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Intervention in tough-constructions revisited

Stefan Keine
  • Corresponding author
  • University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Email:
/ Ethan Poole
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA
  • Email:
Published Online: 2017-06-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tlr-2017-0003


In this paper, we subject to closer scrutiny one particularly influential recent argument in favour of the long-movement analysis of tough-constructions. Hartman (2011, 2012a, 2012b) discovered that experiencer PPs lead to ungrammaticality in tough-constructions, but not in expletive constructions. He attributes this ungrammaticality to defective intervention of A-movement, a movement step crucially postulated only in the long-movement analysis. He takes this as evidence that tough-constructions are derived via long movement. We make the novel observation that a PP intervention effect analogous to that in tough-constructions also arises in constructions that do not involve A-movement, namely pretty-predicate constructions and gapped degree phrases. Consequently, the intervention effect does not provide an argument for an A-movement step in tough-constructions or for the long-movement analysis, but rather for the base-generation analysis. We develop a uniform account of the intervention effects as a semantic-type mismatch. In particular, we propose that what unifies tough-constructions, pretty-predicate constructions, and gapped degree phrases is that they all have an embedded clause that is a null-operator structure. Introducing an experiencer PP into these constructions creates an irresolvable semantic-type mismatch. As such, we argue for a reassessment of what appears to be a syntactic locality constraint as an incompatibility in the semantic composition.

Keywords: tough-constructions; predication; defective intervention; null-operator constructions; gapped degree phrases


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-06-01

Citation Information: The Linguistic Review, ISSN (Online) 1613-3676, ISSN (Print) 0167-6318, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tlr-2017-0003. Export Citation

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