- The book(i) that you filed __(i) without reading __(i)
- The book that [you filed
the book [without reading the book]]
In the example noun phrase, modelled in (1) and (2) above, we see that there is a gap in the relative clause which represents the object of the verb filed. We interpret this gap as referring to the book in question, in other words as being coreferential with the noun book. The relative clause has its own adjunct (read 'adverbial' or 'modifier'), which itself contains a clause with an unexpressed object. It has a gap representing the object of the verb reading. Our interpretation of this gap is reliant upon our interpretation of the gap higher up in the tree. In other words we understand the gap after the verb reading to be coreferential with the gap functioning as the object of the verb filed. Hence it is a 'parasitic' gap (strictly speaking, parasitic because this gap can only exist on account of the gap higher up).
Now if we passivise the relative clause, the following adjunct no longer seems to work and the larger noun phrase is ungrammatical:
- *The book that was filed [without reading] ungrammatical
Now it could be assumed that the reason that (3) above is ungrammatical has to do with the way that parasitic gaps are licensed, and one might invoke fancy theories of A-chains and A'-chains to do so. However, there is, Chomsky implies, a much simpler explanation for the ungrammaticality of (3).
We might have thought that the noun phrase in (1) was already full of gaps, but in fact we missed one out:
- The book that you(j) filed [without __(j) reading
The subject of the clause inside the without-PP is missing. And our interpretation of this gap is obligatorily controlled. It is interpreted as being coreferential with the subject of its matrix clause. In other words, the subject of reading is coreferential with the subject of filed; it is understood to refer to the listener, you.
However, if we passivise the clause, the subject of filed is now understood to be the aforementioned book, and thus so is the subject of reading, and as this is almost definitely not what the speaker intended, the example breaks down:
- *The book that __(i) was filed [without __(i) reading].
A problem with Chomsky's argument
However, notice that I said that the obligatory control of the interpretation of the subject of reading caused semantic problems. I disagree with Chomsky that the ungrammaticality of (3) can be properly explained using theories of control. Even if it would be very odd for a book to be reading anything, that madcap interpretation should be available from (3). We can see that there is no grammatical reason why a passive in the relative clause here should cause a problem for our interpretation of the without-PP. The following is fine:
- The book that was filed without being properly catalogued
- The book that [
the book was filed [without the book being properly catalogued]
The problem seems to be entirely with the fact that reading in the subordinate clause does indeed require an object, and there is no way of our successfully interpreting it in (5).
To substantiate this, let's change the noun involved:
- The professor that was promoted without having read a single novel
That NP seems fine despite the passive in the relative clause. However, if we remove the object of the verb read it is seriously deprecated, if not ungrammatical:
- *The professor that was promoted without having read.
It seems to me—not that that counts for much—that a theory of control is not, in fact, enough to explain away the ungrammaticality of Chomsky's (115b).