Ā-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 Ā-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 Ā-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.

I have subsequently developed this anti-locality approach to a range of subject extraction asymmetries, including complementizer-trace (that-trace) effects, anti-agreement effects, and Highest Subject Restrictions on optional resumption.

In recent joint work with Kenyon Branan, we question whether the opposite possibility is true: that subjects behave differently for Ā-extraction because they are the closest DP to a probe. We have convinced ourselves that there are languages which indeed exhibit such behavior. (See also Kenyon’s “Locality and anti-locality” paper for thoughts on how these two pressures if anti-locality and locality can both hold true at the same time, and the non-trivial results that can be derived in such a world.)

In 2017, I hosted a Workshop on Quirks of Subject Extraction, which brought together a group of established and emerging experts on the cross-linguistic landscape of subject extraction asymmetries, their theory, and implications. I myself presented my anti-locality work there. Following the workshop, I will be editing a special issue of Glossa on Subject Extraction.

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