Andrei Antonenko

Stony Brook University
Talk Title: 
Feature-Based Binding and Phase Theory
Event Type: 
Dissertation Defense
Fall 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012, 4:00 pm
S207 Social and Behavioral Sciences Building

Abstract:   Current theories of binding cannot provide a uniform account for many facts associated with the distribution of anaphors, such as long-distance binding effects and the subject-orientation of monomorphemic anaphors. Further, traditional binding theory is incompatible with minimalist assumptions. In this dissertation I propose an analysis of anaphoric binding based on a feature-checking mechanism (Pesetsky & Torrego 2007), by introducing the feature <ρ>, a formalization of the reflexivity proposal of Reinhart & Reuland 1993. I argue that the <ρ> feature is responsible for establishing co-reference between an anaphor and its antecedent, by being present and valued on reflexives while being unvalued on a higher phrasal head. Valuation of <ρ> under Agree results in the introduction of a λ-operator, which binds the reflexive variable, thereby establishing the co-reference between an anaphor and its antecedent. Central to the workings of this theory is a necessary revision of the definition of binding domains. Previous definitions could not uniformly account for the possibility of long-distance binding and its correlation with subject-orientation. I reduce the notion of binding domain to a phase, a domain independently motivated in recent research. I demonstrate problems with the traditional definition of a phase, and revise this definition so that phasal domains are derivable from independent mechanisms of grammar, in particular by feature-checking under Agree. I argue that a domain becomes phasal as soon as all relevant features within this domain are valued. As a result, domains with defective tense such as infinitives and subjunctives can be closed at a late stage, permitting probing into them without violating the PIC. Having revised the definition of a phase, I show how phases can be implemented as binding domains and how this can account for cross-linguistic differences in long-distance binding as well as correctly predict the typology of subject-orientation, among other empirical advantages. Finally, I consider the interaction of A’-movement (scrambling and wh-movement) and anaphoric binding and show how it affects the status of binding domains. This analysis of binding has wider empirical coverage than existing analyses and makes binding theory consistent with the minimalist view on the architecture of grammar.