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English focus inversion1



Besides the canonical Subject–I–VP structure, English has several inversion constructions in which the subject follows the inflected verb. The most familiar is Subject Auxiliary Inversion (SAI) which is analyzed as an instance of Head Movement (I–to–C-movement across the subject) in the generative tradition. In this paper we investigate Comparative Inversion (CI), which appears to be a special case of SAI in which ellipsis is required (Merchant 2003). Contrary to this analysis, we show that the subject can stay low in a noncanonical position, violating the Extended Projection Principle (EPP) in exactly those instances where it is under comparison and therefore heavily accented and contrastively focused. Our analysis shows that the non-application of the EPP is tied to regular interactions of syntax with phonology and syntax with semantics. We extend this in depth analysis to other English focus inversions and provide evidence that phonological highlighting and focus on the low subject can suspend the EPP. Thus, our analysis supports research programs which assume minimal syntactic structure and operations in interaction with interface constraints that are independently required for explanation.


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Authors' addresses: (Culicover) Department of Linguistics, The Ohio State University, 222 Oxley Hall, 1712 Neil Ave., Columbus, OH 43210-1298,
(Winkler) Englisches Seminar, Universität Tübingen, Wilhelmstr. 50, D-72074 Tübingen, Germany.


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The research on which this article is based was initiated while the first author was a visiting scholar at the University of Tübingen. This visit was made possible by an award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. We are grateful to the Humboldt Foundation, Dean John Roberts and the College of Humanities of the Ohio State University, and hosts Erhard Hinrichs and Marga Reis for their support. Portions of this paper were presented to audiences at the University of Tübingen, the University of Göttingen and the University of Potsdam. We thank Michael Rochemont, Gisbert Fanselow, Ray Jackendoff, Valéria Molnár, Teresa Parodi, Shravan Vasishth, Alan Munn, Kyle Johnson, Ans van Kemenade, and Jason Merchant for their constructive advice, feedback and discussion. We are also grateful to two anonymous JL referees for their comments, and to Orin Gensler and Ewa Jaworska for perceptive and thoughtful editing of the manuscript. We are solely responsible for the errors that remain.



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English focus inversion1



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