Tom Meadows: The Williams Cycle (Week 1)

Some kinds of movement, e.g. raising to subject in English, are clause-bound. They cannot escape certain kinds of clauses, which are otherwise transparent to e.g. wh-movement. Such clause-boundedness does not immediately follow from from locality principles encouraging punctuated paths (e.g. Chomsky 2001) or targeting the closest relevant element (e.g. Rizzi 1990). A tradition of research starting with Williams (2003), informally termed the Williams Cycle, proposes that the height of movement in the clausal spine determines the kind of clause that such movement can escape from. On this view, the difference between raising-to-subject and wh-movement partly boils down to their distinct final landing sites. Work on the Williams Cycle represents a generalisation of the old Ban on Improper Movement (e.g. Chomsky 1973, May 1979), which has otherwise had a limited role in generative grammar since the advent of Minimalism.

This course starts by reviewing the Ban on Improper Movement and its connection to the Williams Cycle. We will then consider the empirical motivation for the Williams Cycle from typologically diverse languages including: Swahili (Bantu), Mandarin Chinese (Sinitic), Hungarian (Finno-Ugric) and Georgian (Kartvelian). We will go on to consider how to derive the Williams Cycle from more fundamental principles, with a focus on Level Embedding (Williams 2003, 2011, Poole 2023, Meadows 2023) and Horizons (Keine 2019, 2020) strategies. The course concludes how to address empirical challenges to Williams Cycle, principally varieties of hyperraising and clause-internal intermediate movement.

Course aims:

  • Greater ability to identify and analyse instances of clause-bound movement
  • Greater familiarity with the syntax of less familiar, non Indo-European languages.
  • Greater awareness of the theoretical debates in the analysis of clause-bound movement.
  • Greater understanding of related issues including: the A/Ā-distinction and how to model it, the structure of complement clauses and the nature of clausal-embedding.

Selected references

Chomsky, Noam. 1973. Conditions on transformations.
———————– 2001. Derivation by phase.
Keine, Stefan. 2019. Selective opacity. LI 50: 13-62.
—————— 2020. Probes and their Horizons. MIT Press.
May, Robert. 1979. Must comp-to-comp movement be stipulated? LI 10: 719–725.
Meadows, Tom. 2023. Size matters: clause structure and locality constraints in Swahili relatives. PhD Diss (QMUL).
Poole, Ethan. 2023. Improper case. NLLT 41: 347-397.
Rizzi, Luigi. 1990. Relativized Minimality. MIT Press.
Williams, Edwin. 2003. Representation Theory. MIT Press.
———————– 2011. Regimes of Derivation in Syntax and Morphology. Routledge.