Towards the unity of movement: implication from verb movement in Cantonese
Tommy Tsz-Ming Lee
June 2022

Displacement (of linguistic expressions) is a ubiquitous phenomenon in natural language. In the generative tradition, displacement is modelled in terms of transformation, or more precisely, movement, which establishes dependencies among syntactic constituents in a phrase structure. This thesis probes the question regarding to what extent movement theories can be unified. Specifically, I ad- dress issues surrounding the debate of the distinction between head movement and phrasal movement over the past few decades. The distinction presupposes that structural complexity of the moving el- ement is correlated with its movement properties. The goal of this thesis is to show that this is an unwarranted assumption. Based on a number of case studies on verb displacement phenomena in Cantonese, I attempt a unified theory of movement by abandoning the head/phrase distinction in movement theories. Particularly, I show (i) that verbs in Cantonese can undergo syntactic move- ment to the peripheral position of a sentence and is subject to general locality/minimality constraints on movement, and (ii) that their movement may affect semantic interpretation, leading to discourse effects and scope effects that are commonly observed in phrasal movement. I further argue, with evi- dence from linearization, that head movement and phrasal movement in Cantonese are subject to the same mechanism when determining the pronunciation of the movement chains. These observations converge on the conclusion that the phrase structure status of syntactic constituents bears a minimal role in theorizing displacement phenomena in natural language. This thesis represents a minimalist pursuit of a unified theory of movement.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006675
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: USC Dissertation
keywords: head movement, locality, interpretive effects, doubling, phrasal movement, unity of movement, syntax
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