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MOVEMENT RULES IN FUNCTIONAL PERSPECTIVE Ronald W. Langacker University of California, San Diego This paper offers a functional explanation for the existence and for the special properties of movement rules in natural languages. A survey of reasonably wellestablished movement transformations in English reveals certain asymmetries in the classes of such rules encountered empirically and in their formal properties. It is argued that the special formal properties of backing rules correlate with their function , which is different from the function of raising, lowering, and fronting rules. The latter three types can be given a uniform functional characterization in terms of the notion Objective content', a notion that has figured prominently, though implicitly, in the history of generative grammar. This notion is discussed in preliminary terms, as is that of relative 'prominence', whose syntactic relevance has been clearly established . The hypothesis is advanced that raising, lowering, and fronting rules all serve the function of increasing the prominence of objective content in surface structure. This hypothesis accounts for the asymmetries noted in regard to the movement rules of English, and it also provides a motivated explanation for the fact that backing rules are upward bounded. Movement rules are shown to be only one facet of a broad conspiracy to ensure the surface prominence of objective content. This conspiracy is further explored in the context of information theory and generative semantics. During the briefhistory oftransformational grammar, the concerns ofthis school of linguistic thought have broadened dramatically. The perspective of Chomsky 1957 and other early transformational works was narrowly syntactic and formalistic , though one can hardly deny the insightful character of this research. Today, however, generative grammarians are concerned with phonological, intonational, lexical, semantic, contextual, and functional matters to such an extent that syntactic questions per se have largely been overshadowed. Indeed, in view of what we have learned in the last few years, it is difficult to conceive of any further substantial progress in syntactic theory and description being made in isolation from these other domains. Functional studies are particularly fascinating, because they offer some hope of explaining 'why' languages have certain properties, and 'why' somehow seems a more exciting question than 'what'. A simple and familiar example showing the relevance of functional considerations to syntactic analysis is provided by complement clauses headed by the subordinator that. It is well known that the complementizer that may normally be deleted when it heads an object complement clause, or a subject complement clause which has been extraposed:1 (1)My daughter believes (that) I'm too old to play rugby. (2)It is apparent (that) he has never played rugby before. 1 As the following examples show, that occasionally cannot be deleted in extraposed complement clauses: *It is well known the complementizer that may normally be deleted. *It has been established the Ziegenfluss hypothesis is false. *It has been shown conclusively mice are prolific breeders. This class of exceptions is probably semantically based. 630 MOVEMENT RULES IN FUNCTIONAL PERSPECTIVE631 However, that-deletion is not permitted in non-extraposed subject clauses : (3)That he has never played rugby before is apparent. (4)*He has never played rugby before is apparent. Viewed in purely syntactic terms, the non-deletability of that in 3 is surprising and must be treated as exceptional in some fashion—hardly a satisfying state of affairs. On the other hand, a functional perspective enables us to begin to explain why English should observe this restriction. If /Aai-deletion were permitted in nonextraposed subject complement clauses, the resulting surface structures, such as 4, would present the language user with certain processing difficulties ; in this instance, the listener would naturally hypothesize (mistakenly) that He has never ... initiates the main clause, since nothing would signal its subordinate status until later in the sentence. The retention of that in sentence-initial complement clauses enables the listener to avoid this processing error; but in sentences like 1-2, where the previous context {My daughter believes, It is apparent) makes it clear that a following clause will be subordinate, that is in a sense superfluous and thus may be omitted.2 This functional explanation does not necessarily make the irregularity go away, but somehow we feel better knowing that it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 630-664
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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