Island Constraints in the Mainland Scandinavian Languages

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University


The Mainland Scandinavian languages Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish are peculiar from a cross-linguistic perspective in that they fail to show the constraints on extraction usually observed for complex DPs. These languages allow relative clause extraction (RCE), traditionally described as a violation of the Complex NP Constraint or a strong island violation (Ross 1967 and Chomsky 1977, respectively). Early references include Erteschik-Shir (1973), Allwood (1975), Engdahl & Ejerhed (1982); Taraldsen (1981); Maling & Zaenen, (1982); Andersson (1982). Unexpected extractions from other types of purported island configurations (e.g. adjunct islands) have also been reported in the literature on these languages.

The contribution of structural and non-structural constraints on the processing and acceptability of long-distance dependencies of this kind has been a central issue in ongoing debates that span the research fields of both theoretical syntax (see Boeckx 2012 for an overview) and sentence processing (see e.g. Sprouse & Hornstein 2013). Although the Mainland Scandinavian data have been regularly cited in the syntax- and processing-oriented literature, there is to date no account of RCE in Mainland Scandinavian that holds up under closer scrutiny, see Engdahl (1997), Müller (2015), and Christensen & Nyvad (2014) for discussion. In other words, the problems posed by the Scandinavian data for theories about island constraints, whether cast in terms of processing or syntax, are far from solved.

This workshop brings together researchers working on island constraints in the Mainland Scandinavian languages, mainly from a psycholinguistic perspective. The goal is to provide an opportunity to discuss how to interpret the results of recent works on extraction data in these languages in relation to the alleged universality of island constraints and in relation to the debate concerning the division of labor between structural and non-structural factors.

Invited Speakers

  • Ken Ramshøj Christensen, Associate Professor, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University & Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark
  • Björn Lundqvist, Ph.D. Department of Culture, Literature and Linguistics, University of Tromsø, Norway