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How to Refute the EPP?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Tomohiro, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. Tomohiro New Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    A Way to Refute The EPP

    It is assumed that the EPP requires that a clause(≒TP) has a subject. I want to try to get rid of EPP from grammar, for example, a subject must move through Spec of a infinitival T in the raising construction such as (1), where t is the trace of a lion.

    (1) A lion seems [TP t to be in the park]

    However, when we consider the following examples, we find the assumption may not be right.

    (2) a. *Him to be dressed properly is important at the party.
    b. For him to be dressed properly is important at the party.

    To my knowledge, no one has been tried to refute the assumption of the EPP on the basis of the contrast in pair of sentences of (2). I do not know if a native speaker would accept this expression even though (2b) seems to be grammatical. However, I assert that a subject cannot occur in a configuration such as (2a). The contrast distribution of subjects in (2) may be attributed to the status of the clauses, which is TP in (2a) and CP in (2b). Chomsky (2008) argues that every operation is triggered by a phase head(i.e. C and v*). It means that T, either finite or non-finite, is not a phase head and cannot trigger any movement of syntactic objects. I strongly believe that why a subject cannot occur in (2a) is because of TP status of that clause. So (2a) implies that TP without C cannot have a subject in it. One may say that the principle of the shortest movement is not held, and that the presence of a subject before a verb in a finite clause is not predicted properly if EPP disappears completely in the theory of grammar. However, there is a way to solve these problems. Firstly, I will, by stipulation, assume that an Agree relation should be as small as possible, which means that the agreement between a subject and T needs to take place in the TP as the agreement between V and a object. Although V and a object are always introduced to a derivation as sisters in a tree, a subject is introduced into Spec of v* or complement of V, among others, so if Agree relation would be local, then it must raise to somewhere in TP―possible candidate is always Spec-TP because the complement position of T is filled by vP or v*P― in order to establish Agree relation with T. As to the shortest movement, the bottom line that we can only see the surface of a expression and cannot see the whole of a derivation, so we cannot tell whether the shortest movement is really happening.

    I would like you to give some comment on the argument I proposed here. Thank you.
  2. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I don't quite understand your point. (2b) contains an explicit subject NP: to be dressed properly.

    I don't have much regard for Chomsky & al. and I am therefore not familiar with all the details off GG arguments and I might be missing something. But if I wanted to find ammunition against EPP I would concentrate on sentences without a theta role. In sentences like there is a bird, correct me if I am wrong, there is analysed as a dummy subject by proponents of the EPP. This seems absurd to me. In English subject free sentences with an adverbial in first position have become rare but in German, which preserves older features of West Germanic grammar a bit more, this type of sentences is a bit more common, e.g. Mir ist kalt = I am cold. The construct literally means With respect to me [it] is cold where the dummy subject es=it is unnecessary because the adverbial mir occupies the first position.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2013
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    They kind of belong in different worlds.

    The EPP is of an age way before the notions of Merge, Agree and the concept of a phase in a syntactic derivation.
    It might be my cynicism to that branch of grammar coming out here but even holding them up as simultaneous concepts seems a bit forced.
    People were talking about the extended projection at a time when generative grammar was all the buzz and many questions were unanswered/unexplored.
    Minimalism changed a lot of things and after Radford (2009), that was when I finally put an end to the long-strung rose-tinted glasses approach to generative theory I had struggled to maintain. People have been known to give presentations at conferences, Chomsky goes on the second day and the people on the third day have to cancel or tear about their presentations to try and update it to conform with what he pondered about the day before. You can get so lost in the arguments trying to work out what goes on between C and T or deep within APs that people forget to take a step back and see how badly unscientific it all is, hiding under a seemingly-defensible cloak of 'You can't prove us wrong because we're dealing with theoretical linguistics.

    Even linguists like Andrew Carnie, whose books are massively used to introduce students to generative theory, has moved away those core tenets. I spoke to him a couple of years ago and he mentioned that the new thinking in his modern work is totally incompatible (his words, not mine) with something like Minimalistic generativism and his earlier books which argue for the validity of something like the extended projection principle. It's like trying to argue against constructions in CxG by using arguments derived from componential semantic analysis which has been dead and buried for at least 25 years. Apples and oranges. Minimalism was a way to bring everyone in line and stop all these complications because it was against the original purpose of the model, 15 years later look where we are. People are so invested in their ways of thinking they can't see they're back at the point where they were when it was felt necessary to propose a new model that united what people were tacking onto the metaphorical appendix of the book (i.e. the model). The beauty of Chomsky's proposals back in the day where that operations are fundamentally simple and parameter switches caused linguistic diversity (though that's more P&P, which sadly didn't go anywhere). Probably not what you wanted to hear so feel free to ignore my ramblings and good luck getting to the bottom of this.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2013
  4. myšlenka Senior Member

    are you suggesting to replace the EPP with general assumptions from Case theory? This has already been suggested many years ago. Besides, the formulation of the EPP has changed so it is more general now. The EPP states that a strong feature in the head position of a functional projection (e.g. TP, CP) requires its specifier position to be lexically filled. I believe Chomsky would be very happy if you found a way to get rid of the EPP but it is also used to explain V2 effects in Germanic languages as well as the occurence of dummy subjects for impersonal verbs like to snow and to rain. So, taking away the EPP also means that you have to offer an alternative analysis for a few other things. I am not writing this to discourage you, just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater :)

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