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Linguistic Inquiry

Fall 2014, Vol. 45, No. 4, Pages 525-569
(doi: 10.1162/LING_a_00166)
@ 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Subject Islands, Reconstruction, and the Flow of the Computation
Article PDF (887.28 KB)
Abstract

Recent research has highlighted a remarkable variability in subject island effects. Focusing on intransitive verbs and adjectives, we argue that islandhood is determined at the syntax-semantics interface: subjects qualify as islands when they are interpreted outside the predicative nucleus of the clause, in a categorical LF structure (Ladusaw 1994); they are transparent for extraction when they undergo total reconstruction into the predicative nucleus, giving rise to a thetic structure. The thetic/categorical interpretation depends on various factors (most notably the stage-level versus individual-level nature of the predicate), whose interaction accounts for the observed variability of island effects, as shown by our experimental evidence. The relevance of subject reconstruction need not be stipulated; rather, it follows from a top-down-oriented computation, in which movement dependencies are implemented by a storage-and-retrieval mechanism.