Minimalist Syntax is psychologically real: Lessons from (counter)cyclicity
Michael Diercks, Madeline Bossi
January 2021
 

This manuscript proposes a motivation for relaxing the Strong Minimalist Thesis (Chomsky 2001) to include counter-cyclic operations, allowing for the analysis of constructions requiring Late Merger and look-ahead (for example). The motivation rests in a specific interpretation of the bottom-up Merge-based structure-building of Minimalist syntax: we propose Derivational Minimalist Syntax (DMS), an interpretive principle claiming that the sequence of structure-building operations in the derivation of a sentence directly correlates with the sequence in which those structures are acquired by children (with Merge-based syntax being the primary mechanism for grammaticalizing language input). This correlation arises because mechanisms/operations of Universal Grammar are language acquisition devices; specifically, they are mechanisms for children to grammaticalize patterns they encounter in their input during acquisition. Thus, adult grammatical knowledge contains earlier stages of grammatical knowledge, and retains that knowledge, which is evidenced in the derivational sequence of a Minimalist syntactic analysis. On this approach, counter-cyclic operations in adult grammars are the result of grammatical patterns being acquired ``earlier'' or ``later'' than a strict application of bottom-up structure building would require. We offer several case studies to show that these predictions are largely upheld, and discuss various potential extensions of the DMS framework. If found to be supported under additional investigation, DMS will offer a glimpse of how to translate the findings of generative syntax to non-syntacticians and to researchers on cognition outside of linguistics. This manuscript is a first draft of a project that’s been underway (on and off) for many years; comments and critiques are very welcome.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005671
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: TBD
keywords: countercyclicity, merge, smt, minimalist, construction grammar, acquisition, countercyclic, late merger, wholesale late merger, look-ahead, syntax
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