Subjects, Events and Licensing

H. Harley, 1995

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While the notion of “subject” as a primitive of grammar is in some way encoded in most modern syntactic theories, the cluster of syntactic properties attributed to subjects is not a homogenous one.  This thesis aims to precisely characterize certain of these properties, partially through an investigation of constructions where they fail to converge.

Two of these properties are of particular interest.  First, the structural properties associated with “external arguments” are examined, that is, the question of where thematic subjects (as opposed to clausal subjects) are base generated.  Drawing on evidence from Japanese lexical causatives, a “split VP” structure is argued for, in which external arguments (Agents, Causers) are generated in the specifier of a projection which marks the introduction of an event argument (hence termed EventP).  Below EventP are case-checking positions for underlying objects and indirect objects (internal arguments) as well as the projection in which internal arguments are base-generated (“BaseP”).  “Verbs” on this approach consist of a “Base” head in combination with an “Event” head, and the decomposition of verbal meaning into “primitives” such as CAUSE, HAVE, or BE is assumed.  In support, a correlation is drawn between the existence of the predicate “have” in a language and the possibility of a double object/double complement alternation, adducing evidence from Irish, Tagalog and Dine, as well as Japanese, Georgian and English.

Secondly, the question of morphological nominative case is considered.  Nominative marking on an NP is typically taken to be an indicator of subjecthood, nonetheless, there are constructions in which a nominative-marked argument appears to be in object position.  Such nominative objects in Icelandic are examined in detail, and a mechanism for assigning morphological case is proposed which modifies standard assumptions about the struct connection of morphological case with structure position.  Given such modification, the question of NP-licensing is re-examined, with an eye to dispensing with abstract case entirely; the apparent effects of abstract case assignment (and, incidentally, Burzio’s Generalization) are seen to be the result of the interaction of the mechanism governing morphological case assignment with the Extended Projection Principle.

Thesis Supervisor:         Alec P. Marantz

Title:                             Professor of Linguistics


Table of Contents

Chapter 1         Subject                                                                                     13

            1.1       A syntactic “subject” position: agents vs. “subjects”                               15

            1.2       “Subject: property mismatches                                                  18

            1.3       Conclusion                                                                                           23

Part I    Projection                                                                                                         25

Chapter 2         Where don’t they come from?                                                   27

            2.1       Against subjects in Spec-IP                                                                  28

                        2.1.1    Conjunction of activities and passives                            28

                        2.1.2    The behavior of modals: I0 as a raising category             31

                        2.1.3    Reconstruction effects                                                               32

                        2.1.4    VSO order: against the Spec-IP generation of subjects  33

                           Excursus: Old Irish and the ISH                                    36

                                                The Old Irish verbal system                   37

                                                Verb movement to Io and Co                 38

                                                Preverbs                                               39

                                                Object enclitics                         42

                                                Subjects in Spec-IP                              43

                        2.1.5    Conclusion                                                                               45

            2.2       Subjects in expanded Infl                                                                      45

                        2.2.1    Tense and modals as raising categories                          47

                        2.2.2    Subject trace in VP: Huang (1993)                                            48

                        2.2.3    Complement to causative “have”                                               49

                        2.2.4    Against generation in AgrOP                                                     52

                        2.2.5    Conclusion                                                                               54

Chapter 3         VPs, l-syntax and external arguments                                                    55

            3.1       In support of stacked structures                                                            56

                        3.1.1    Overt object movement and ECM: the adjacency condition       58

                        3.1.2    Overt object movement in simple clauses: the adjacency

                                    condition                                                                                  61

                        3.1.3    Quantifier float and the base position of objects in Japanese       69

                        3.1.4    Consequences of adopting stacked structures                            70

                           Case positions and q-positions                          71

                           Getting the external/internal distinction from the

syntax                                                                           72

                           External vs. internal VPs and adverb type: Bowers

(1993)                                                                          77

                        3.1.5    The story so far                                                                        81

            3.2       Events, agents and verbs                                                                       83

                        3.2.1    L-syntax: deriving the lexicon                                        83

                           How many theta-roles? Hale and Keyser’s question      83

                           VoiceP, unaccusatives and agents                                 86

                           “Kill” as “cause to die”: event structure              87

                        3.2.2    Lexical Japanese causatives: l-syntax and Late Insertion 89

                           “Lexical” vs. “analytic”: interpreting V+sase                   90

                           The “elsewhere” rule: Late Insertion                              92

                           Lexical causatives: realizing CAUSE                              96

                                                More evidence for Late Insertion          100

                        3.2.3    EventP as a delimiter: why non-compositional

interpretation?                                                                           101

