Harmonic Grammar in phrasal movement: an account of probe competition and blocking
Brian Hsu
February 2021

In probe competition patterns, a head contains multiple probes, only one of which triggers phrasal movement in a given derivation. In probe blocking, a probe that typically triggers movement fails to do so if it creates an illicit output by a separate criterion. I illustrate basic properties of these patterns in movement to Spec,CP in German verb-second (V2) clauses, and discuss their challenges for standard Minimalist theories of movement. Specifically, they do not account for derivations with multiple grammatical outputs for a single input, as found in probe competition, nor the probabilistic means by which choices are made. Probe blocking patterns are unexpected if the main requirement for phrasal movement is probe-goal agreement, since movement is sensitive to unrelated featural properties of goals. I account for these patterns in a derivational theory of syntax where constraint interaction determines the outcome of each step (Heck & Müller 2003, 2013; Murphy 2017). Probabilistic aspects of the pattern further support a grammar with weighted constraints, where relative probabilities of output candidates are computed from their harmony scores (Maximum Entropy Harmonic Grammar: Goldwater and Johnson 2000). The proposal resolves formal problems in Minimalist theories of phrasal movement, while expanding its empirical reach to principled types of optionality and variability.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005786
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To be submitted to NELS 51 proceedings
keywords: probe competition, probe blocking, phrasal movement, verb second, maximum entropy harmonic grammar, gradient harmonic grammar, syntax
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