Tensed-S Condition

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Tensed-S Condition (TSC) is one of the conditions on transformations proposed by Chomsky (1973). It states that extraction out of a tensed sentence is impossible, and is formulated as

 No rule can involve X,Y in the structure ...X...[a...Y...]...
 where a is a tensed sentence


The TSC accounts for the contrast in (i) and (ii). In (i) passivization involves NP-movement out of an infinitival (i.e. non-tensed) clause, while in (ii) the same NP is moved out of the tensed counterpart, violating the TSC.

(i)     John is believed [t to be ill]
(ii)   *John is believed [(that) is ill]
(iii)	who do you believe [S' COMP [S I met t]]

Wh-movement in (iii) can violate the TSC, because wh-movement involves the COMP-position which (by definition) is an escape hatch. In later work the TSC has also been referred to as PIC (Propositional Island Condition) or NIC (Nominative Island Condition). More recently, the TSC has been subsumed under the binding conditions for anaphors (including NP-traces), through the definition of governing category.



  • Chomsky, N. 1986a. Knowledge of language: its nature, origin and use, Praeger, New York.
  • Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding, Foris, Dordrecht.
  • Chomsky, N. 1973. Conditions on transformations, in: S.R. Anderson & P. Kiparsky, A festschrift for Morris Halle, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.
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