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Eliminating Empty Categories

A Radically Minimalist View on Their Ontology and Justification

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Diego Gabriel Krivochen and Peter Kosta

This collaborative book has a twofold purpose. On the one hand, the authors present a new framework – Radical Minimalism. The development of such a framework, with a strong basis on mathematics and physics, was born out of the conviction that, if language is really a natural object, there is no a priori reason to study it in isolation from other natural systems. On the other hand, this work represents a significant simplification of the theory of displacement and so-called «empty categories» within the latest development of Chomsky’s Strong Minimalist Hypothesis, applying Occam’s razor and fulfilling Lakatos’ requirements for scientific evolution. Radical Minimalism thus accounts not only for the phenomena orthodox minimalism has explanations for, but also for empirical problems that have not yet been taken into consideration.

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Chapter 5: Dependencies and Chain Reduction. From the ECP to Radically Minimalist Minimality

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In this chapter we will review some of the conditions that have ruled the relation between a moved constituent and the empty category it left behind, be it NP- trace or Wh-trace. From GB to Minimalism, we will analyze four main theories and posit one of our own, based on Radically Minimalist tenets. 5.1 The Empty Category Principle The Standard Theory and its successive extensions lacked in principle a way of limiting the power of transformational rules, beyond the stipulation of PSR and the possible outputs of the application of transformations. During the ‘70s, the current known as Generative Semantics proposed to give the transformational component of the grammar more power, at least as far as lexical derivations were concerned. The answer from the orthodoxy was to empower the base com- ponent, particularly the Lexicon, to a point in which the syntax itself was almost redundant since a whole derivation was already present in a lexical entry (see Chomsky 1970 for details). In any case, neither position proposed sound limits for transformations; and until the end of the ‘70s the transformational compo- nent was an unordered set of arbitrary and language-specific rules that applied in an unclear way (with the exception of Ross’ 1968 groundbreaking work on is- lands). The first attempt to fomulate a locality theory to rule dependencies in a principled way (that is, a theory of what the output of a transformation should look like) was outlined within the early GB model in Chomsky (1981, 1982) in...

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