Weak Islands, Individuals, and Scope

Anna Szabolcsi
1992 Semantics and Linguistic Theory  
This paper outlines a semantic approach to weak islands, a phenomenon that has traditionally been thought of as purely syntactic. Weak islands are environments that allow some, but not other, wh-phrases to extract. E.g., (l) Which mani are you wondering [whether to invite -J! (2) * How; are you wondering [whether to behave -.]? Two proposals will be considered. The first was developed in Zwarts (1990, 1991). It took the syntactic theory of Relativized Minimality as a point of departure, and
more » ... terpreted its generalizations as follows: (3) Wh-phrases that are sensitive to weak islands are the ones that range over partially ordered domains, rather than discrete individuals. (4) Weak islands are environments in which the interveners between the wh-phrase and its trace cannot be composed into an upward monotone function. (5) The link between (3) and (4) is that only upward monotone functions preserve partial ordering. This proposal, in particular (4) and (5) , has certain descriptive and conceptual shortcomings, however. These point to a revision in terms of scope. The characterization of island-sensitive phrases in (3) is retained, but its significance is explicated in terms of the impoverished structure semi-lattices have. (6) The weak island effect comes about when the wh-phrase should take wide scope over some operator but it is unable to. (7) For a wh-phrase to take wide scope over another scope bearing element SBE means that operations associated with SBE need to be performed in the domain of wh in order to compute an answer. When a wh-phrase ranges over discrete individuals, these can be collected into unordered sets. All Boolean operations can be performed on sets. When a wh-phrase does not range over discrete ' This research is part of a larger project with Frans Zwarts. I wish to thank him, of the UCLA Linguistics community for recent discussions. All errors are my own.
doi:10.3765/salt.v2i0.3044 fatcat:v55xxccwmvh4tb2jfw47jg2boe