Head To Head Movement

Word orders that X-Bar Theory can't derive (VSO, VadvO, V Neg O) are generated by head to head movement.

What this actually means is that we take a sentence (and its tree form), and move things around to create a tree structure that is both in the correct phonetic order and obeys all the rules.



Movement happens to support inflectional affixes, to deal with tenses and questions and the like.

  • Affix lowering
  • Subject/Aux Inversion
  • Verb Raising

VSO (A problem, and the fix)

9% of the world's languages exhibit VSO order.

"Phóg Máire an lucharachán"
"Kissed Mary the leprechaun"
“Mary kissed the leprechaun”

The subject (a specifier) intervenes between the V and its complement.

To fix this we have the VP internal Subject hypothesis:
Subjects are generated in the specifier of VP. Then in English and French the subjects raise from being VP specifiers to TP specifiers (we'll come back to this).

French Adverbs (and Verb Raising)

Adverbs are adjuncts, but in French they appear as a complement (between head and object).

Based on where the verb appears when there's no auxiliary and when T is filled, we can conclude that a Tensed Verb in French is in T (TP head).

Fix: Verb Raising

Verb raising is motivated by the inflectional suffixes. The tense feature must be on the verb, hence they need to adjust for this to be true.

Hence we say that the verb raising parameter is:

Verb raises to T or T lowers to Verb.

V to T: motivated by the need for T to be pronounced
V to T alternates with Affix lowering (parameter)

(All tensed verb raise to T in French and Irish, and all tensed auxiliaries raise to T and all tensed affixes lower to tensed main verbs).

Subject Aux Inversion

Subject/Aux inversion happens with questions - e.g. "Have you done x" vs "You have done x".

We know that subject/aux inversion is not allowed with an embedded Q complementiser


In French both main verbs and auxiliaries are in the T, hence both undergo the T to C movement. However in English only the auxiliaries are in t, and hence only they move.

Do Insertion

When there is no other option for supporting inflectional affixes, insert the dummy verb 'do' into T.

'Do' appears in questions because T can’t both lower to V and raise to C.

Multiple Auxiliaries

Modals are in T and 'have' and 'be' are not (at least in this sentence), as evidenced by:

  • Shannon should not have been being fed at the table
  • Shannon should [Adv]never have been being fed at the table.

The modals get into the T because of verb movement.

Types of Auxiliaries


DP Movement - Fixing DPs Not Being in Theta Roles

Locality Restriction

Theta roles must be assigned within the same clause as the predicate that assigns them. This is known as a locality restriction.

E.g. "[Bradley left]" vs *"[I want Bradley [that left]]" (first is in the same clause, second isn't).

However there are problems with this. For instance:

"[John is likely [to leave]]" is a valid sentence, however far away 'John' and 'leave' are.

This sentence can be linked to these two:

"[[That John will leave] is likely]"
"It is likely [that John will leave]"

These have the theta role for 'leave' in the same clause, and have no theta role for 'is likely'.


Back to "John is likely to leave" we can see that 'John' is the theta role for 'leave', but is in the subject position of 'is likely', and has hence been displaced from its theta position.


Case Theory

We could try arguing that the EPP is behind this ('John' is fulfilling the need for a subject), except that we have a counter-example of a non-grammatical sentence:
"John is likely that left".

Hence we look to Cases for a different motivation.

Case is a licenser - it is given to a DP in order to make the sentence grammatical (hence only given to approved ones).

A Simplified Explanation of Case Positions

  • Nominative case is assigned in the specifier of finite TP (note: FINITE)
  • Accusative case is assigned as the complement to the verb
  • Prepositional Case is assigned to the complement of a preposition

The Case Filter is a constraint that filters trees. It says that all DPs must be in case positions (as said above). Hence until the DPs are raised, they have no case.


Raising vs PRO

Pro is an empty category that we use to ensure every clause has a subject, and every argument is only a theta-role for one verb.

This fixes problems like "John is eager to leave", where John appears to get a theta role from both "eager" and "leave".

The sentence then becomes "[John is eager [PRO to leave]]"


Passive verbs suppress the need for an agent (some make it optional, some make it not allowed).


They also suppress the ability for the verb to assign the accusative role to DPs.