Thursday, December 6, 2018

Responses to Seminar Research Questions (Fall 2018)

At the beginning of my Fall 2018 seminar "Argument Structure in Minimalist Syntax", I gave a list of research questions that we would address during the course. Here is a summary of the answers to those questions.

What is the syntactic status of implicit arguments in the short passive?
The implicit argument in the short passive is a DP (null pro) in Spec vP, which is the position of the external argument in the active. It is syntactically active in the sense that it can bind reflexive pronouns.

How do implicit arguments in the short passive relate to other kinds of implicit arguments?
Are there different kinds of implicit arguments?
We did not investigate this in the course. The prediction of the theory presented in class is that all implicit arguments are syntactically represented. Other cases include middles, datives (“It was amusing to go swimming.”), nominalizations (“the gift of oneself”), and Romance causatives.

What is the status of the by-phrase in the passive? Argument, adjunct, either, neither or both?
The by-phrase in the passive is in Spec vP. It is an argument, since it can bind reciprocals and reflexives.

What is the relation between the passive and the dative alternation?
The dative alternation is a kind of inner passive, with the following corespondences:
a.         Subject of the active    =          Indirect object of DOC
b.         Object of the active      =          Direct object of DOC
c.         by-phrase of passive    =          to-phrase
d.         Subject of passive       =          Direct object of prepositional dative construction
Research Question: How is this analysis consistent with Postal’s 2010 tests for indirect objects (3-hood)?

What is the relation between the double object construction (e.g., give John a book) and the
prepositional dative construction (e.g., give a book to John)?
The prepositional dative construction is derived from a structure parallel to the double object construction. Evidence for this analysis was presented from asymmetries in c-command tests.

What is the status of UTAH in Universal Grammar?
UTAH does not exist as a principle of UG, but its effects should exist as a theorem of the system. Speculation: UTAH is the result of two factors: (a) breaking down verbs into various light verb projections that are projected with a universal order, and (b) limiting the power of formal semantics in interpreting syntactic structures.

What is the trade-off between syntax and semantics in analyzing the passive and in analyses of argument structure more generally?
Semantics should not take the place of syntax. Semantics interprets syntactic structures. It cannot introduce entities and relations that are not reflected in the syntax structures. The relation between syntax and semantics is transparent and uniform.

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