Doreen Georgi: The syntax of sharing constructions (Week 1)

In this course we will investigate the syntax of sharing constructions such as across-the-board movement (ATB: What does Alan like and Sue hate?) and Right-Node-Raising (RNR: Alan likes and Sue hates books about linguistics.). In these dependencies a single filler seems to be related to several gaps on the surface, i.e., the gaps “share” a filler. The standard way to create filler-gap dependencies is by movement, but this process usually leads to a strict 1:1 relation between filler and gaps; moreover, some sharing constructions lack the characteristic properties of movement. Sharing constructions have thus sparked a lot of research, starting with Ross’ (1967) dissertation. Nevertheless, the syntactic derivation of sharing is still debated because the empirical evidence provided in the literature (involving mostly case matching and reconstruction for binding) is scarce and to a large extent controversial or even inconclusive. Moreover, research in this area has focused almost exclusively on Germanic (especially English) and Slavic languages, even though sharing constructions have been attested in a variety of typologically diverse languages. Other questions that arise are: (i) Do different sharing constructions have the same underlying syntax – given that they exhibit the same unusual filler-sharing property)? “Yes” is the answer advocated in many publications on the topic, but it is rarely argued for on empirical grounds. (ii) Does a given sharing construction have a uniform syntax across languages?

We will

  • compile a list of properties of sharing constructions and identify challenges they pose for the standard syntactic tools that we have to create filler-gap-dependencies
  • critically discuss previous approaches to sharing (symmetric and asymmetric ones)
  • evaluate the empirical evidence for/against these approaches
  • think about more elaborate, new diagnostics to uncover the syntax of sharing (in diverse languages) → research-oriented

The aim of this course is twofold: First, it will broaden the students’ knowledge of an interesting syntactic construction type that still requires more research. The second major goal is to practice syntactic argumentation: How do we approach a construction whose syntax is yet unknown to us? This will include the following steps to be conducted in the classroom: hypotheses formation, development of testable empirical predictions and of appropriate empirical tests. Ideally, this course will spark new research ideas regarding sharing constructions.

Requirements: This is an intermediate/advanced syntax course. It requires basic knowledge of syntactic operations, especially of movement (and locality, viz. islands), Agree and of phenomena/dependencies such as case, agreement, binding (Principles A, B, C), and c-command. Participants should thus have had at least a basic education in syntax (introduction + at least 1 advanced course) or should acquire this knowledge prior to this course. The above-mentioned topics can all be found in more or less any introduction to syntax, e.g., in Adger (2003), Sportiche, Koopman & Stabler (2014). A quick overview of some classic island constraints can be found in these lecture notes by Gereon Müller (2019):

All participants are asked to refresh their knowledge of the characteristic properties of movement (how can we diagnose movement – vs. base-generation?). An important keyword here is connectivity effects. In the following paper several of these diagnostics are applied (to clefts in Wolof): Torrence (2013: sec. 1-4). There are many other sources you could consult, just search for “movement diagnostics” or “connectivity effects”.


Adger, David (2003), Core Syntax. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York.

Ross, John (1967), Constraints on Variables in Syntax. PhD thesis, MIT, Cambridge, MA.

Sportiche, Dominique, Hilda Koopman and Edward P. Stabler (2014), An introduction to syntactic analysis and theory. Wiley Blackwell, Oxford.

Torrence, H. (2013), A Promotion Analysis of Wolof Clefts. Syntax, 16: 176-215.