The Linguistic Review
Editor-in-Chief: van der Hulst, Harry
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Deconstructing the Subject Condition in terms of cumulative constraint violation
Chomsky (1973) attributes the island status of nominal subjects to the Subject Condition, a constraint specific to subjects. English and Spanish are interesting languages for the comparative study of extraction from subjects, because subjects in English are predominantly preverbal, whereas in Spanish they can be either preverbal or postverbal. In this paper we argue that the islandhood of subject DPs in both English and Spanish is not categorical. The degradation associated with extraction from subjects must be attributed to the interplay of a range of more general constraints which are not specific to subjects. We argue that the interaction of these constraints has a cumulative effect whereby the more constraints that are violated, the higher the degree of degradation that results. We also argue that some speakers have a greater tolerance for constraint violations than others, which would account for widespread inter-speaker judgment variability.
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