Dominance and the Functional Explanation of Island Phenomena

Nomi Erteschik-Shir, Shalom Lappin

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103 Scopus citations


In this paper, we argue that syntactic islands, first characterized by Ross (1967), can best be described and explained in functional rather than purely structural terms. We define here first a pragmatic (discourse-based) property - dominance - and we offer operational criteria to discern its presence in a sentence. We then state our hypothesis concerning extraction which we formulate in terms of dominance. In part 2 we attempt to show that our hypothesis allows us to account for all of Ross' constraints and that we are also able to capture certain distinctions in acceptability, which elude his and other syntactic approaches. In the third section we argue that Postal's claim concerning a correlation between islands and certain ambiguities is incorrect. A partial correlation of a different sort can be predicted and explained in terms of dominance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-86
Number of pages46
JournalTheoretical Linguistics
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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