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Linguistic Inquiry

Summer 2012, Vol. 43, No. 3, Pages 423-440
(doi: 10.1162/LING_a_00095)
© 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
On the Absence of X-within-X Recursion in Human Grammar
Article PDF (108.87 KB)
Abstract

We make these observations: (a) The direct embedding of a syntactic category X in itself (X-within-X) is surprisingly rare in human language, if it exists at all. (b) Indirect self-embedding (mediated by a sequence of other categories, and usually a phase boundary) systematically goes along with intensionality effects; the embedding and the embedded XP exhibit different behavior at the semantic interface. We argue that these constraints on recursion follow from the way in which single-cycle derivations organize semantic information in grammar.