Right roof constraint

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Right Roof Constraint is a condition on rightward movement first formulated by Ross (1967:185):

(i)  In all rules whose structural index is of the form ... A Y, and
     whose structural change specifies that A is to be adjoined to the
     right of Y, A must command Y.

This condition captures the fact that rightward movement is upward bounded, as the following contrast (adapted from Ross 1967:166) shows. The PP cannot leave its clause:

(ii)   [That [a review ti ] came out yesterday [of this article]i ]
       is catastrophic
(iii) *[That [a review ti ] came out yesterday] is catastrophic
       [of this article]i 

The notion of 'command' in (i) is not as strict as c-command: it goes up to the first S. The name - Right Roof Constraint - is due to Soames & Perlmutter (1979).


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Ross, J.R. 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax, doctoral dissertation, MIT (published as 'Infinite syntax!' Ablex, Norwood (1986)).
  • Soames, S. & D.M. Perlmutter 1979. Syntactic Argumentation and the Structure of English, University of California Press:Berkely, Los Angeles, London