Zero Categories in Syntax

There is an opinion that Universal Grammar includes mechanisms of only three types: Merge, Move and Spell-out (I am not touching recent attempts to present Merge and Move as two variants of the same operation).

In my book ‘Typological Scandinavian Syntax’, published in 2002 I expressed exactly the same thought, cf. [Zimmerling 2002: 25, 561]. My equivalent for Spell-out theories was ‘theories of syntactic incompleteness’ (Rus. теории синтаксической неполноты). A crucial problem of every Spell-out theory is how to distinguish facts classified with elliptical representations in the pre-generative period vs. non-elliptical representations of syntactic structures with zero (or covert) categories. My experience shows that zero categories may be introduced to some structuralist conceptions of language (cf. Charles Bally, Roman Jakobson and Igor Mel’chuk). At the same time, some generative theoreticians try to get rid of or at least minimize the application of zero categories compared with their standard set accepted in the Chomskyan framework. There are, of course, theory-internal issues of the type, whether one should apply to zero insertion in the derivation of given phrases or not, whether we may call the covert subject of an embedded clause big PRO, if this clause has a finite, not infinite verbal form, etc. There are also technical tasks with establishing the exact amount of syntactic zeros in applied linguistics. But I am more concerned with the status of zeros in fundamental syntax, their categorial features, behaviour and verificability. I would also like to establish, whether zero categories postulated in one formal theory may be introduced into other formal theories which proceed from different basic assumption: a state-of-the-art constatation is that different versions of a Spell-out theory are illustrated by slightly different facts.

Zero Categories and Theta-roles

One of my research interests is the status of zero syntactic categories in formal theories of grammar. In theories of one type zero categories may bee associated with particular role-and-reference features, in theories of the other type it is excluded.

See my papers on Zero pronouns in the Meaning-Text Framework (2007) and a draft from Katznelson’s conference in Sankt-Petersburg the same year.





See also the embedded pages.

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