Tanya Scott

Stony Brook University
Talk Title: 
Whoever doesn't HOP must be Superior!: The Russian left-periphery and the Emergence of Superiority
Event Type: 
Dissertation Defense
Spring 2012
Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 11:00 am
Linguistics Department Seminar Room S207 Social & Behavioral Sciences Bldg.

 Abstract:  This dissertation maps the left-periphery of the Russian language, presenting a new geometry of Russian main and subordinate clauses in order to account for a number of phenomena: single and multiple wh-constructions, sluicing constructions, and coordinate multiple wh-constructions (CMW), as well as to predict various occurring word-orders. Interestingly, the theory for these constructions comes from a proposed unique wh-unrelated category, the Higher Operator Phrase (HopP), located higher than CP, which allows the aforementioned phenomena to fall out of the proposed structure.

The thesis claims that Russian exhibits ‘true’ wh-movement and is similar to Bulgarian in Rudin’s 1988 typology, with a strong [+wh] feature on each wh-phrase, forcing it to be in the specifier of CP. Superiority holds, and emerges in various contexts in Russian; though its effects may be masked in the main clause by the ability of any wh to raise further (to Spec,HopP).

 There is an asymmetry with respect to surface Superiority in matrix vs. embedded clauses: Superiority emerges in embedded clauses, and in main clauses whenever HopP is overtly occupied by a non-wh-phrase. The asymmetry falls out of the theoretical assumption that the HopP position is available in matrix clauses only.

 These conclusions give a rise to a re-analysis of sluicing in Russian as a wh-phenomenon where Superiority also emerges as it does in coordinate wh constructions (CMW). The analysis of CMW presented in this work is based on existing accounts utilizing sideward movement (Nunes 2001) and a coordination phrase (&P) (Zoerner 1995, Gribanova 2009, Citko & Gracanin-Yuksek 2010).

 Finally, the thesis addresses the issue of what can occupy the head position of HopP. This gives rise to a discussion of Topicalization properties of this (HopP) position. It is shown how a topic-marking particle “-TO” can occur in this position, and adds to the evidence for the existence of this position. As a result, it illustrates how various wh- and other word order constructions can be uniformly analyzed with this unique structure.