# C-command

In syntax, **C-command** is a binary relation between nodes in a tree structure which is defined as follows:

(i) Node A c-commands node B iff

a A =/= B, b A does not dominate B and B does not dominate A, and c every X that dominates A also dominates B.

(ii) X_{2}/ \ A X_{1}/ \ B C

In (ii) A c-commands B since A =/= B (cf. (i)a), A does not dominate B, nor does B dominate A (cf. (i)b); and the node which dominates A, X2, also dominates B (cf. (i)c). X1 in (ii) is not relevant to (i)c: although it dominates B, it does not dominate A.

For the possible choices of X in (i)c several options have been proposed. The first option is to interpret X as any branching node. Under this interpretation A c-commands B iff (ia) and (ib) are met and *the first branching node* dominating A also dominates B. This structural relation is sometimes referred to as *strict c-command*.

An alternative option for the possible values of X in (i)c is to count only maximal projections. Under this interpretation A is said to m-command B.

### Examples

In (iii) V c-commands NP *the book*, but not the PP *in the store*: when we start from V and move upwards, the first branching node we reach is V'_{1}. This node dominates the NP *the book* and it does not dominate the PP *in the store*. By the same token the P *in* c-commands the NP *the store*; it does not c-command the V'_{1} *buy the book*, nor the V and the NP contained in V'_{1}, because the first branching node dominating P does not dominate V'_{1}.

(iii)

VP | V'_{2}|\ | PP | \ | P' | |\ V'_{1}| \ |\ P NP | \ | | | \ in the store | \ V NP | | buy the book

V in (iii) m-commands both the NP *the book* and the PP *in the store* and what is contained in them. P does not m-command V, because there is a maximal projection PP which dominates P and does not dominate V, nor the NP *the book*.

### Comments

The minimal phrase which contains a c- or m-commanding element A is the c- or m-command domain of that element. The notion 'minimal phrase' is defined according to the interpretation of X in the definition in (i). Thus, if A m-commands B, the minimal phrase containing A is labeled XP. The m-command domain, then, is the smallest maximal projection containing A. In (iii) PP, not VP, is the m-command domain of P, since PP is the smallest maximal projection in which P appears. If A c-commands B the minimal phrase is the first branching node dominating A. Thus, V'_{1} in (iii) is the c-command domain of V. The c-command domain of an element must be a constituent, given that it consists of all the material dominated by one node; hence the term c(onstituent)-command. Other proposals restrict X to lexical categories, major categories. The notion c-command plays a role in the definitions of government, binding, and scope.

### Link

Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics

### References

- Aoun, Y. & Sportiche, D. 1983. On the formal theory of Government.
*The Linguistic Review 2/3*, 211-236. - Chomsky, Noam A. 1981.
*Lectures on Government and Binding.*Dordrecht:Foris. - Chomsky, Noam A. 1986.
*Knowledge of language: its nature, origin and use.*Praeger, New York. - Chomsky, Noam A. 1986b.
*Barriers.*MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. - Chomsky, Noam A. 1993. A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory.
*MIT occasional papers in linguistics*, 1-67. - Reinhart, T. 1976. The syntactic domain of anaphora. Diss, MIT.

### Other languages

German: C-Kommando