The That-Trace Effect: Evidence from Spanish–English Code-Switching
Bradley Hoot, Shane Ebert
November 2021

The that-trace effect is the fact that many languages (like English) ban the extraction of embedded-clause subjects but not objects over an overt complementizer like that, while many other languages (like Spanish) allow such extractions. The effect and its cross-linguistic variation have been the subject of intense research but remain largely a mystery, with no clear consensus on their underpinnings. We contribute novel evidence to these debates by using Spanish–English code- switching (the use of two languages in one sentence) to test five contemporary theoretical accounts of the that-trace effect. We conducted a formal acceptability judgment experiment, manipulating the extracted argument and code-switch site to test different combinations of linguistic features. We found that subject extraction is only permitted in Spanish–English code-switching when both the C head (que ‘that’) and the T head (i.e., the verb) are in Spanish, but not when either functional head is in English. Our results demonstrate indirect support for two of the five theories we test, failing to support the other three. Our findings also provide new evidence in favor of the view that the that-trace effect is tightly linked to the availability of post-verbal subjects. Finally, we outline how our results can narrow the range of possible theoretical accounts, demonstrating how code-switching data can contribute to core questions in linguistic theory.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006332
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Languages
keywords: that-trace effect, code-switching, anti-locality, criterial freezing, syntax/prosody interface, labeling, comp-trace, experimental syntax, acceptability judgment task, syntax
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