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In linguistics, the term “island” generally refers to an extraction island, a syntactic domain that blocks extraction of a certain constituent out of it. For instance, a wh-phrase in English can be extracted across clause boundaries from its original position (marked by “t”, short for “trace”) in (1), whereas extraction is blocked out of a complex NP (an appositive clause or a relative clause) in (2). We therefore refer to the complex NP of (2) as a “complex NP island”. Similarly, extraction is impossible out of a subject island (a clau…

Cite this page
Barry YANG, “Islands”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 18 February 2019 <>
First published online: 2015

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