Edinburgh Research Explorer

Treegrowth Dynamics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Open Access permissions



  • Download as Adobe PDF

    Rights statement: © Kempson, R., Cann, R., & Marten, L. (2013). Treegrowth Dynamics. STiL - Studies in Linguistics, 6, 49-81.

    Accepted author manuscript, 897 KB, PDF document

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-81
Number of pages32
JournalSTiL - Studies in Linguistics
Publication statusPublished - 2013


In this paper we address the challenge of clitic clusters in Romance languages and the puzzling gaps in the clitic templates which they display, and show how the distribution of clitics and these apparent gaps are grounded in one and the same structural restriction: a restriction on tree-growth. This parsing-inspired restriction states that in building up structurally underspecified relations, only one such relative weak relation can be constructed at a time. This is a core restriction underpinning concepts of tree growth central to the Dynamic Syntax framework which argues that natural-langage syntax is grounded in tree growth mechanisms that reflect on-line processing dynamics. We apply this constraint to explain the restriction on the morphological clitic templates of Romance currently referred to as the Person Case Constraint (PCC). We show that the explanation of such gaps in terms of preclusion of more than one structurally weak relation is grounded in the diachronic calcification of tree-growth strategies that had earlier constituted a freely available set of options for building up interpretation via flexible word orders, individual clitics and clitic clusters severally displaying the various strategies. Apparent counterexamples to the constraint are explained in terms of the availability of an alternative adjunct strategy not involving any such underspecification which, in those languages apparently violating the constraints, had led to homonymy in the clitic system. Finally, the force of the structural basis for the PCC is buttressed by the demonstration of its applicability to explain the object-marking puzzle of Otjiherero, a Bantu language which, despite allowing construal of object agreement markers as both indirect and direct object, never allows both to be co-present.

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 19975665