Merge in (multidominant) syntax

(Joint work with Barbara Citko, University of Washington)


25 сентября 2019 года
аудитория 844
начало в 18:00


Martina Gračanin-Yuksek

Professor of Linguistics
Department of Foreign Language Education, Middle East Technical University



This talk focuses on Merge, the basic structure-building operation in (minimalist) syntax. We are particularly interested in the binary nature of Merge.

We argue that what has typically been described as a constraint that prevents Merge from combining more than two syntactic objects is in fact a constraint that militates against relating more than two syntactic positions. By focusing on the interaction of two types of Merge that create multidominant representations – Internal Merge and Parallel Merge – we show that there are ill-formed configurations in which Merge combines only two syntactic objects, but relates more than two positions. We base our observations and the analysis on examples involving Right Node Raising (RNR) and Across-The-Board (ATB) Questions. We show that ATB questions are subject to a parallelism constraint that RNR is not subject to: the wh-phrase extracted from the two conjuncts in ATB questions has to occupy parallel syntactic positions, but this constraint does not hold of the pivot in RNR. We explain the ill-formedness of relevant ATB examples by the Binarity Constraint on Merge (BiCoM), which prevents Merge from relating more than two syntactic positions within a single derivation, which is what happens when a wh-phrase is extracted from different positions in each conjunct in an ATB question and merged in the matrix [Spec CP] position. In order to account for the grammaticality of ATB extraction from parallel positions, we propose that such parallel positions are structurally syncretic and therefore count as one for the purposes of BiCoM.

We then show that the notion of structural syncretism explains a range of other phenomena, such as the fact that parallelism violations in ATB questions are alleviated if the conjunct from which the wh-subject is extracted is embedded, if it contains a high adverbial, as well as if it contains a raising to object configuration.