Towards an Etiology of Adjunct Islands

In one approach to classifying island phenomena, there is a group that answers to the following description. ADJUNCT ISLAND CONDITION If an XP is in an adjunct position, nothing may move out of it. In the influential approach to this condition in Huang, “adjunct” position is defined in terms that reference argument structure and its reflection in phrasemarker geometry. This definition groups together subject phrases and modifying phrases, contrasting them with phrases in “complement” position. The subsequent bounding theories in Lasnik and Saito and Chomsky build on this basic idea, but attempt to spread it to a wide variety of island effects, including those characterized by early versions of Chomsky’s Subjacency condition. Central to their approaches is the notion of “lexical governor,” which is responsible for making the complement/non-complement cut — only phrases that are governed by a suitably lexical Xo are “complements,” and the island conditions are defined, then, over all the others. This part of the system has fallen into disuse partly, I suspect, because characterizing the “lexical” versus “non-lexical” distinction never found itself grounded in something more general, and partly because it became unwieldy in the increasing richness of post-Pollock representations of phrase-markers. This paper adopts the view that there is an island condition like that in, which groups together subjects and adjuncts, but it does not attempt to define these phrases on the basis of a “lexical governor.” Instead, let us adopt a characterization of “adjunct” that is wholly geometric: An adjunct is a phrase whose sister is also a phrase and whose mother is not its projection. This will put together “subject” phrases and modifier phrases under the standard assumption that these are both necessarily sisters to phrases rather than heads. Thus it will single out the boxed phrases in
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Jason Merchant (2005). Fragments and Ellipsis. Linguistics and Philosophy 27 (6):661 - 738.

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