes 28(3). 222–228.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sprouse, Jon, Ivano Caponigro, Ciro Greco & Carlo Cecchetto. 2016. Experimental syntax and the variation of island effects in English and Italian. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 34. 307–344.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sprouse, Jon, Shin Fukuda, Hajime Ono & Robert Kluender. 2011. Reverse island effects and the backward search for a licensor in multiple wh-questions. Syntax 14. 179–203.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sprouse, Jon, Matt Wagers & Colin Phillips. 2012. A test of the relation between working-memory capacity and syntactic island effects. Language 88. 82–123.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Stepanov, Arthur. 2001. Cyclic domains in syntactic theory. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Stepanov, Arthur. 2007. The end of CED? Minimalism and extraction domains. Syntax 10. 80–126.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Stepanov, Arthur, Manca Mušič & Penka Stateva. 2016. Asymmetries in sub-extraction out of NP in Slovenian: A magnitude estimation study. Linguistica 56(1). 253–271.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Stevens, Stanley Smith. 1975. Psychophysics: Introduction to its perceptual, neural and social prospects. New York: John Wiley.Google Scholar

  • Stowe, Laurie A. 1986. Parsing wh-constructions: Evidence for on-line gap location. Language and Cognitive Processes 1. 227–245.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Szczegielniak, Adam. 1999. That-t effects crosslinguistically and successive cyclic movement. In Karlos Arregi, Benjamin Bruening, Cornelia Krause & Vivian Lin (eds.), Papers on morphology and syntax, cycle one, 369–393. Cambridge, MA: MIT Working papers in linguistics.Google Scholar

  • Takahashi, Daiko. 1994. Minimality of movement. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut dissertation.Google Scholar

  • Torrego, Esther. 1984. On inversion in Spanish and some of its effects. Linguistic Inquiry 15. 103–129.Google Scholar

  • Townsend, David J. & Thomas G. Bever. 2001. Sentence comprehension: The integration of habits and rules. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Truswell, Robert. 2007. Extraction from adjuncts and the structure of events. Lingua 117. 1355–1377.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Uriagereka, Juan. 1999. Multiple Spell-Out. In Samuel D. Epstein and Norbert Hornstein (eds.), Working minimalism, 251–282. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Uriagereka, Juan. 2012. Spell-out and the minimalist program. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Wexler, Kenneth & Peter Culicover. 1981. Formal principles of language acquisition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2018-05-24

Published in Print: 2018-06-26

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 56, Issue 3, Pages 435–476, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2018-0002.

Export Citation

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in