Constraints on feature checking

Date of Completion

January 1999


Language, Linguistics




Recent development in the principles and Parameters approach to linguistic theory, known as the Minimalist program (Chomsky 1993, 1995), attributes the displacement property of languages to the need to check off (a subset of) formal features. The aim of this thesis is to explore some consequences of this feature-based conception of movement ^ Chapter 2 is concerned with locality issues arising from Attract F. The Attract (i.e., target-based) view of movement offers a simple account of certain island effects, in particular, Relativized Minimality (RM) (see Rizzi 1990) type islands. However, non-RM type islands constitute an insurmountable obstacle for Attract. Building on Chomsky's (1995: chapter 4) idea that overt movement involves (at least) two chains, the formal feature chain and the (generalized) pied-piping chain, I provide an analysis which solves empirical problems of Attract, while providing further arguments for the Attract view of movement ^ Chapter 3 focuses on the nominative/genitive Case conversion phenomenon in Japanese. Based on Miyagawa's (1993) insightful analysis of this construction, I argue that this construction and the Exceptional Case Marking (ECM) construction in English, especially as analyzed by Lasnik (1998), show remarkable parallelism and hence should be given a unified account. I also argue that the Attract view of movement explored in chapter 2 provides a simple account of the locality effects observed with the movement of genitive phrases in Japanese. ^ Chapter 4 explores the nature of strong features by studying the type of wh-questions originally investigated by Muratori (1996a, b, 1997). The ‘virus’ theory of feature strength (Chomsky 1995: chapter 4) virtually forces a strong feature to be a property of the target, not of the moving item. However, nothing in the logic behind the concept of the strong feature precludes the possibility that it is a property of the moving item. I propose that there are in fact some adjunct wh-phrases which are best analyzed as having strong features which need to be chocked off against the interrogative complementizer. This analysis accounts for some peculiar properties of those adjunct wh-phrases in a simple manner. ^