CHAPTER III THE STRUCTURE OF THE VERB PHRASE

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1 CHAPTER III THE STRUCTURE OF THE VERB PHRASE KEY POINTS In this chapter you will find out: to what extent the meaning of a verb can determine the structure of sentences the properties of different types of arguments (internal, external, indirect) which a verb can take the difference between arguments and adjuncts 1. THE VP AS THE SEMANTIC CORE OF THE SENTENCE Every sentence must contain a predicate. Its composition largely depends on the properties of the verb which it contains, in particular on its selectional properties. Linguists have long noticed that the subcategorisation frame of a verb is often a reflection of its meaning, though the lexical semantics/syntax mapping is far from perfect, and it does not always work one to one. When the structure of the Lexicon was presented (see Chapter I), it was said that the conceptual structure of verbs might determine the number of arguments they must take. Each participant in the event denoted by the verb is assigned a thetarole (or a thematic role). A verb like love, for example, implies two participants, who receive particular roles (Experiencer and Patient, respectively). This piece of information is then projected onto the argument structure of the verb and from there onto syntax: the verb love requires two arguments: (1) My students love syntax. EXPERIENCER PATIENT NP1 NP A verb like give denotes a state of affairs that may involve three participants whose roles are: AGENT, PATIENT/THEME and GOAL: () John gave the hand-out to his friend. AGENT PATIENT/THEME GOAL NP1 NP PP (NP3) FROM THETA-ROLES TO SYNTACTIC STRUCTURE 133

2 A verb like protest expresses an event which involves one single participant, whose role is determined by the conceptual structure of the denoted event, i.e. AGENT: (3) The students were all protesting. AGENT NP1 A verb like fall is just like protest in terms of number of involved participants, but the role assigned to this single participant is that of PATIENT: (4) The child fell off the bed. PATIENT NP1 The set of thematic roles which verbs can assign is restricted and universal. In (5) below a list of the commonly assumed theta-roles is given: (5) a. AGENT/ACTOR = initiator of some action/doer of the action John killed Harry. Mary ate an apple. The students told the teacher about it. b. THEME/PATIENT 1 = entity undergoing the effect of some action Mary fell over. They kept the dog. Mary ate the apple. The stone rolled down the hill. c. EXPERIENCER = entity experiencing some psychological state or event John was happy. Mary liked the ice cream. Students usually hate syntax. d. BENEFACTIVE = entity benefiting from some action John bought flowers for Mary. I wrote this poem for you. e. INSTRUMENT = the object with which something comes about John cut the bread with a knife. They killed the victim with a gun. 1 One should mention that many linguists distinguish between THEME and PATIENT. The role of THEME is associated with verbs of motion or location, being defined as the entity whose location is described or the entity that moves (see, for example, Cowper 199). On such a view, a book in She gave a book to her friend is a THEME. The role of PATIENT is defined as an entity that undergoes an action. The secretary, in The Dean fired the secretary has the role of PATIENT. In the present textbook we will not distinguish between one role and the other, treating them both as instances of non-agents or affected arguments. 134

3 f. LOCATIVE/LOCATION = the place in which something is situated or takes place John hid the letter under the bed. John stayed in Bucharest. They put the books on the upper shelf. g. GOAL = entity towards which something moves John passed the book to Mary. They marched towards the camp. h. SOURCE = entity from which something moves John returned from Paris. The examples given in (1) (4) show that there is no principled way of predicting the theta-roles of the arguments of a certain verb from their syntactic function. The subject of love is an EXPERIENCER, that of give and protest an AGENT, while the subject of fall is a THEME/PATIENT. But there is a principled way of predicting the number of arguments a verb will take from its theta-grid. One principle is the Projection Principle, which was introduced in Chapter I. For convenience, the definition is repeated under (6a). One more principle is the so-called Theta-Criterion (defined in 6b), which captures the one-to-one relationship between the arguments and the theta-roles of a verb: (6) a. The Projection Principle: The information in the Lexicon must project onto the other levels. b. The Theta-Criterion: Each argument bears one single theta-role, and each theta-role is assigned to one and only one argument. The theta-role/argument mapping, constrained by the Theta- Criterion and the Projection Principle, shows in what way the meaning of a verb, in particular its thematic structure, is relevant for the structure of sentences. The lexicon entry of a verb states the number of participants in the event, and their assigned theta-roles. This piece of information is then projected onto syntax, in accordance with the Projection Principle and the Theta-Criterion. A distinction has to be made between theta-roles such as Agent or Patient, which are inherent roles (Marantz 1984) and theta-roles such as Locative, which are adverbial. The latter are non-inherent roles. It is only the inherent roles that are associated with the arguments of a predicate. The arguments of a verb are obligatory constituents: the subject (the external argument) and the complement (the internal argument). When they are omitted, the sentence is ill-formed: (7) a. * Is cutting the bread. b. * John is cutting. In (7a) the subject has been omitted, i.e. the argument assigned the role of Agent, and in (7b) the complement of the verb cut, the Patient, has not been projected onto syntax. Both sentences violate the Projection Principle and the Theta-Criterion. The information in the lexical entry of a verb projects into syntax in accordance with The Projection Principle and the Theta Criterion. Arguments are obligatory constituents. 135

