Speaker: Stefan Keine (UMass Amherst)

When: Monday February 8, 3:30pm

Where: Arts Building, 145

Title: Selective Opacity


In this talk, I develop a systematic account of selective opacity effects, wherein one and the same constituent is opaque for one operation but transparent for another. Classical observations of selective opacity lie in the realm of movement. Finite clauses, for instance, are opaque for A-movement but transparent for A’-movement. This pattern generalizes above and beyond the A/A’-distinction. Recent research has shown that locality mismatches between movement types are not arbitrary, but subject to systematic restrictions (Williams 2003, 2011, Abels 2007, 2012, Müller 2014). For example, recent research has argued that the locality of a movement type is related to the height of its landing site in the clausal spine: Movement that targets a structurally high position (like A’-movement) is able to escape more domains that movement that lands in a structurally low position (like A-movement).
I propose an account of selective opacity that not only allows for locality mismatches, but also derives restrictions on these mismatches. First, based on a case study of selective opacity in Hindi/Urdu, I show that the phenomenon is not restricted to movement, but also encompasses phi-agreement and in-situ wh-licensing. Second, I conclude from this insight that selective opacity involves a restriction in the operation Agree, not movement itself. In particular, I propose that Agree-probes differ in what constituents they may or may not search into. Third, I show how this account derives various restrictions on locality mismatches. For example, it derives in a principled way the connection between a probe’s structural height and its locality profile.
In this way, the account unifies, in a systematic and novel way, selective opacity across operations and constructions, mismatches between the locality of movement and agreement, and intricate interactions between movement types and agreement.