Specificity condition

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Specificity Condition is a condition on movement which states that movement out of specific NPs leads to worse results than movement out of non-specific NPs. This is shown by the contrast in (i) (showing wh-movement out of a definite NP) and (ii) (wh-movement out of a non-specific indefinite NP). Also known as Specificity Constraint.

(i)  a	 *who did you see [that picture of t]
     b	 *who did you see [John's picture of t]
(ii) a	  who did you see [three pictures of t]
     b	  who did you see [more pictures of t]


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Chomsky, N. 1986b. Barriers, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Chomsky, N. 1973. Conditions on transformations, in: S.R. Anderson & P. Kiparsky, A festschrift for Morris Halle, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.
  • Fiengo, R. & J. Higginbotham 1981. Opacity in NP, Linguistic Analysis 7-4, pp.395-421