Author Topic: Raising vs control  (Read 5722 times)

Offline danyen82

  • New Linguist
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Raising vs control
« on: January 13, 2017, 05:53:56 AM »
Hi everyone!
I need help!  Can someone explain this to me in very very simple words? I don't understand this PRO thing, with "try" and "seem" in IPs.  Also,how are the verbs different syntactically. My exam is coming up and I don't see the bigger picture. What is it for, why are we doing this? TIA

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2038
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: Raising vs control
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2017, 11:58:03 AM »
Your question has several different parts, some of which could have very long and complicated answers. I'll try to start breaking it down here, but feel free to re-ask or ask for clarification on the parts that are most important to you.

Can someone explain [raising vs control] to me in very very simple words?
Raising involves a higher verb (like seem) that has a subject raised from the lower verb. Control involves a higher verb (like try) that has its own subject that also controls the subject of the lower verb. Raising involves movement, and control involves control. Both result in co-reference of the subjects of both verbs: PRO can be used as a null element (structurally present, but without an overt pronunciation) to make this happen in control, whereas in raising that is done through movement, with a trace left behind in the position of the lower subject. Traces and PRO are actually very similar, but one is generated as part of the structure (from the lexicon), while the other is generated during the derivation (following movement).

I can't say much more in general terms without getting into a specific theory and probably misrepresenting some perspectives. I might have already contradicted myself a bit according to some theories, but that at least should give you the general idea.

The main thing you should know is that raising involves movement, and control does not. One argument for this is the following:
It seems that you are a linguist.
*It tries that you are a linguist.
The point is that raising verbs don't require their own subjects semantically (just structurally, just like "it rains"). More specifically, they do not assign theta-roles (or thematic roles), where "John seems" doesn't say anything about John (he's not a "seemer"), but "John tries" means John tries, he is a trier.

I don't understand this PRO thing, with "try" and "seem" in IPs.
See above. PRO is what is controlled in control. It is not used in raising.

Also,how are the verbs different syntactically.
I covered just a few points above (especially the two example sentences regarding thematic roles). There is a lot more to say about it, and you can find a lot of information online. The problem is that if you look this up you will find very specific theories. Some relevant results just from the first page of a Google search include:

My exam is coming up and I don't see the bigger picture.
You might want to ignore the rest of my post!
If your goal is to pass an exam or do well in a class, then your instructor and textbook determine exactly what these terms mean. They have slightly different usage by different linguists, and in different theories. Actually the terms mean basically the same thing always, but they are used to explain different things, and the exact processes (how they work) are analyzed differently in different theories.

Your class is teaching you one specific theory. It's one of several options. I don't know which one you're learning, so I can't help you specifically with that. Refer mostly to your textbook, and also ask your instructor.

Typically, raising vs. control is discussed within Generative Grammar as it was during the mid-1980s, in the GB theory:

The terms are also used in many other theories (even some completely unrelated that just borrow the words to describe verbs like "seem" and "try" in an abstract sense, not a literal analysis).

And recently (in the Minimalist Program mostly) there have been some attempts to simplify the analysis, such as trying to analyze control as a type of movement (like raising) and not involve PRO. For example, Hornstein's recent 2010 book, along with many others on the topic.

The best advice for you in your class might be for you to NOT see the "big picture". Instead, focus on what types of exercises you should do for class, because the big picture is complicated and might actually cause you to get answers "wrong" in the class, if you start looking into the alternative theories.

Simple answer (for class): see above.
More complex answer (for research): raising and control have some different properties but there has been and still is an ongoing debate about how they are distinct and how they should best be analyzed.

What is it for, why are we doing this?
That's the big question! Answering it probably won't help you pass your exam, though. Right now your goal is just to pass. I don't want to discourage you to ask questions about getting deeper into these things, but they might be distracting. (These are actually the questions I like most when teaching, but it's hard to include them within the constraints of a class usually. Good for office hours, or for this forum.)

There are really two different answers to this, and both are abstract, not specific to raising vs. control:

1. For a class, this is an educational exercise. In a physics class, you learn about the effects of gravity, and you usually set aside air resistance. Why? Because it is more educational to understand gravity without making it as complicated as in the real world. You also study objects falling, rather than, say, gravitational waves, which are much more complicated and less understood. The same applies here. Your instructor/textbook must select a sample of some work going on in linguistics to show you how a model grammar might describe some properties of English and other languages. That's it, nothing more, nothing less. It actually isn't (or shouldn't be) presented as "the answer" but just as a demonstration of what linguists do and the sorts of things we try to accomplish. How easy is it to analyze sentences? What sorts of issues come up? One good example of a tricky problem, which has been researched a lot, is raising vs. control.

2. From a theoretical perspective, the goal is to understand the mechanics of sentence structure or more generally how language works. One part of English and other languages is raising/control, so we need to understand it, along with everything else. And specifically, raising and control show some slightly different properties (even though they are quite similar: infinitives, one overt subject for two verbs, etc.). Using these properties sort of like a minimal pair in phonology, we can explore how they differ and try to develop a more general theory that can efficiently explain both. As I pointed out above, some researchers try to do this by analyzing them in roughly the same way, rather than distinguishing two completely different categories. Science is always a work in progress, and every question is an important question if it is difficult to answer and is part of the bigger system you're trying to understand. Research on raising and control has also had other consequences, such as implications for case theory and many other things, beyond the scope of this answer. Something that linguists (and scientists in general) do is look at small puzzles like this one and then try to figure out what more general implications they have. Here, there are two major results: (1) syntax must allow movement; (2) syntax must allow some elements to be null (have no overt pronunciation). Those are major findings with big implications for the field, and there are both other arguments that support it, and many criticisms that have tried to simplify the system to avoid these complications. For the most part, though, at least in Generative Grammar, those two properties are assumed by most researchers today.

Finally, one complication (very confusing) is that there are two different terms both called pro: there is so-called "big PRO" as discussed above, and there is something else unrelated called "little pro". Little pro is used as the null subject of sentences in so-called pro-drop languages like Spanish where you don't need to always say an overt subject. Little pro and big PRO have little to do with each other except that both are null elements similar to pronouns. A little more on that here if you want to read it:
If you haven't learned about little pro yet, you can just ignore this. But if you are looking up information about big PRO online, you will get some irrelevant results about little pro, and sometimes you'll see them compared, which could be confusing.


Very general summary:
1. Control is a special construction, with PRO being a "controlled" subject of the lower verb.
2. Raising is movement, of the subject from the lower to higher verb.
3. If you are interested in these topics in more detail you should first concentrate on the limited scope of the questions on your exam, and then explore them (there's a lot of reading to do; I could recommend more) after the class.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2017, 12:00:29 PM by djr33 »
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.