The extragrammatical content of certain “island constraints”

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It is proposed in this paper that the existence of a number of one-way implicational universals in particular, ones which take part in the determination of the distribution of certain types of “island constraints” in the world’s languages - can be significantly illuminated in terms of independently motivated generalizations with psychological import; in particular, of (i) the preference ceteris paribus-for constructions which are maximally isomorphic at various levels of representation, and (ii) the preference - ceteris paribus - for forms which, if “marked”, exhibit at least SOME of the CHARACTERISTIC properties of “unmarked” forms; it is furthermore proposed that (ii) is motivated by a certain type of perceptual illusion. The account offered in this paper is indebted to some earlier work by S. Kuno to the extent to which it accepts Kuno’s contention that the existence of island phenomena is in some way related to the existence of conflicting topic/comment properties; at the same time, it attempts to go beyond Kuno’s work by eliminating certain empirical inadequacies in the latter, as well as by elaborating certain undeveloped aspects of Kuno’s proposal. Two earlier attempts to shed light on the nature of island phenomena in terms of extragrammatical principles (by N. Shir and N. Shir & S. Lappin respectively) are also examined; fit is argued that those two accounts fall short of the one offered here in both empirical and explanatory terms. Copyright by Walter de Gruyter & Co.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-68
Number of pages52
JournalTheoretical Linguistics
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1982


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