Forthcoming: French subject islands: Empirical and formal approaches

Elodie Winckel  


subject island, information structure, French, non-local dependencies, subextraction, focus-background conflict, subject condition, subjacency


This book examines extractions out of the subject, which is traditionally considered to be an island for extraction. There is a debate among linguists regarding whether the “subject island constraint” is a syntactic phenomenon or an illusion caused by cognitive or pragmatic factors. The book focusses on French, that provides an interesting case study because it allows certain extractions out of the subject despite not being a typical null-subject language. The book takes a discourse-based approach and introduces the “Focus-Background Conflict Constraint”, which posits that a focused element cannot be part of a backgrounded constituent due to a pragmatic contradiction. The major novelty of this proposal is that it predicts a distinction between extractions out of the subject in focalizing and non-focalizing constructions.

The central contribution of this book is to offer the detailed results of a series of empirical studies (corpus studies and experiments) on extractions out of the subject is French. These studies offer evidence for the possibility of extraction out of the subject in French. But they also reveal a clear distinction between constructions. While extractions out of the subject are common and highly acceptable in relative clauses, this is not the case for interrogatives and clefts.

Finally, the book proposes a Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) analysis of subject islands. It demonstrates the interaction between information structure and syntax using a representation of information structure based on Minimal Recursion Semantics (MRS).

Author Biography

Elodie Winckel, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Elodie Winckel is a post-doctoral researcher at the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. She completed her undergraduate studies at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Her academic journey has been marked by a strong focus on experimental methodologies to explore the interface between syntax and pragmatics, particularly in the frameworks of HPSG (Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar) and Construction Grammar.

Book cover


July 10, 2023
LaTeX source on GitHub
Cite as
Winckel, Elodie. Forthcoming. French subject islands: Empirical and formal approaches. (Empirically Oriented Theoretical Morphology and Syntax). Berlin: Language Science Press.


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