A theory of selection and reconstruction in the minimalist perspective

Date of Completion

January 1998


Language, Linguistics




This study extends two ideas of the minimalist program in linguistic theory (Chomsky 1992, 1994, 1995a) (LF feature decomposition and elimination of D-structure), and explores various consequences of this extension. First, Chomsky (1995a) proposes the Move F(eature) hypothesis which implies that feature decomposition of a lexical item (or a syntactic object consisting of lexical items) is possible in covert syntax (LF). Assuming that LF Copy is a syntactic operation to construct a phonologically missing element in ellipsis structures, I propose the subset copy principle to the effect that a (proper) subset of the antecedent features can construct the contents of a phonologically missing element under LF Copy; the feature composition of a copy can be less than the feature composition of the original. I argue that the subset copy principle plays a significant role in LF construction and interpretation of both verbal morphology (Chapter 2) and nominal expressions (Chapter 4) in the elliptic site. A certain asymmetry in verbal morphology construction in VP-ellipsis receives a natural account under the subset copy principle, and a new theory of interpretation of nominal expressions in VP-ellipsis is developed, which gives an account of possible interpretation of VP-ellipsis when a full copy of the original cannot provide an appropriate LF representation. The second part of this work discusses the nature of Selection in the minimalist program. Selection has been stated as a D-structure property (e.g., Chomsky 1965, 1981) but it cannot be stated in such a way in the minimalist framework, since one of the characteristics of the minimalist program is its attempt to eliminate D-structure (and S-structure). Extending Boskovic and Takahashi's (1998) theory of LF Lowering movement into a $\theta$-position, I propose that selectional properties of a head are syntactic features to be checked during the derivation, and that some selectional features are weak in the sense that they can be checked in covert syntax. Some properties of Japanese null arguments receive an account based on exactly the same theory of Japanese predicates as the one proposed in Boskovic and Takahashi. Consequences of the selection theory on English VP-ellipsis/VP-fronting are also explored. ^