"So easy to look at, so hard to define”: tough movement in the minimalist framework

Hicks, Glyn (2003) "So easy to look at, so hard to define”: tough movement in the minimalist framework. University of York, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, Masters Thesis , 90pp.


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This dissertation addresses the syntactic analysis of the (English) tough construction (TC), a syntactic construction in which (typically) adjectival predicates in the semantic class of 'tough' and 'easy' may participate:

(i) John is tough/easy/impossible/a cinch to please e

In this construction, the matrix subject is coreferent with the understood (nonovert) object of the embedded infinitival, as the non-TC paraphrase in (ii) shows:

(ii) It is tough/easy/impossible/a cinch to please John

A theoretically and empirically adequate analysis of such constructions has long proved elusive in generative syntactic frameworks: on the one hand due to apparent incompatibility with the theoretical principles of Case-theory, theta-theory,
and movement constraints, on the other due to a range of largely contradictory empirical facts suggesting that TCs involve both NP-movement (‘A-movement’) and wh-movement (‘A-bar-movement’). The very fact that within previous Principles
and Parameters models TCs have proved “in principle unexplainable” (Holmberg, 2001:839) appears detrimental to the credibility of such syntactic frameworks. I attempt to fill this previously conspicuous ‘gap’ in the empirical adequacy of Principles and Parameters syntax, arguing that recent revisions to the minimalist framework (particularly Chomsky 2000; 2001a) should inspire a rethinking of TCs,
thus lending further support to the current minimalist framework and the manner in which core theoretical principles are reworked therein.

Chapter 2 provides a range of evidence to support the claim that the lexical argument structure of 'tough'-class predicates is identical in both TC and non-TC configurations. Chapter 3 briefly introduces crucial additions to the recent minimalist
framework concerning agreement, movement and feature-checking. Chapter 4 details the various problems encountered by the most common analyses of TCs within generative syntax, and the reasons why each is incompatible with a specific set of basic theoretical assumptions. Drawing on this, chapter 5 outlines an analysis of TCs consistent with these assumptions as stated in the current framework, based on an innovative approach to the syntax of null wh-operators. Chapter 6
explores some consequences of extending this analysis to provide an account for a set of constructions apparently related to TCs.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Additional Information: The core of this MA dissertation is due to be published in shortened form in 'Linguistic Inquiry', Autumn 2009. The analysis is modified slightly in that version (available at http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/64785/), though more detail is provided in this dissertation
Keywords: tough constructions, minimalism, null operators, movement
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > Modern Languages
ePrint ID: 65390
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2009
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:46
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/65390

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