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Title: The Minimal Revolution
Authors: Miechowicz-Mathiasen, Katarzyna
Issue Date: 2005
Citation: Linguae Mundi, 2005, 2: 91-123
Abstract: The earliest work on minimalism presenting its most general ideas and assumptions is Chomsky’s (1993) paper entitled “A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory” (MPLT). As Chomsky puts it, the paper is just a sketch of the program. Careful analyses of certain problematic areas faced by the previous forms of the generative framework the Government and Binding Theory (in Lectures on Government and Binding, Chomsky 1981) and the Principles and Parameters Theory (in Principles and Parameters in Comparative Grammar Chomsky 1991) contributed to the formation of the Minimalist Program. Chomsky points out the most important changes introduced to the generative approach via the Minimalist Program as well as the problematic aspects haunting the theory. The goal of this paper is firstly to present the ideas as they were introduced and developed by Chomsky and others, and, secondly, to provide analyses of their application in a description of concrete linguistic phenomena. Chomsky concludes his MPLT paper naming the leading assumptions constituting the Minimalist Program, quoting Chomsky (1993, in Chomsky 1995: 212): i. A linguistic expression (SD) is a pair (π, λ) generated by an optimal derivation satisfying interface conditions. ii. The interface levels are the only levels of linguistic representation. iii. All conditions express properties of the interface levels, reflecting interpretive requirements. iv. UG provides a unique computational system, with derivations driven by morphological properties to which syntactic variation of languages is restricted. v. Economy can be given a fairly narrow interpretation in terms of FI, length of derivation, length of links, and Greed. All of the above ideas entail reanalysis of a substantial amount of data as well as reformulation of certain rules and conditions. They entail reduction of the levels of syntactic representation provided by the Extended Standard Theory (D-Structure, S-Structure, Logical Form and Phonetic Form) leaving only two of them, namely, the interface levels of Logical Form (LF) and Phonetic Form (PF). Derivations are supposed to satisfy conditions applying only on the aforementioned interface levels, hence conditions previously holding at D-Structure and S-Structure must be reformulated in terms of minimalist assumptions and proved to apply on the remaining interface levels, at LF to be precise. The conditions are restricted to interpretation, namely, only legitimate objects bearing interpretable features are allowed at each of the interface levels. The convergence principle requiring legitimate objects on the interface levels is referred to as Full Interpretation. Any object entering LF or PF equipped with a feature that is uninterpretable on any of the respective levels will cause a crash of a given derivation. Derivations are said to be driven by the need of satisfaction of morphological features, hence any performed movement must satisfy a morphological feature of the moved element (Greed; Chomsky 1993: 266). Economy principles concern both representations and derivations. With respect to representations we apply the aforementioned principle of Full Interpretation (FI), with respect to derivations we will discuss principles such as Shortest Move, Fewest Steps, Procrastinate and Greed. All of these call for a thorough investigation and research. Chomsky’s presentation of the problems along with some of his proposed possible solutions in MPLT paper leave a lot of material for further analyses and justification and it is the goal of this paper to address the problems as fully as possible. The problems will be presented in the following fashion: firstly, we discuss the minimization of the levels of syntactic representation along with the consequences this step entails; secondly, we are going to present the way in which phrase structure within the minimalist framework is built up and show the workings of the computational system both in the overt and covert component; thirdly, we are going to examine the reasons behind movement in syntax and introduce the concept of feature checking (Checking Theory) in minimalism; lastly, we are going to put forward a detailed discussion on economy principles in the Minimalist Program and provide reanalysis of the well-known problematic structures that can now be accounted for by the economy conditions.
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