Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 51–70 | Cite as

Escape from the Island: Grammaticality and (Reduced) Acceptability of wh-island Violations in Danish

  • Ken Ramshøj Christensen
  • Johannes Kizach
  • Anne Mette Nyvad


In the syntax literature, it is commonly assumed that a constraint on linguistic competence blocks extraction of wh-expressions (e.g. what or which book) from embedded questions, referred to as wh-islands. Furthermore, it is assumed that there is an argument/adjunct asymmetry in extraction from wh-islands. We report results from two acceptability judgment experiments on long and short wh-movement and wh-extraction from wh-islands in Danish. The results revealed four main findings: (1) No adjunct/argument asymmetry in extraction from wh-islands. (2) Long adjunct wh-movement is less acceptable than long argument wh-movement, and this difference is attributable to matrix verb compatibility and factivity, not D-linking. (3) Long movement reduces acceptability, but is more acceptable than island violations. (4) Training effects reveal that island violations, though degraded, are grammatical in Danish. Since the standard assumptions cannot account for the range of results, we argue in favor of a processing account referring to locality (processing domains) and working memory.


Parsing Working memory Training effects wh-movement D-linking 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ken Ramshøj Christensen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Johannes Kizach
    • 2
  • Anne Mette Nyvad
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Functionally Integrative NeuroscienceAarhus University HospitalAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Aesthetics and CommunicationAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

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