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English Locative Inversion without Inversion

Schuyler Laparle
University of California, Berkeley
December 7, 2018 - 1:30pm
Margaret Jacks Hall, Greenberg Room (460-126)

This talk addresses the long-standing and well-studied issue of Locative Inversion in English (LI) –  structures in which a PP is preposed and the notional DP subject remains in a postverbal position; e.g. Next to Sheriff Truman stood a one-armed man. Though the literature on this topic is large, LI remains an unsolved problem in English syntax. I am adding to this literature by proposing a novel analysis of English LI in the Minimalist framework that reconsiders the base-generation site of the PP. In doing so I question a basic premise of previous analyses which assume that LI constructions are derived from the same underlying structure as their canonical counterparts (cf. A one-armed man stood next to Sheriff Truman). I instead argue the following:

• The PP in LI base-generates in Spec,vP of unaccusative verbs, in the same position as presentational-there (Deal 2009).
• The PP in LI moves to subject position in Spec,TP
• LI in English does not consist of syntactic inversion.
• Contra Bruening (2010), LI and there-insertion are in complementary distribution.

In addition to straightforwardly following Minimalist principles (i.e. satisfying the EPP on T, and abiding by Economy and Locality of movement (Chomsky 2001)), this analysis offers solutions to otherwise unsolved or undiscussed phenomena in English LI, including NPI licensing, a lack of preposition stranding in wh-question formation, and the restriction to intransitive verbs of location or direction (Bresnan 1994). I end the talk by discussing two open questions: how the verb agrees with the DP rather than the PP, and whether truly unergative verbs can participate in LI.

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