According to the Split-INFL hypothesis, the subject of a sentence moves from the specifier of the predicate to SpecTP to satisfy the EPP and lastly to SpecAgrSP to obtain NOM case. Is there any reason to think that an adverbial intervening TP and AgrSP would cause ungrammaticality according to any theory or framework?

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I'm formulating an analysis of S-adverbs without positing that they adjoin to X' projections. S-adverbs such as probably, possibly, certainly, etc. may come immediately after the subject of a sentence, which means that they also precede items that are known to be generated in HeadIP/HeadTP such as auxiliaries, modals, aspectual markers, etc..

He probably did try escargot.
He possibly will try escargot.
He certainly must try escargot.

Without assuming the Split-INFL hypothesis, the adverb will have to be adjoined to I'. With the Split-INFL hypothesis, things can be kept consistent in terms of where adverbs adjoin to—only maximal XP projections, not X' projections.

  • 4
    not quite sure what you meant by "according to any theory or framework?" Clearly, your post is full of assumptions and concepts specific to a very particular theory, or, rather, its state in the 1990s.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 0:00
  • @AlexB.I mean any theory or hypothesis or observation at all. For example, perhaps there's a constraint I'm not aware of that makes it absolutely crucial for AgrSP and TP to be adjacent for subjects to move, and that would cause an intervening adverbial to be ungrammatical. Anything at all. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 8:50

3 Answers 3


As far as I know, in any P&PT/Minimalist work subsequent to Cinque's (1999) important hypothesis about the structure of adverbials, there is much more structure involved than you show in your diagramme. Epistemic adverbials like certainly, probably and possibly, in particular, would have to be attached to the projection in that (surface) order (i.e., certainly with scope over probably and probably with scope over possibly) in appropriate specifiers of 'adverbial' functional heads intervening between the subject and the tensed auxiliary or between further (visible or invisible) 'modal' heads. Whether they can all be piled up within a single clause or not depends on their meaning and on the number of auxiliaries (say 'subclauses') the clause contains. However, none of those intervening adverbs can possibly interfere with processes like the subject's ascension to Spec TP (or the Spec of whatever head the subject is attracted to) or with the finite verb's own raising into the corresponding head. Intervening adverbs are simply invisible to such processes, because they are triggered - subject to 'minimality' or, nowadays, 'economy' ('shortest movement') - by specific features of DPs and verbs that adverbs just lack. Of course, if your question literally means 'Is there any adverb that can cause the clause to be ungrammatical if inserted in the split-Infl area?', the answer is YES: there are many adverbs that will produce ungrammatical results if inserted in that higher segment of the projection. If you try to insert any of the 'low' adverbs of Cinque's hierarchy (e.g., a pure 'manner' adverb) in that 'high' area, it will get the wrong 'scope' and the sentence will be ungrammatical.


Within the system you are describing, the only way to ensure that AgrSP and TP are invariably adjacent is by defining Agr as the kind of head that takes TP as its complement. This is plausible, but to answer your question, I can't see what exactly would go wrong if Agr selected some MysteryP that in turn selected TP. As per the theory of movement your question presupposes, subject raising from SpecTP to SpecAgrSP ought to be possible so long as no other DP needing NOM intervenes.

[side note 1: this tree is kind of old-fashioned. These days, you'll have trouble finding people seriously accepting that English has an AgrSP separate from TP ---see, e.g., Bobaljik and Thráinsson 1998, "Two heads aren't always better than one", Syntax 1:37-73]

[side note 2: independently of the narrow issue of your question, adverbs are known to have placement restrictions that don't follow from the kind of X-bar theory you are assuming! Check out Bobaljik 1999, "Adverbs: the hierarchy paradox", GLOT International 4:27-28.]


+'ly' adverbs, or any adverbial (marked with commas if needed), can be inserted ANYWHERE in a clause, except inside a NounPhrase or a PrepPhrase. [note: all NPs could be considered PPs, with null prepositions [by] and [of], since English has strict case ordering.] Adverbials can even split a modal aux from its verb, or an infinitive marker ('to') from its verb.

  • What you've written is undeniably true, but it doesn't answer my question. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 18:38
  • Of course that is NOT true at all: try to insert a real 'manner ly-adverb' (i.e., one that, contrary to e.g. 'carefully', has no homophones that can be interpreted as non-manner adverbs) between, say, the subject and the finite verb (since we are talking about the 'split-Infl-segment') and the result will NOT be grammatical (e.g., '*Nobody LOUDLY has spoken in this room').
    – user6814
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 15:16
  • It may be going too far to call your example ungrammatical. It is an anti-idiom -- the 'no' on nobody negates the verb (every body has not spoken) {and even that is ambiguous...} but does it also negate the adverb? We play it safe and delay the adverb until after the verb (after the negation has been resolved). Thank you for pointing out this nuance.
    – amI
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 23:05

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