Jon Sprouse is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Connecticut. Sprouse presented “Looking for evidence of A-movement” on Friday, October 19, as part of the Fall 2018 Colloquium Series. His talk took place at 4 pm in the Ross School of Business.
Looking for evidence of A-movement
The evidence is almost overwhelming for a dependency in A'-constructions that can be captured with a grammatical operation like movement: there is a visible disruption in the word order of the sentence, there are several sentence processing effects associated with these disruptions, and there are abstract constraints these disruptions that vary cross-linguistically. In this talk, I'd like to ask whether we can find similar evidence for movement in A-constructions. I will spend the bulk of the time reporting three sets of studies that I have run in my own search for evidence of A-movement: a set of judgment studies on ne-cliticization in Italian and ECM in English; a set of EEG studies on uaccusatives, passives, and raising in English; and a set of hierarchical Bayesian models designed to test for the presence of UTAH during language acquisition (under the assumption that UTAH and A-movement are tightly coupled). In all three sets of studies, the results so far fail to present strong evidence for A-movement. After reviewing these results, my hope is to encourage some discussion about (i) what sorts of evidence we would expect to see if A-movement is part of the grammar, (ii) whether we might need cross-linguistic variation in the presence/absence of A-movement, and how the current evidence in the (syntactic, psycholinguistic, and neurolinguistic) literature stacks up against our expectations.