Murphy – Phase theory

Phase Theory

The question of locality is a central issue in syntactic theory. Since Chomsky (2000, 2001), the predominant theory of locality in the Minimalist Program has been Phase Theory. Assuming that syntactic structure is derived in a piecemeal fashion, long-distance dependencies are broken up into a number of small connected ones. While Chomsky
originally suggested that the `propositional’ categories vP and CP were phases, there has since been intense debate about the exact inventory of phase heads, for example whether Chomsky’s original proposal should be expanded (to include P and D) or reduced (to exclude v). In this class, we will review the arguments surrounding this debate, as well as evaluate some of the broader theoretical consequences of phases.

Some questions to be addressed include:

  • What are diagnostics for phasehood?
  • Which categories constitute phase heads? (C, v, D, P, others?)
  • Is the inventory of phase heads universal or can it vary across languages?
  • Are phases fixed or dynamic?
  • Do PF domains align with Spell-Out domains (e.g. for ellipsis or prosody)?
Preliminary schedule:
Day 1: Introduction/is CP a phase?
Day 2: Is vP a phase?
Day 3: What else is a phase?
Day 4: Dynamic phases
Day 5: Phases at PF
Introductory reading:
Citko, Barbara (2014). Phase Th eory: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
Advanced reading:
Abels, Klaus (2012). Phases: An essay on cyclicity in syntax. de Gruyter: Berlin.
Chomsky, Noam (2000): Minimalist inquiries: The framework. In R. Martin & D. Michaels & J. Uriagereka (eds.) Step by Step: Essays on Minimalist Syntax in Honour of Howard Lasnik. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. 89-155.
Chomsky, Noam (2001). Derivation by phase. In M. Kenstowicz (ed.) Ken Hale: A Life in Language. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. 1-52.
Gallego, Ángel J. (ed.) (2012). Phases: Developing the Framework. de Gruyter: Berlin.
Legate, Julie Anne (2003). Some interface properties of the phase. Linguistic Inquiry 34(3). 506-516.
Richards, Marc D. (2011). Deriving the edge: What’s in a phase?. Syntax 14(1). 74-95