McFadden & Sundaresan (2017) – Unifying EPP and comp-trace effects: constraints on silent elements at the edge

Unifying EPP and comp-trace effects: constraints on silent elements at the edge
Thomas McFadden, Sandhya Sundaresan
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April 2017
In this paper, we focus on the original empirical domain of the EPP, the requirement that certain subject positions be filled, and argue that characterizing it in terms of a syntactic movement-triggering feature is misguided. Specifically, we will argue that, contrary to what is standardly assumed, the factors conditioning the EPP are actually not syntactic, but phonological, as has also been proposed by others in the literature. Nonetheless, the operations that it seems to trigger clearly are syntactic. This sheds light on why the EPP has been so difficult to get a handle on, but it also presents a conundrum, as it seems to suggest that aspects of the syntactic derivation depend on phonological information. Under the broadly Minimalist framework we adopt here, this would be clearly countercyclic. In the standard Y-model and its descendants, the output of the (narrow) syntactic derivation feeds into the interpretive components of PF and LF, thus while syntactic information feeds into PF, phonological information is not available to the syntax. More recent phase-based and multiple Spell-out models introduce a certain amount of feedback, such that syntactic cycles may be interleaved with non-syntactic ones, but it is normally not assumed that phonological information from previous cycles can actually interact with later syntactic cycles. Indeed, the crucial point here is not specific to the Y-model. Rather, it extends to any framework which assumes that the syntactic derivation does not have access to the phonological properties of the structures it manipulates, e.g. as a general principle of modularity or because phonological content is explicitly inserted at a late stage of the derivation after the narrow syntax has done its work. The EPP thus seems to involve a violation of modularity or counter-cyclicity. A novel approach to the EPP is thus required, which must simultaneously be able to handle its unique properties but must also be made to fit in with the broader theory of grammatical architecture. We will argue that such an approach will not only allow a more satisfactory account of the EPP itself, but can also yield a unification with the comp-trace effect and yield insight into how both of these interact with pro-drop. This paper is intended as an initial contribution in this direction.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003428
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Submitted
keywords: epp, (anti-)that-trace effect, for to, pro-drop, complementizers, phases, phasal domain, spell out, intonation phrase, syntax-pf interface, prosody, morphology, syntax, phonology
previous versions: v1 [April 2017]