A structural asymmetry in intervention effects

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This paper documents a previously unnoted structural asymmetry among wh-phrases with respect to intervention effects. I show in a series of experiments (phonetic and syntactic) that in Korean (and potentially in Japanese and Turkish), only wh-phrases that are base generated in a structurally low position trigger intervention effects while wh-phrases generated in a high position do not. I show that these structural positions do not align with expectations from work on weak island effects: it is the syntactic position, not the semantic type, of the wh-phrase that matters. This result supports an important insight that the sensitivity to IEs does not necessarily depend on the argument-adjunct difference (Rizzi, 1992; Miyagawa, 2002). I further show how these empirical contrasts are accounted for along the lines of the earlier work on intervention effects, which made use of structural constraints stated over LF representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)942-962
Number of pages21
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Intervention effects
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Low/high wh-phrase
  • Syntactic constraint


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