Syntactic doubling and deletion as a source of variation

S. Barbiers

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The central hypothesis of this paper is that syntactic doubling is necessary for full interpretation at LF, while deletion of locally redundant material is possible and sometimes necessary at PF. This was called the Doubling and Deletion hypothesis (DaD). According to this hypothesis, syntactic doubling is a core property of the syntax of natural language and in interaction with deletion an important source of cross-linguistic and intralinguistic variation. Two main types of syntactic doubling configurations are discussed. The first type involves monadic predication configurations, in which the two local arguments of a predicative head are formally identical. For such configurations, the DaD-hypothesis is shown to make precise predictions with respect to the typology of head marking, dependent marking and juxtaposition, and with respect to the properties of diachronic cycles such as the Jespersen cycle. The second type of doubling configuration involves focus particles, which are analyzed as quantifiers, i.e. relations between two sets and therefore require two arguments in syntax. When they are attached to constituents such as DPs and PPs, they have only one argument, and doubling of the focus particle and movement of the lower particle to the higher one is necessary for full semantic interpretation. This is shown to resolve the distributional paradox known from the focus particle literature, and to explain the variation patterns found in Duch focus particle constructions. It is further shown that focus particles behave parallel to negation in this respect, which raises the question why variation in the spell out of negation is sensitive to sociolinguistic factors such as geographic location, while variation in spell out of focus particles does not seem to be sensitive to such factors. It is tentatively suggested that this is due to the higher relative frequency of negative sentences as compared to sentences with focus particles, under the assumption that a type of construction has to reach a certain frequency threshold for it to be prone to sociolinguistic differentiation. The DaD-hypothesis defines a research program in that it predicts the existence of many other cases of hidden syntactic doubling. The program invites reconsideration of analyses of criterial movement proposed in the literature (e.g. focus negation Wh). The DaD-hypothesis should be tested against diachronic cycles such as the Jespersen cycle, pro-drop and agreement cycles, and Preposition-Case cycles.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLinguistic Variation in the Minimalist Framework
EditorsM. Carme Picallo
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-870289-4
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameOxford Linguistics


  • syntactic doubling, deletion, cyclic change, focus particles, negation, syntactic variation


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