The Strong Minimalist Thesis is too strong: syntax is more than just Merge
Deniz Satik
June 2022

This paper argues that the Strong Minimalist Thesis (SMT) is false. I do so by pointing out that the SMT entails two undesirable consequences: first, the SMT assumes that the Borer-Chomsky Conjecture is true; in other words, that all syntactic variation across languages is due to the lexicon. Second, it assumes that there can be no ordering restrictions on Merge, because it would imply the existence of a linguistically proprietary entity that is not simply Merge. I first present recent crosslinguistic evidence from the literature based on case and agreement that the Borer-Chomsky Conjecture alone is not sufficient to account for syntactic variation, based on Baker (2008)’s survey on case and agreement. I then present evidence for the existence of ordering restrictions on Merge, based on Rizzi (1997)’s cartographic distinction between high and low complementizers. I argue that this distinction is attested crosslinguistically, and is purely syntactic, and it cannot be accounted for via interface factors or via principles of efficient computation. I conclude that these independent problems raise puzzles for saltationist theories of language evolution like Berwick & Chomsky (2016).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006643
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: This is a rough first draft. Comments very much appreciated!
keywords: minimalism, strong minimalist thesis, language evolution, parameters, merge, cartography, syntax
previous versions: v1 [June 2022]
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