Compositional trace conversion

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Robert Pasternak


In order to eliminate traces as stipulated grammatical objects, syntactic movement has been reformulated in terms of multiple-merge: it is the result of the same constituent being merged into the structure multiple times, using either copies or multidominance structures. In spite of their empirical and conceptual advantages, multiple-merge theories pose known challenges for the semantic interpretation of movement, as there are no variable-denoting traces in lower positions. The most common means of resolving this conundrum is trace conversion (Fox 2002, 2003), in which either a syntactic operation makes alterations at lower merge sites in order to generate trace-like interpretations, or the semantics behaves as if such a syntactic operation had occurred. In this paper I discuss problems faced by presently formulated versions of trace conversion and propose an alternative, compositional trace conversion, in which multiple-merge structures can be directly interpreted in a straightforwardly compositional manner. This approach is shown to generalize well, extending to modals and degree phrases as well as DPs.

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