'Tough' complementation and the extraclausal propagation of argument descriptions





The complement structure of tough constructions containing VP complements with gap sites linked to the tough predicate subject has been subject to considerable discussion in the syntactic literature, with an apparent consensus that in John is easy for us to please, for us is a PP constituent which controls the subject specification of the following infinitival constituent. I reexamine the classical arguments for this position, including Bresnan's seminal 1971 paper which first argued for this control structure analysis, and argue that none of these arguments are empirically tenable. In all cases, data exist which convincingly undermine central claims or assumptions, and hence there turns out to be no convincing reason to prefer the control structure over the clausal analysis, introduced in Postal's 1971 monograph on crossover and defended in the Gazdar et al. monograph on generalized phrase structure grammar, in which for us to please is a clausal complement to easy. I then offer a number of arguments for the superiority of the clausal analysis, appealing to data from comparatives, parasitic gap constructions and extraposition. My claim that tough complementation of the kind alluded to is clausal must, if sound, be compatible with standardly assumed semantics for these constructions, in which the subject of the complement clause must also serve as an argument of the tough predicate — a conclusion seemingly at odds with a clausal complement syntax. The difficulty is that a constituent whose denotation is one of the terms in the relation denoted by the tough predicate must be retrieved from with a clause, where it is presumably inaccessible under normal Montegovian compositional assumptions. I offer further cross-linguistic evidence based on Guyanese Creole that such an apparent conflict between syntax and semantics is unavoidable, and then offer a syntactic solution, based on work by Detmar Meurers which posits a HEAD feature for verbs structure-shared with their SUBJspecification. This device, which also can be argued for in English on the basis of the Richard construction and several other phenomena, offers a way for information about the subject to be accessible to specifications of the selecting head in a way which compromises locality to the minimal extent possible.




How to Cite

Levine, Robert D. 2001. ’Tough’ complementation and the extraclausal propagation of argument descriptions . The Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar 214–228. (doi:10.21248/hpsg.2000.13) (https://proceedings.hpsg.xyz/article/view/507) (Accessed September 22, 2023.)