Movement paradox

There are a number of problems with the idea that things move around in the syntax. As mentioned, a lot of people find it completely unbelievable. Matching, rather than movement, seems like a much more natural explanation in many cases. Also, some of the movement explanations are not very strong. Let us look at the following sentence again:

1. Which books do you know where Taro bought?

In this sentence, we expect the moved wh- words to get in each other’s way and make the sentence ungrammatical. However, it doesn’t actually seem that bad at all. In fact, a lot of people think it sounds perfectly all right.

A lot of people think the sentence is all right. If it IS grammatical, the movement to special landing places (Spec CP) explanation seems a bit weak.

Also, consider the following sentences:

2. He isn’t the boss.

3. Isn’t he the boss?

In 2 and 3, we can just move the negative verb isn’t to make the question.

Words like is or am link subjects with object NPs or APs. Here am is in some kind of verb-related position. It doesn’t matter much for this explanation so let’s keep it simple.

Now let’s see what happens if the verbal expression is am rather than is.

3. I am the boss.

4. Am I the boss?

We don’t seem to have any trouble moving the verbal expression am in 3 and 4. However, look what happens if the verbal element is a negative.

Every student of English knows that if you try to make a question out of this kind of sentence, you have to change things a bit.

5. I am not the boss.

6. Am I not the boss?

7. I’m not the boss.

8. Aren’t I the boss?

9. *’m not I the boss?

10. *mn’t I the boss?

In 7, 8, 9, and 10 we can see a clear mismatch depending on the  position of the verbal expression.

There’s a clear mismatch. If the negative verbal element is in its base position, it’s ‘m not. If it’s moved, it’s aren’t. Why is that? Whatever is happening, it seems that it is not exactly movement.

Anyway, here’s a link to my PowerPoint slides. Have fun!