"So easy to look at, so hard to define”: tough movement in the minimalist framework.
University of York, Department of Language and Linguistic Science,
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.
Actions (login required)