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Why is the sentence, "any progress can't be made", ill-formed? Please explain from a syntactic (rather than semantic) point of view. I understand that the sentence can be accurately paraphrased into, "no progress can be made". I am also aware that any is a polarity item that generally occurs after negative or interrogative expressions. What I am concerned with is the deep structure or syntactic analysis that illustrate the ungrammaticality of the relevant sentence.

  • Usage drives accepted syntax, not the other way round. Different grammars attempt to explain how the language works. The fact that there are extragrammatical idioms, and the fact that there different competing grammars, show that accepted usages do not always conform to some hoped-for Grand Unified Theory. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 7 '18 at 8:37
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    Thank you very much Edwin. Please note that the question is by no means intended to trigger an argument for or against universal grammar. Nor should it lead us into a prescriptive versus descriptive debate. The question is simply about how a generativist would explain the ungrammaticality of the sentence. – user284977 Apr 7 '18 at 9:23
  • Once you specify a desired approach, advising that it's not the only available one, the question becomes reasonable (though 'ungrammaticality' still tends to at least hint at some divine law underpinning the language). Your comment belongs in the question. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 7 '18 at 9:31

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