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  • Fragment Anchors Do Not Support the Syntactic Integration of Appositive Relative Clauses:Reply to Griffiths and De Vries 2013
  • Dennis Ott

Various views exist in the literature about whether parentheticals should be accommodated by syntactic or discursive means (or both). Some (e.g., Safir 1986, Fabb 1990, Haegeman 1991) have suggested, in various ways, that parentheticals are not syntactically integrated into their hosts, but associate with them at some extragrammatical level of (discourse) representation; this has come to be known as the orphan approach to parenthesis. The opposing view (represented by, e.g., Jackendoff 1977, Potts 2005, De Vries 2007, 2012) holds that parataxis is a bona fide syntactic phenomenon and hence that parentheticals are represented as integral constituents of their hosts; call this [End Page 580] the integration approach. Griffiths and De Vries (2013) (henceforth, G&V) have argued that fragment answers furnish evidence for this latter approach, specifically for the syntactic integration of appositive relative clauses (ARCs). G&V claim that their data could not be captured by an orphan approach. In this squib, I show that their argument is inconclusive and fails to support the integration approach.

1 G&V’s Arguments

G&V’s baseline data are the following:

  1. (1).

    1. a. John stole [Mary’s computer], which crashes all the time.

    2. b. [John stole Mary’s computer], which got him arrested.

In (1a), the ARC associates interpretively with the DP anchor Mary’s computer; call this (following G&V) the constituent reading. By contrast, the ARC in (1b) has a propositional reading; that is, it associates with the entire bracketed clause. G&V go on to note a contrast between B’s responses in (2) and those in (3).

  1. (2). A: What did John steal?

    B: Mary’s computer, which crashes all the time.

    B′: Mary’s computer, which got him arrested.

    B″: Mary’s computer, which is awful.

  2. (3). A: Who stole Mary’s computer?

    B: #John, which crashes all the time.

    B′: John, which got him arrested.

    B″: John, which is awful.

While (3B′) is analogous to (2B′) in permitting the propositional reading, (3B) is not analogous to (2B): it only permits a nonsensical constituent reading (with John coerced into an inanimate interpretation), not the meaningful constituent reading of (1a).1 Similarly, the ARC in (3B″) only permits a propositional reading, whereas the one in (2B″) is ambiguous. On the basis of these facts, G&V (p. 335) establish the following descriptive generalization:

  1. (4). An ARC can only surface next to an anchor [the ARC’s host constituent] that is at least partially overt.

G&V claim that (4) follows directly from a Par-Merge approach, according to which an ARC and its anchor are related by a functional head Par, creating a configuration that is said to be abstractly analogous to coordination (more on this in section 3).

  1. (5). [ParP [XP anchor] [Par Par ARC]] [End Page 581]

By contrast, G&V argue, (4) could not be accounted for on an orphan analysis of ARCs, according to which ARCs are not structurally connected to their anchors. On the Par-Merge approach, the propositional reading in (2B′) and (3B′) is derived as follows (here and throughout, angled brackets indicate deletion; trace notation is used for expository convenience):

  1. (6).

    1. a. [ParP [CP [Mary’s computer]i [〈John stole ti〉]] [Par Par [ARC which got him arrested]]]

    2. b. [ParP [CP Johni [〈ti stole Mary’s computer〉]] [Par Par [ARC which got him arrested]]]

Following Merchant’s (2004) analysis of short answers, G&V assume that the DP anchor undergoes evacuation movement out of TP, which subsequently deletes; the ARC is coordinated with the entire clause. To derive the constituent reading in (2B), G&V assume that the entire ParP evacuates from TP, and the ARC is coordinated with the DP Mary’s computer.

  1. (7). [CP [ParP [Mary’s computer] [Par Par [ARC which crashes all the time]]]i [〈John stole ti〉]]

Crucially now, G&V argue that deriving the meaningful constituent reading in (3B) would require nonconstituent deletion. As shown in (8), this reading would require the ARC to be “coordinated” with the DP Mary’s computer (as in (5)); as a...


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pp. 580-590
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