Bounding theory

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In generative grammar, bounding theory is a theory about the locality of movement.


In (i) which books has been moved over two bounding nodes, NP and CP. In (ii), NP and IP are the relevant bounding nodes. In (i) the so-called Complex NP Constraint is violated, in (ii) the so-called Subject Condition. Thus, the Subjacency condition subsumes both the Complex NP Constraint and the Subject Condition.

 (i)   *which booki did John meet [NP a child [CP who read ti ]]
 (ii)  *the man [CP whoi [IP [NP pictures of ti ] are on the table]]


The main principle of bounding theory is the Subjacency condition, which forbids movement across more than one bounding node.

In the Minimalist program, the term bounding theory is no longer used.


The term bounding theory became widely known with Chomsky 1981.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Brame, M. 1978. Base generated syntax. Seattle: Noit Amrofen Press.
  • Bresnan, J. 1976. Evidence for a theory of unbounded transformations. Linguistic Analysis 2, 353-394.
  • Chomsky, Noam A. 1965. Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Chomsky, Noam A. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht:Foris.
  • Chomsky, Noam A. 1986b. Barriers. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Lasnik, H. and M. Saito 1984. On the nature of proper government. Linguistic Inquiry 15, 235-289.
  • Lasnik, H. and M. Saito 1992. Move alpha: conditions on its application and output. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.