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No argument–adjunct asymmetry in reconstruction for Binding Condition C


The syntax literature has overwhelmingly adopted the view that Condition C reconstruction takes place in wh-chains for R-expressions contained within arguments, but not within adjuncts of fronted wh-phrases. At the same time, this empirical picture has been questioned by various authors. We undertake a series of grammaticality surveys using Amazon Mechanical Turk in an attempt to clarify the empirical picture regarding reconstruction for Binding Condition C. We find absolutely no evidence of an argument–adjunct distinction in reconstruction for Binding Condition C. Neither arguments nor adjuncts reconstruct for Condition C. We suggest that those speakers who report such a contrast (linguists, primarily) are following a pragmatic bias, and not Condition C. While we do not find reconstruction of dependents of fronted NPs for Binding Condition C, we do find reconstruction of fronted PPs. That is, the NP complement of a fronted P must reconstruct for Binding Condition C. The literature also finds reconstruction of NP complements of verbs and adjectives. This means that fronted Ns are special in not requiring reconstruction of their arguments and adjuncts. We suggest that, syntactically, arguments of Ns are treated as adjuncts: semantic arguments simply adjoin in the same manner as true adjuncts. Syntactic adjuncts can be left out of lower copies in chains, something that we suggest follows from a left-to-right syntactic derivation plus an economy condition on copying.

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Author’s address: University of Delaware, 125 E Main Street, Newark, DE 19716,
Author’s address: The University of Jordan, Queen Rania Street, 11942,
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We would like to thank the audience of WCCFL 35 for their comments and feedback. We also thank two anonymous Journal of Linguistics reviewers for their helpful comments which helped to improve the paper noticeably.

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