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Share Paper 3182

The Emergence of the Infinitival Left Periphery
Joachim Sabel
313-322 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The languages of the world differ with respect as to whether they allow for infinitival interrogatives and infinitival relative clauses. In order to explain this variation, I postulate the "Wh-Infinitive-Generalization" that links the (non‑)availability of infinitival interrogatives and infinitival relatives to morphological properties of the infinitival C-system. Based on synchronic and diachronic evidence, it is shown that wh-infinitives as well as infinitival relatives are impossible in languages in which the left periphery of the infinitive cannot be occupied by a phonetically realized infinitival complementizer. In contrast, languages with wh-infinitives do exhibit infinitival complementizers. In order to derive the "Wh-Infinitive-Generalization", I argue that infinitival C0 is "defective" in languages without wh-infinitives (/ infinitival relatives) where "defective" infinitival C0 is understood in analogy to defective T0def (see Chomsky 2000, 2001, 2008), i.e. C0def cannot bear the complete range of features specific for C0 (i.e. [focus]-, [wh]-, [topic]-, and [pred]-features). As a consequence, the specifier of C0def like the specifier of T0def may serve only as an intermediate but not as a final landing site of movement.

Published in

Proceedings of the 32nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Ulrike Steindl, Thomas Borer, Huilin Fang, Alfredo García Pardo, Peter Guekguezian, Brian Hsu, Charlie O'Hara, and Iris Chuoying Ouyang
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00