Null and Displaced Subjects

U. Shlonsky, 1987

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This work explores three problems related to the syntactic position of clausal subject:  Do all clauses require subjects?  What conditions must be met for subjects to appear postverbally?  Where are postverbal subjects attached?

The discussion begins with a study of expletives, in particular, of the relationship between expletives and postverbal subjects.  It is hypothesized that expletives are fillers for the syntactic subject position at S-structure and that they are replaced, in Logical Form, by the "semantic" subject of the clause.  Various consequences of this hypothesis are probed, in particular, for Case theory and Binding theory.

Chapter Three develops a theory of Case which incorporates BOTH the Case Filter and the condition that heads of chains must be Case marked.  The particular statement of this module of Universal Grammar has consequences for the status of null expletives and variables.  There follows a discussion of the Case status of variables, in particular, in positions which are clitic doubled.

Chapter Four studies subject inversion.  First, the "licensing" conditions for postverbal subjects are discussed and the relevant facts from Hebrew are presented.  It is then argued that Hebrew has a rule of subject postposing which adjoins a subject to VP, on the left.  It is argued that Spanish utilizes the option of left, as opposed to right, adjunction to VP, while Italian does not.  Various crosslinguistic differences can be accounted for on the basis of this distinction, especially with regards to the distribution of the "definiteness effect".

Chapter Five considers the pro module of UG.  It is shown that null expletives which are replaced, in LF, by arguments which are "personal", need to be supported at S-structure by coindexing with overt grammatical features.

A study of the possessive/existential alternation in Hebrew is the topic of the final chapter.  It is proposed that the verb "be/have" is ambiguous between an unaccusative predicate taking a single argument to which nominative Case is assigned and a verb subcategorized for two internal arguments, one of which is marked with accusative Case, the other with inherent dative Case.  The questions relating to this verb are considered with the intention of clarifying further the notion of syntactic subject.

Table of Contents

Chapter One    Introduction                                                                                          1

Chapter Two    Expletives                                                                                             4

            2.1       Introduction                                                                                          4

            2.2       Against case transmission                                                                      5

            2.3       The subject position                                                                              12

            2.4       Expletive replacement                                                                           14

            2.5       What is an expletive replaced by?  Romance free inversion                    15

            2.6       There-replacement                                                                               16

            2.7       Hebrew impersonal passives and expletive replacement             25

            2.8       Expletive argument pairs and binding theory                                           27

            2.9       Agreement and other problems                                                 30

            2.10     It-replacement                                                                                      32

Appendix:  Pleonastic elements in Hebrew                                                                     35

Notes                                                                                                                           36

Chapter Three  Case Theory                                                                                         43

            3.1       Introduction                                                                                          43

            3.2       Expletives and case                                                                               44

            3.3       Variables and case                                                                                51

            3.4       Variables, case and clitic doubling                                                         55

Notes                                                                                                                           70

Chapter Four    Subject Inversion                                                                                  74

            4.1       Chapter abstract                                                                                   74

            4.2       Subjects internal to VP and subjects adjoined to VP                              75

            4.3       A description of subject inversion in Hebrew                                         81

            4.4       The two inversion strategies in Hebrew                                      90

            4.5       Triggered inversion:  verb preposing or subject postposing?                   94

            4.6       The derived word order of inversion                                                      102

            4.7       On certain differences and similarities among Italian, Spanish and

Hebrew                                                                                                109

            4.8       A final speculation: VSO languages                                                       114

Notes                                                                                                                           116

Chapter Five    The PRO Module                                                                                 120

            5.1       Chapter abstract                                                                                   120

            5.2       Null subjects of inversion                                                                      120

            5.3       Properties of "Long" wh-movement in Hebrew                          122

            5.4       Extraction of postverbal subjects: Hebrew                                             125

            5.5       The extractibility of postverbal subjects and the theory of pro    127

            5.6       Extraction of the postverbal subjects: French                                         129

            5.7       Pro-drop, the expletive replacement hypothesis and the Binding

Condition C                                                                                          132

            5.8       An argument in favor of a structural subject position                               133

            5.9       Expletive pro in raising and extraposition                                               134

            5.10     Argument pro-drop in Hebrew and the feature [+/- person]                   135

Notes                                                                                                                           140

Chapter Six      The be/have alternation:  possessives, existentials and locatives in

Hebrew                                                                                                141

            6.1       Chapter outline                                                                         141

            6.2       The status of yes                                                                                   141

            6.3       The categorial status of the dative possessor: le-phrase as a PP 143

            6.4       The grammatical function of the dative possessor                                   145

            6.5       The status of the possessed NP                                                 149

            6.6       Accusative objects in locative constructions                                           152

            6.7       Impersonal agreement with a dative subject                                           157

            6.8       Pro-drop in possessive yes constructions                                              158

            6.9       Existential yes                                                                                       159

            6.10     The inflectional suffixes: subject clitics or AGR?                         160

            6.11     Hebrew as a North Italian Dialect                                                         161

            6.12     The be/have alternation: an interim summary                              162

            6.13     Stylistic inversion in a yes clause                                                            163

            6.14     Other unaccusatives which assign accusative case                                  164

            6.15     The h.y.y. forms                                                                                   166

Notes                                                                                                                           171