Towards elegant parameters: Language variation reduces to the size of lexically stored trees
Michal Starke
January 2011

This paper explores a restrictive and principled approach to parameters. Three decades after the "Principles and Parameters" revolution, we still have no theory of syntactic variation. Thirty years ago, if some element moved in one language but not in another, this would be expressed by adding a movement rule to one language but not to the other. Today, it is expressed by adding a feature "I want to move" ("EPP", "strength", etc.) to the elements of one language but not of the other. In both cases (and in all attempts between them), we express variation by stipulating it, via the postulation of a brute-force marker.

This paper shows that you can do variation without inventing any dedicated marker such as "EPP features" or "strength of features". The solution is simple: if you allow lexical items to spell out entire syntactic phrases, some lexemes will be bigger phrases, some will be smaller phrases – and I explore the conjecture that this is all we need for cross-linguistic variation.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/001183
(please use that when you cite this article)
keywords: parameters, language variation, phrasal spellout, syntax, nanosyntax
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