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3. Some Remarks On Data

In the literature, (8) is repeatedly quoted to exemplify "Webelhuth's paradox", i.e. the purported ability of scrambled elements to license parasitic gaps (characteristic of A-bar movement) as well as to function as a binder (an A-movement effect):

(8)

            ..., weil       Fritz jeden  Gast       [ ohne ei anzuschauen ] seinemi

                 because Fritz every guestACC   without  to-look-at       his         

            Nachbarn    ti      vorgestellt      hat.

            neighborDAT    introduced-to has.

                                                                        (example from Webelhuth: 412)

Whereas it is clear that jeden Gast is able to license the parasitic gap, it remains doubtful whether it being in a scrambling position (i.e. probably a VP-adjoined position, cp. Müller and Sternefeld 1994) is solely responsible for this ability. Whereas (9) may still be interpreted as a case of vacuous scrambling by assuming a trace t, (10) clearly shows all arguments in their base position, but the 'parasitic gap' is still licensed:

(9)        ..., weil       Fritz das Buchi  (ti) [ ohne ei anzuschauen ] weggelegt hat.

                 because Fritz the bookACC    without to-look-at         put-away  has.

(10)      ..., weil       Fritz dem Verkäufer  das Buch    [ ohne ei anzuschauen ]

                 because Fritz the salesmanDAT the bookACC without to-look-at       

            überreicht hat.

            given-to    has.

If it is maintained that 'parasitic gaps' can only be licenced by moved elements in A-bar positions, one would have to assume two separate vacuous scrambling movements for (10), as shown in (11), for which one would be hard pressed to find a reasonable motivation.

(11)      ... dem Verkäuferi das Buchj ti tj [ ohne ej anzuschauen ] ...

It may be preferable to set 'parasitic gaps' aside for now, instead of using such epiphenomena (they are not acceptable to all native speakers to the same degree) to bolster assumptions about an issue as central as scrambling, i.e. VP-structure.

A data set commonly mentioned to support an A-movement analysis concerns binding:

(12)     

            a.         ..., weil wir die Fraueni   einanderi   ti vorgestellt haben.

                       because we  the women each other    introduced have.

            b.         ..., weil   jedeni           seinei Mutter ti          mag

                       because  everyoneACC  his     motherNOM      likes

            c.         *..., weil einanderi            die Fraueni ti     nicht mögen

                       because  each otherACC  the womenNOM  not   like

                                                                        (examples from Corver/Riemsdijk 1994: 7)

Scrambling can create 'new' binding relationships (12a) without causing weak crossover effects (12b), which suggest that the landing site is an A-position. Moreover, reconstruction seems to be blocked (12c) (cp. Corver/Riemsdijk: 7).

However, as Corver/Riemsdijk (p. 8) point out, "there is not always consensus on the facts", and that is putting it mildly. In contrast to cases of clear violations of (possibly universal) syntactic principles like the ECP, analysts seem in general hesitant to declare a given scrambling structure ungrammatical (*). Rather, the overwhelming amount of "bad" data is marked in degrees of unacceptability (from '?*' over '??' to '?').  This may exemplify that scrambling structures are interdependent with so many other phenomena (binding, definiteness / indefiniteness, specificity, intonation etc.), that even for native speakers it is at times hard to trust their own intuitions. To give an example, sentence (12c) becomes much better if it is supplied with the proper intonation and, to my ears, it is perfectly acceptable if the simple definite is changed to a demonstrative article:

(13)      a.         ..., weil einanderi DIE Fraueni ti NICHT mögen.

            b.         ..., weil einanderi DIESE Fraueni ti NICHT mögen.

If thus (12c) should be truly unacceptable for some speakers (it is not to me), the reason for this may be found in the fact that scrambling is not movement-related (cp. 5.1), but controlled by other, weaker factors.

For the rest of this discussion, I will restrict the data to the simplest constructions possible. Quantification, binding, negation etc. certainly interact with scrambling structures and will have side effects on acceptability judgments. In order to exclude such interferences, I will use only "bare" structures without adjuncts[1], particles, or combinations of definites and indefinites.

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© Philipp Strazny 1997


[1]               It is not clear how adjuncts interact with scrambling. It may be possible that adjuncts are generated in specific positions, so that arguments have to be "scrambled around" an adjunct. However, it may just be as possible that adjunction does not have any bearing on scrambling and that restrictions apply to the place of adjunct insertion. Consider the following structures:

                ..., daß gestern die Prinzessin dem Prinzen das Ja-Wort gegeben hat.

                     that yesterday the princess the prince    the Yes-word given    has

                ..., daß die Prinzessin gestern dem Prinzen das Ja-Wort gegeben hat.

                ..., daß die Prinzessin dem Prinzen gestern das Ja-Wort gegeben hat.

                ..., daß die Prinzessin dem Prinzen das Ja-Wort gestern gegeben hat.

                ..., daß die Prinzessin dem Prinzen das Ja-Wort gegeben hat gestern.

I doubt that the focus potential of the individual constructions (following Höhle 1982) will yield a default adjunct position with any significant degree of certainty.