Click here to fill out our survey for the 2024/25 essay competition!

Passives in Extended Dynamic Antisymmetry

This paper proposes a new derivation for English passives in accordance with Extended Dynamic Antisymmetry (EDA) (Moro & Roberts, forthcoming) and Problems of Projection (Chomsky, 2013; 2015). In these theories, movement is triggered by the labelling requirement in symmetric (XP YP or X Y) configurations. Such approaches to movement are arguably theoretically superior to traditional feature-driven approaches, but their empirical coverage is currently minimal. Extending their coverage is desirable to help develop an elegant and unified theory of movement. I apply EDA to passives, thus analysing passive constructions more elegantly, according to the minimalist goals of theoretical elegance and explanatory value. I argue that the passive construction derives from the same underlying structure as the active, but that they differ as to which constituent moves to resolve the symmetric structure. This derivation translates den Dikken’s (2020) approach to actives and passives as canonical and reverse predication structures into an EDA framework, as predication structures are represented as symmetric structures in EDA. To analyse passives in this way, it is necessary to consider the by-phrase an argument as in Collins (2005) or den Dikken (2020) as opposed to an adjunct, which is commonly assumed. After arguing for symmetry-based approaches to movement and discussing existing analyses of the passive construction, I examine data concerning the nature of the by-phrase with a focus on binding and control. I argue that the by-phrase is best analysed as an argument as opposed to an adjunct. Subsequently, I combine these insights on passives with the theory of EDA, suggesting two possible derivations for English passives. These make use of atomisation (Fowlie, 2013) – a process transforming an XP into a syntactic atom at Spellout – and smuggling (Collins, 2005) – an operation enabling a constituent to move over an intervener – respectively. I extend these two analyses to passives of ditransitives, i.e., the passive counterparts to IO and to constructions. The atomisation approach appears to fare better than the smuggling one, particularly in the case of ditransitives, though there are intervention issues as the IA must move over the EA. For this reason, I suggest considering approaches such as den Dikken (2020) or Bowers (2010), in which the EA is generated below the IA, in more depth, despite them not conforming to traditional assumptions about clause structure. Lastly, I believe that Fowlie’s (2013) atomisation has promising further applications to EDA, as it effectively turns an XP into an X.

References:
Bowers, J. (2010). Arguments as Relations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Chomsky, N. (2013). Problems of projection. Lingua, 130, 33–49.
Chomsky, N. (2015). Problems of projection: Extensions. In E. Di Domenico, C. Hamann, &
S. Matteini (Eds.), Structures, Strategies and Beyond: Studies in honour of Adriana
Belletti (pp. 29–42). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Collins, C. (2005). A smuggling approach to the passive in English. Syntax, 8, 81–120.
den Dikken, M. (2020). Canonical and reverse predication in the syntax of the active/passive
diathesis alternation. In A. Belletti & C. Collins (Eds.), Smuggling in syntax (pp. 147–187). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fowlie, M. (2013). Multiple multiple spellout. In T. Biberauer & I. Roberts (Eds.), Challenges to Linearization (pp. 129–170). Boston: De Gruyter, Inc. 
Moro, A., & Roberts, I. (forthcoming). Unstable structures and Extended Dynamic Antisymmetry.