Chapter 1 of Parasitic Gaps, edited by Culicover and Postal, begins with this example:

Which articles did John file t without reading pg?

The italicized t is reported to be a "true gap" because it is in a position that normally permits "extraction", and this example is given: Which articles did John file t?, and pg is a "parasitic gap" because it appears in a location that does not normally permit extraction.

What is "extraction"?

1 Answer 1


In the below sentence:

  1. the dog that Jake patted t

The constituent "the dog" is said to be extracted from the embedded clause "that Jake patted t", and is coreferent to a gap that is in the object position of the verb "patted". That's all that extraction is -- a relative clause ("the dog that Jake patted") headed by a noun ("the dog") which is coreferent to a gap within the embedded clause (the object of "patted").

Knowing this, what does it mean that "it appears in a location that does not normally permit extraction"?

This means that the inside of the preposition "without" is not usually a position from which extraction is possible. This can be seen as follows:

  1. Without imagining the book, I couldn't read it.
  2. *the book that without imagining, I couldn't read t

However, it is licensed by the parasitic gap construction, suggesting that extraction gaps are different to parasitic gaps.

  1. That's the book that I can't read t without imagining pg.
  • 1
    "the book that I couldn't read without imagining" seems perfectly normal. "the book that without imagining, I couldn't read" is just a bit odd by comparison. Jul 9, 2021 at 17:38
  • @MichaelHardy Note that you could insert "it" after "imagining" but not "read", suggesting simple ellipsis rather than extraction. Jul 10, 2021 at 13:33
  • @LukeSawczak : Probably your comment is immediately comprehensible to those familiar with this kind of theory of syntax. Can you elaborate for those who are not? Jul 10, 2021 at 16:03

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