Experimental syntax and Island effects: Toward a comprehensive theory of Islands

Jon Sprouse, Norbert Hornstein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One of the most pervasive properties of human language is the existence of dependencies: necessary relationships that hold between two elements in a sentence. The primary objects of study in this volume are long-distance “fillergap” dependencies – a special subset of dependencies that are not constrained by standard measures of length such as number of words or number of clauses. For example, wh-questions in English (1) contain a long-distance dependency between the wh-word at the beginning of the sentence and a theta-role assigning element (such as a verb or preposition) later in the sentence that selects the wh-word as a semantic argument. We will adopt a relatively theory-neutral terminology and call the end of this dependency the gap position, indicated by an underscore in examples. The pattern in (1a–1c) suggests that long-distance dependency between wh-words and gap positions in English can be separated by any number of embedded sentences. a. What does Susan think that John bought __? b. What does Sarah believe that Susan thinks that John bought __? c. What does Bill claim that Sarah believes that Susan thinks that John bought __?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExperimental Syntax and Island Effects
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781139035309
ISBN (Print)9781107008700
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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