A’-extraction of subjects is cross-linguistically marked, requiring a difference in complementizer or verbal morphology. I put forward the hypothesis that many such quirks of subject extraction result from an anti-locality constraint on A’-movement which blocks movement which is too short; specifically, subject movement from Spec,TP to Spec,CP is blocked, necessitating the use of an additional strategy for subject extraction.
This view is motivated by my work on Agent Focus in Kaqchikel (Mayan; Guatemala). Kaqchikel is a morphologically ergative Mayan language where the A’-extraction of subjects of transitives (ergative arguments) requires special verbal morphology, known as Agent Focus (AF). Through my fieldwork on Kaqchikel, I discovered cases where the extraction of an ergative subject does not require AF. In particular, when additional clausal material is projected between the base position of the ergative subject and its landing site, AF becomes unnecessary and in fact impossible. I propose an anti-locality-based solution in my Natural Language & Linguistic Theory paper, which also accounts for the distribution of AF in certain person agreement combinations.
“Anti-locality and optimality in Kaqchikel Agent Focus.”
Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 34:2, pages 429–479.
“Restructuring and Agent Focus in Kaqchikel.”
Paper presented at The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas.
“Anti-Locality and Kaqchikel Agent Focus.”
Proceedings of the 31st West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 31), pages 150–159.
“Dissociating the syntax and morphological realization of Kaqchikel Agent Focus.”
Studies in Kaqchikel Grammar, pages 25–50.
I have also applied this anti-locality approach to the English that-trace effect and am currently exploring further applications of this approach to so-called "anti-agreement" and highest subject restriction phenomena.
“Why the null complementizer is special in complementizer-trace effects.”
A Pesky Set: Papers for David Pesetsky, pages 371–380.