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Hardcover | $70.00 Short | £58.95 | 208 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 2 b&w illus. | January 2015 | ISBN: 9780262028721
Paperback | $35.00 Short | £27.95 | 208 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 2 b&w illus. | January 2015 | ISBN: 9780262527217
eBook | $24.00 Short | January 2015 | ISBN: 9780262327213
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When two categories merge and a new syntactic object is formed, what determines which of the two merged categories transmits its properties one level up—or, in current terminology, which of the two initial categories labels the new object? In (Re)labeling, Carlo Cecchetto and Caterina Donati take this question as the starting point of an investigation that sheds light on longstanding puzzles in the theory of syntax in the generative tradition. They put forward a simple idea: that words are special because they can provide a label for free when they merge with some other category. Crucially, this happens even when a word merges with another category as a result of syntactic movement. This means that a word has a “relabeling” power in that the structure resulting from its movement can have a different label from the one that the structure previously had. Cecchetto and Donati argue that relabeling cases triggered by the movement of a word are pervasive in the syntax of natural languages and that their identification sheds light on such phenomena as relativization, explaining for free why relatives clauses have a nominal distribution, successive cyclicity, island effects, root phenomena, and Minimality effects.

About the Authors

Carlo Cecchetto is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Milan-Bicocca.

Caterina Donati is Professor of Syntax at the University of Paris 7.


“Based on wide-ranging evidence, including data from language acquisition, language disorders, and sign languages, (Re)labeling provides a novel analysis of complex syntactic phenomena that appear somewhat unrelated, with unexpected consequences for the comprehension of relativization, successive-cyclicity, island effects, and root phenomena.”
Anna Cardinaletti, Professor of Linguistics, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
“Cecchetto and Donati develop serious challenges against the commonly held belief that the target of movement always projects. They provide a number of extremely compelling arguments that under certain circumstances, the mover projects and ‘relabels’ the newly formed syntactic object. This well-researched and -argued book provides ample empirical justification for its conclusion—that there are indeed phenomena that are best explained by relabeling—but also makes it clear that the possibility for relabeling is entailed by our very notions of probing and of what it means to be a ‘word.’”
Sabine Iatridou, Professor of Linguistics, MIT