The representation of syntactic action at a distance: Multidominance versus the Copy Theory

Abstract

It is a common understanding that Merge (Chomsky 1995) effectively explains the preponderance of displacement in language. That is, at least since Chomsky (2001), the mechanism that captures displacement (Internal Merge) has been recognized as something that comes ‘for free’ along with Merge. However, the particular representation of that displacement has been subject to disagreement with some researchers assuming a copy-theoretic view and others a multidominance view. In this paper I offer arguments that support the copy theory of movement over that of multidominance. Multidominance demands that the grammar operate over positions instead of terms, which is incompatible with a Merge-based approach to structure building, and the copy theory demands no such thing. I also argue that the discontinuous interpretation of moved elements can be seen as evidence in favor of the copy theory.

Additionally I note that previous arguments comparing the two representations fail on one of two counts. They either 1) rely on interface-dependent notions about which too little is known to be used to distinguish the two or 2) depend on issues of mathematical power that are not a priori relevant. The new arguments presented here rely on syntax-internal notions and interface notions that are on more solid empirical footing.

Keywords

movement, copy theory, multidominance

How to Cite

Larson, B., (2016) “The representation of syntactic action at a distance: Multidominance versus the Copy Theory”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 1(1): 39. doi: https://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.15

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Brooke Larson (The University of Iowa)

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