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Scrambling, reconstruction, and the checking principle

Gwangrak Son

Ph.D. Thesis, 2001


This thesis examines how morphology interacts with RECONSTRUCTION in the environment of SCRAMBLING. We observe that while certain instances of scrambling undergo reconstruction, there exists a set of systematic instances of scrambling that does not fall into this class. This set involves a "monomorphemic" word in the scrambling position. Construal patterns of reflexives instantiate such a case: complex reflexives can be construed with lower antecedents, whereas monomorphemic reflexives cannot. By exploring the CHECKING POSITION PRESERVATION PRINCIPLE (CPPP) adumbrated in Lasnik 1993, we claim that scrambling is a checking operation. That is, reconstruction is possible insofar as the position created by scrambling, a checking position, can be preserved at the interface level LF. We examine a trace or copy associated with wh-scrambling with regard to various aspects of LF representation—semantics of specificity, scope interpretation, weak crossover, and Pesetsky's (1987) Path Containment Condition. The result shows us that a trace/copy, if ever created by wh-scrambling, acts as though invisible at the interface level LF. By defining reconstruction as a function of a trace/copy, coupled with the minimalist assumption that a syntactic object with no LF role need not be represented on that level (i.e., "representational economy"), we conclude that there is no reconstruction with wh-scrambling. In sharp contrast with wh-phrases, Quantifier Phrases (QPs) are known to display scope ambiguity when they undergo scrambling. We account for the contrast by noticing that QPs, unlike (bare) wh-phrases, are complex in morphology. Given the CPPP as a working hypothesis, QPs, being bimorphemic, can freely undergo reconstruction, whereas bare wh-phrases cannot. Not only does this explain the asymmetry between QP-scrambling and wh-scrambling, it also complies with the construal pattern of reflexives in scrambling constructions. Monomorphemic reflexives pattern with bare wh-phrases, while complex reflexives pattern with QPs. Morphological complexity thus turns out to be a key to gross differences in LF-behaviors of all categories in the scrambling environment.

Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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