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Chris Collins

Chris Collins is Professor of Linguistics at New York University. He is the author of Local Economy (MIT Press, 1997).

Titles by This Author

An Essay on the Syntax of Negation

In this book, Chris Collins and Paul Postal consider examples such the one below on the interpretation where Nancy thinks that this course is not interesting:
Nancy doesn’t think this course is interesting.

They argue such examples instantiate a kind of syntactic raising that they term Classical NEG Raising. This involves the raising of a NEG (negation) from the embedded clause to the matrix clause. Collins and Postal develop three main arguments to support their claim. First, they show that Classical NEG Raising obeys island constraints. Second, they document that a syntactic raising analysis predicts both the grammaticality and particular properties of what they term Horn clauses (named for Laurence Horn, who discovered them). Finally, they argue that the properties of certain parenthetical structures strongly support the syntactic character of Classical NEG Raising.

Collins and Postal also offer a detailed analysis of the main argument in the literature against a syntactic raising analysis (which they call the Composed Quantifier Argument). They show that the facts appealed to in this argument not only fail to conflict with their approach but actually support a syntactic view. In the course of their argument, Collins and Postal touch on a variety of related topics, including the syntax of negative polarity items, the status of sequential negation, and the scope of negative quantifiers.

A Study of Pronominal Agreement

Normally, a speaker uses a first person singular pronoun (in English, I, me, mine, myself) to refer to himself or herself. To refer to a single addressee, a speaker uses second person pronouns (you, yours, yourself). But sometimes third person nonpronominal DPs are used to refer to the speaker--for example, this reporter, yours truly--or to the addressee--my lord, the baroness, Madam (Is Madam not feeling well?). Chris Collins and Paul Postal refer to these DPs as imposters because their third person exterior hides a first or second person core.

In this book they study the interactions of imposters with a range of grammatical phenomena, including pronominal agreement, coordinate structures, Principle C phenomena, epithets, fake indexicals, and a property of pronominal agreement they call homogeneity.

Collins and Postal conclude that traditional ideas about pronominal features (person, number, gender), which countenance only agreement with an antecedent or the relation of the pronoun to its referent, are much too simple. They sketch elements of a more sophisticated view and argue for its relevance and explanatory power in several data realms. The fundamental proposal of the book is that a pronoun agrees with what they call a source, where its antecedent constitutes only one type of source. They argue that the study of imposters (and closely related camouflage DPs) has far-reaching consequences that are inconsistent with many current theories of anaphora.

Any theory of grammar must contain a lexicon, an interface with the mechanisms of production and perception (PF), and an interface with the interpretational system of semantics (LF). A traditional way to relate these three components in generative theory is through a derivation. Noam Chomsky's Minimalist Program postulates that grammatical derivations are constrained by economy conditions, requiring that derivations be minimal. One of the most important questions of syntax is what the economy conditions are and how they operate.

In Local Economy, Chris Collins proposes that economy conditions are local. According to this theory, evaluating economy conditions does not involve comparing whole derivations. Rather, economy conditions are evaluated at each step in the derivation. Collins shows that locative inversion and quotative inversion provide strong arguments for local economy. In addition, he explores the far-reaching consequences of this proposal for other areas of syntax, including the strict cycle, binary branching, successive cyclicity, and expletive constructions. He demonstrates that local economy is superior to global economy on conceptual as well as empirical grounds.

Local Economy is one of the first books other than Chomsky's The Minimalist Program (MIT, 1995) to deal in a general way with economy of derivation and Minimalism.

Linguistic Inquiry Monograph No. 29