Arguments for top-down derivations in syntax

Robert Frank, Hadas Kotek


This paper argues for a top-down approach to syntactic structure building, instead of the more popularly assumed bottom-up approach. We present phenomena where properties of a higher structure condition elements or operations in a lower domain. The opposite pattern is, we claim, much rarer and more restricted. This follows from a top-down approach, given the relative time at which elements are integrated into the structure. Bottom-up derivations, in contrast, would naturally lead to opposite predictions. Our goal is not to show that bottom-up theories cannot explain the facts, but rather that a top-down account is more natural and less stipulative.


top-down vs. bottom-up; derivational timing; superiority; negative concord; sequence of tense; resumptive pronouns

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