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TitleGeneralized Transformations and Beyond
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Page 1

Generalized Transformations and Beyond

(Reflections on Minimalist Syntax)

by Hans-Martin Gärtner

Draft Version (6.12.2001). to appear. Akademie-Verlag: Berlin

Page 2

Introduction2

Contents

1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.1 Conceptual Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

2 Minimalist Syntax. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
2.1 Goals of Linguistic Theory. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.2 Interfaces and Well-Formedness. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.3 Structure and Levels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
2.4 D-Structure, Checking, and the Theta Criterion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
2.4.1 Idioms (An Excursus) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
2.5 Minimalist Operations I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
2.5.1 Project-α, Move-α, and Generalized Transformation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
2.5.2 Constraints on Transformations: Cyclicity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
2.6 Minimalist Operations II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
2.6.1 Lexical Items, Numerations, and Inclusiveness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
2.6.2 Select, Merge, and Move . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
2.6.3 Labels, Projections, Categories, and Adjunction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
2.6.4 Intermediate Projections and Visibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
2.7 Chains and the Power of Copying. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
2.7.1 Identity, Uniformity, and Legitimate LF Objects. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
2.7.2 Locality, Countercyclicity, and Checking Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
2.7.3 Restraining the Power of Copying. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
2.7.4 Feature Movement, Satisfy, and Agree (An Excursus). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
2.8 (Restricted) Economy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
2.9 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

3 The Syntax of Multiconstituency and Multidominance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
3.1 Narrow Syntax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
3.2 Varieties of Multiconstituency and Multidominance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
3.2.1 Structure Sharing (An Excursus). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132

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Minimalist Syntax104

In sum, given (i) the lack of examples for transderivational economy principles
which are both convincing and empirically sound, (ii) the nontrivial task of
implementing putative economy principles, as the sketchy formulations in (142)-(145)
indicate, and (iii) the fact that transderivational principles do not belong to the simple
steps of theory-design appealed to in the minimalist quest for an answer to Q1 (cf.
section 1.1), I will defend hypothesis 6.

Hypothesis 6: There are no economy principles operating in minimalist syntax
(=H6)237238


“Who do you think we should invite?“

As can be gathered from the translation, (i) is equivalent to the direct constituent question in (ii),
lacking was.
(ii) [Wen]j meinst Du, tj (dass) wir tj einladen sollen?
Importantly, however, was must not be inserted “as soon as possible.“ Instead, the associated WH-
phrase has to perform at least one movement step. This is shown by the unacceptability of (iii).
(iii) * [Wasi]j meinst Du, tj (dass) wir wen einladen sollen?
This is unexpected if there is an economy principle like (142), forcing Merge to block Move in
such cases. Given (142), we should expect (iii) to block (i). For an alternative, “indirect
dependency“ approach, see Staudacher (2000).

237 I've already indicated in section 2.7 that if Stabler (1996) is correct in assuming that “economy
conditions may have natural implementations in the performance model,“ we would, provided
convincing examples for such principles can be found, have a strong vindication of “Frampton's
conjecture“ introduced in section 1.1 above. It is probably no surprise that such a claim should
come from the area of parsing, which is generally much more at ease with computational
techniques. Let me, therefore, in elaboration on section 1.1, offer some speculation as to why
“economy principles“ might have come to the attention of competence linguists. This has to do
with some suggestive analogies from computer science and cognitive science. “[ . . . ] it is
characteristic of the organization of general purpose digital computers that they do not
communicate in the languages in which they compute and they do not compute in the languages in
which they communicate. The usual situation is that information gets into and out of the
computational code via the operation of compiling systems which are, in effect, translation
algorithms for the programing languages that the machine 'understands.' The present point is that, if
the view of communication I have been commending is true, then these remarks hold, in some
detail, for the mechanisms whereby human beings exchange information via natural languages. To
all intents and purposes, such mechanisms constitute 'compilers' which allow the speaker/hearer to
translate from formulae in the computational code to wave forms and back again“ (Fodor 1975,
p.116). Now, compiling consists of three core procedures, lexical analysis, syntax analysis, and
code generation. Additionally, “[m]any compilers have a fourth phase, called optimization, which
follows code generation. Its purpose is to make the object program smaller or quicker to execute
(by techniques such as detection and elimination of redundant statements, making loop bodies as
short as possible, and using registers instead of memory cells whenever feasible). The
improvements are often only marginal, and are gained at the expense of additional complexity in
the compiler and extra time during compilation. The extent to which it is used should therefore be
governed by how often the object program is to be executed“ (Goldschlager&Lister 1988, p.199).
Now, if, for the sake of argument, the operations of CHL are considered part of a compilation
process in the sense of Fodor, the question of optimization might also arise. However, if the

Page 105

Minimalist Syntax 105

I take this cautious assumption to be vindicated by Collins (2001, p.61), who concluded
that

“[w]hat can be said with certainty is that our understanding of economy at this
point is minimal.“239

2.9 Summary

Let me now briefly summarize this fairly lengthy survey of minimalist syntax. The
minimalist program, as presented in Chomsky (1995a), constitutes a further step in
exploring how best to attain the “goals of linguistic theory“ (cf. section 2.1 above),
which implicitly continue to consist in providing

(152) a. an enumeration of the class s1, s2, . . . of possible sentences
b. an enumeration of the class SD1, SD2, . . . of possible structural descriptions
c. an enumeration of the class G1, G2, . . . of possible generative grammars
d. specification of a function f such that SDf(i,j) is the structural description

assigned to sentence si by grammar Gj, for arbitrary i, j.
(Chomsky 1965, p.31)

In response to the overarching minimalist concern

Q1: How “perfect“ is language?

a reduction of grammatical components as well as a refinement of grammatical
operations and objects is proposed. As to the former, the computational system of
human language, CHL, is taken to be the minimal device capable of relating sound and
meaning. This is considered to justify a two-level approach, postulating a morpho-


individual signals or “formulae,“ to use Fodor's expression, are taken as the object programs, it is
highly unlikely that optimization is worth its while, given that each “formula“ is used only once.
Rather the compiler itself, assumed to be part of the human innate endowment, might be expected
to have been optimized under evolution. I'm afraid, attaining greater precision here would require
answers to the difficult questions section 1.1 raises, so I won't elaborate on this.

238 Collins (1997) argues for a “local“ interpretation of economy principles. Thus transition Σi,Σj is
blocked by transition Σi,Σk if the latter involves operations that are more “minimal.“ No appeal to
successors of Σi/Σk is made and eventual convergence is not taken into account. As far as I
understand that work, however, its main empirical applications only show that global economy isn't
desirable. Its main technical result, namely, the derivation of the fact that Merge must be binary
rather than n-ary (n≠2) comes at the cost of stipulating that unary Merge is ruled out (Collins 1997,
p.81). For comprehensive discussion of “local economy,“ see Johnson&Lappin (1997, 1999).

239 There may be an issue whether to call competition-less principles “economy principles.“ For my
failure to do so, I refer the reader to Schoemaker (1991), where it is shown to what extent
“economy“ can be in the eye of the beholder.

Page 207

Conclusion 207

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