                        3.2.4    Properties of EventP                                                                 102

                           “Primitives”: A, N, P                                                     102

                           The “syntax” of l-syntax                                                104

                        3.2.5    “Give”= Cause x Have y                                                           106

                           The preposition HAVE                                     107

                           “Have” = BE + HAVE                                     108

                           Existentials, possessives and locatives: Freeze

(1992)                                                                          111

                           Definiteness vs. HAVE                                     113

                           Languages without HAVE                                             115

                                                Irish                                                      115

                                                Dine                                                     117

                                                Tagalog                                                119

                           Languages with HAVE                                     122

                                                English                                      122

                                                Japanese                                              122

                                                Georgian                                              125

                        3.2.6    Some implications                                                                     126

                           Auxiliaries                                                                     126

                           Causative and experiencer have                                    128

                           Other possible complements of EventP: CP, TP            131

                           VP adverbials revisited                                     132

                        3.2.7    Conclusion                                                                               133

Part II  Licensing                                                                                                          135

Chapter 4         Realizing case                                                                                       137

            4.1       Case theory                                                                                          138

                        4.1.1    Case and the VP-internal subject hypothesis                              141

                        4.1.2    An Agr-based case theory                                                        142

            4.2       The case of the Icelandic experiencer                                                    143

                        4.2.1    Dative-nominative experiencer subject constructions      143

                        4.2.2    Case in experiencer subject constructions                                  144

                        4.2.3    Structural nominative                                                                 145

                        4.2.4    Nominative in To?                                                                     147

                           Negative polarity items                                      147

                           Finiteness and tense                                                      148

                        4.2.5    The mechanics of case                                                  150

            4.3       Japanese causatives                                                                              152

                        4.3.1    The problem                                                                             154

                           Case alternations and the make/let distinction     154

                        4.3.2    “Make” vs. “Let” readings: syntactic facts                                  156

                           Biclausal –sase-                                                            156

                           Passivization of “make” vs. “let”                                    157     

                           Construal of “agent-oriented” adverbs               157

                        4.3.3    The analysis, part I: clause-bound case-marking                        158

                           Prepositional vs. case-marking –ni                                 160

                           The MCP and the “make” causative                              161

                        4.3.4    The analysis, part II: syntactic differences                                  162

                           The “let” causative: scope facts                         165

                           The “agent-oriented” adverbs                                        165

                        4.3.5    Causee as matrix object                                                            167

                           V+cause – syntactic or morphological? Terada  167

                           Passive and causative                                                    169

                        4.3.6    Scope of the causee: “make” causative                          170

            4.4       Conclusion: realization of case recap                                                     171

Chapter 5         Case, the EPP, and having experiences                                     173

            5.1       Burzio’s Generalization and the EPP                                                      174

                        5.1.1    Does Burzio’s Generalization exist?                                           174

                        5.1.2    Case-assignment: no abstract case required                               177

                           ECM and PRO: activating Agr                          178

            5.2       Movement restrictions: equidistance and leapfrogging                 180

                        5.2.1    Holmberg’s generalization                                                         181

                        5.2.2    OS for case?                                                                            182

                        5.2.3    TEC+OS and dative-nominative constructions               183

                        5.2.4    A split-VP and equidistance                                                      187

            5.3       PRO and the EPP                                                                                 189

                        5.3.1    Control vs. ECM revisited                                                        189

                        5.3.2    Irish and the EPP                                                                      192

            5.4       Auxiliaries, undercover agents, and other psychological problems           193

                        5.4.1    Mandatory agents and transitive verbs                           194

                        5.4.2    Implicit agents and causative and auxiliary HAVE                      196

                        5.4.3    HAVE and dative-nominative constructions diachronically         199

                           Irish psychological predicates                                        201

                           Psych predicaates in other HAVEless languages            202

                                                Dine: “subject-verb idioms”                   203

                                                Tagalog: a psychological problem          204

                           Getting HAVE                                                  206

                           Incorporation and psych predicates                               208

            5.5       Conclusion                                                                                           210

Appendix to Chapter 5 Dative-nominative constructions                                    211

A.1      Icelandic                                                                                                           212

A.2      Japanese                                                                                                          215

A.3      Kannada                                                                                                          218

Chapter 6         Concluding Remarks                                                                             221