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).
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.