Reconstruction (Syntax)

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In generative syntax, reconstruction is an operation proposed in Chomsky (1977b) in the derivation of LF from S-structure, which returns material pied-piped by wh-movement to the extraction site so as to derive an operator-variable chain headed by the wh-operator itself.


By reconstruction, the LF (i)b is derived from the SS (i)a:

(i) a  which book about Mary does he like t
    b  which x, does he like [ x book about Mary ]

As a result, interpretation of the LF is relatively straightforward. Syntactic evidence for reconstruction comes from the behavior of pied-piped material with respect to binding theory. EXAMPLE: in (ii),

(ii)   which book about himself does John like t

the anaphor himself can apparently be bound by the NP John, which does not, however, c-command it at SS. This can be explained if the constituent containing the anaphor is returned to its pre-movement position prior to the operation of binding condition A. Other analyses of such "reconstruction phenomena" can involve an extended notion of c-command, a reordering of the model of grammar (van Riemsdijk & Williams 1981), or a view of movement as copying and deletion (Chomsky 1992).


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Chomsky, N. 1993. A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory, MIT occasional papers in linguistics, 1-67. Reprinted in: Chomsky (1995).
  • Chomsky, N. 1977b. On Wh-movement, in: P.W. Culicover, T. Wasw and A. akmajian (eds.) Formal syntax, Academic Press, San Francisco, London.
  • van Riemsdijk, H. and E. Williams 1986. Introduction to the theory of grammar, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Williams, E. 1994. Thematic structure in syntax, The MIT Press:Cambridge, Mass.

Other languages

German Rekonstruktion (in der Syntax)