Congratulations to Linguistics PhD candidate Yushi Sugimoto, who successfully defended his dissertation on March 28. Committee members are Marlyse Baptista (co-chair), Acrisio Pires (co-chair), Rick Lewis, and Terje Lohndal (Norwegian University of Science and Technology).

Dissertation title:
Underspecification and (im)possible derivations: Toward a restrictive theory of grammar


This dissertation develops two main ideas: (i) the possible human languages may be

partially limited by the possible combinations of functional features, and (ii) Universal

Grammar (UG) contains linguistic features and operations whose application is not fully

specified. Specifically, some underspecified components are allowed under a restrictive

theory of grammar in Minimalism.

In order to convey these ideas, this dissertation consists of three parts. First, we need

syntax to construct syntactic structures which are an optimal solution to interfaces/language

external systems (Chomsky 2000, 2005), though the syntax itself does not have to be involved

in the evaluation process to determine whether the sentence is acceptable or not.

The derivations that are generated by MERGE, a syntactic structure building operation

(Chomsky 2021a,2021b) are, by definition, grammatical, though acceptability is affected

by other factors such as working memory, sentence processing difficulty, and semanticpragmatic

factors. Based on Chomsky (2021b), Epstein et al. (2018, 2021), Kitahara and

Seely (2021), I focus on (im)possible derivations such as the cases where internal Merge

and parallel Merge have been argued to apply. Furthermore, I reanalyze constraints on

movement such as remnant movement, improper movement, freezing effect, the subject

condition and the adjunct condition.

The second part of the dissertation is about the underspecification of rule ordering in

narrow syntax (Obata et al. 2015). The operations in narrow syntax are MERGE (external

Merge and internal Merge/movement), Agree, feature inheritance, Labeling, and Transfer.

Obata et al. (2015) analyze the complementizer agreement with wh-phrases in Haitian

Creole and Cabo Verdean Creole. The framework they adopt (Chomsky 2013) cannot

hold under MERGE (Chomsky 2021a, 2021b). I propose alternative, cyclic derivations

for these phenomena. I also analyze additional patterns of complementizer in Brazilian

Portuguese. In addition to these patterns, I also propose that variation in how functional

categories are introduced in the narrow syntax can be different from language to language,

yielding different head amalgams, which can account for a cluster effect without invoking

the notion of (macro-)parameters.

The last part of this thesis is about the possible combination of functional features in

Creoles. I adopt a late-insertion-based exoskeletal model to language mixing (Grimstad

et al. 2018, Riksem et al. 2019) and propose that this model can capture creole languages

as well. Based on this model, I argue that feature recombination (Aboh 2009, 2015, 2019,

2020) applies to the functional features in creole languages as an underlying principle

of Creole genesis. I apply this model to the analysis of the anterior marker -ba in Cabo

Verdean Creole (CVC), nominal structures in Saramaccan, and a complementizer in CVC.