That-trace effect

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That-trace effect is the phenomenon that the complementizer (that) cannot be followed by a trace (except in relative clauses) in some languages (e.g. English). Thus, in languages showing the that-t(race) effect, a subject cannot be extracted when it follows that. This is shown by the contrast in (i) and (ii).

(i)     who did you think [CP t' [C' e [IP t would win ]]]
(ii)   *who did you think [CP t' [C' that [IP t would win ]]]

As noted, the that-t effect is not a universal phenomenon. It is absent in e.g. Dutch, as shown by the fact that the Dutch translation of (ii) is grammatical:

(iii)	wie denk je [CP t' [C' dat [IP t gewonnen heeft ]]]



  • Chomsky, N. 1986b. Barriers, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding, Foris, Dordrecht.
  • Chomsky, N. & H. Lasnik 1977. Filters and Control, Linguistic Inquiry 8-3, 425-504
  • Kayne, R. 1984. Connectedness and binary branching, Foris, Dordrecht
  • Perlmutter, D. 1971. Deep and Surface Structure Constraints in Syntax, Holt, Rinehart and Winston:New York.
  • Pesetsky, D. 1982. Paths and categories, diss. MIT.
  • Taraldsen, T. 1978. On the Nominative Island Condition, vacuous application and the that-trace filter, distributed by IULC.

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