4 Theta-role assignment takes place at D-Structure. Theta-role assignment is local. The event structure of the verb determines the theta-roles assigned to its participants and the number of arguments. It can also determine their syntactic properties. Atelic events (i.e. events which do not have a natural end point) are often projected as intransitives (walk, sleep, swim), while telic events (i.e. events which have a natural end point) are projected as transitives (eat an apple, build a house, write a letter). Their direct object has been referred to as the delimiter of the event (Tenny 1987). Where does theta-assignment take place? Theta-roles are assigned at D-Structure, which is the internal level where all theta-assignment takes place. It is also assumed that theta-role assignment is local, i.e. it must take place in the minimal domain of the head that is a theta-role assigner. In the case of verbs, this minimal domain is the VP. 1.. SELECTIONAL RESTRICTIONS S-selection constrains the range of possible arguments in terms of their semantic properties. 136 In the previous section it was argued that the conceptual structure of the verb determines the number and the type of theta-roles which it can assign; the number of theta-roles determines the number of obligatory arguments in the sentence, i.e. the selectional requirements of the verb. These selectional requirements fall into two groups: (i) selection of syntactic categories (c-selection) (ii) semantic selection (s-selection) S-selection is an aspect of lexical semantics and it is closely related to the information about each item stored in the Lexicon. It restricts the semantic context in which a verb can be inserted, i.e. its semantic combinatorial properties. A verb like say, for example, may select a propositional argument (8) while a verb like drink or eat will select an NP argument (9) whose semantic properties are compatible with the conceptual structure of the verb. Verbs like persuade and convince require a complement which refers to an entity that can be associated with the property rational (10): (8) (9) a. I said that I would like to teach English. b. * I said a book. a. We sat drinking coffee./they were eating peanuts. b. *We drank that coffee was good./*they were eating that peanuts are not healthy. (10) a.???you convinced my shoe to walk away. b.??? She persuaded my door to open. The examples in (8) (10) show that the selection of the complement can be semantic in nature. The meaning of the verb also imposes selectional restrictions on its subject, not only on its complement(s). For example, understand requires a human subject: (11) a. My students understand syntax. b.???my pencil understands syntax.

5 C-selection constrains the class of possible complements in terms of their syntactic category. Tell, say, report, etc. can c-select a CP complement, whereas drink, eat, cook, etc. cannot: (1) a. She said that she might help you with the report. b. *They cannot drink that they may get drunk. Though one can notice a certain link between the s-selectional properties and the c-selectional properties of certain verbs (for example, if a verb takes a propositional argument it will c-select a CP as a complement, as is the case of say, tell, report, believe, think, etc.) there are verbs with similar meanings, which impose different c-selectional constraints. Like can take both a gerundial and an infinitival complement (13), but enjoy, which has a similar meaning, can only take gerundial complements (14): (13) a. I like dancing. b. I d like to dance with you. (14) a. They enjoy dancing. b. * They enjoy to dance. Wait and await are synonymous, but the former takes a prepositional phrase as its complement or no complement at all (15a-b) whereas the latter is transitive, always requiring an NP as its complement: (15) a. He waited patiently for her. b. She will have to wait two years before she can have a car of her own. c. I returned to the States to find the FBI awaiting me. Spot and see or notice are all verbs of perception, whose meanings are very close. However, spot, unlike the other two verbs, cannot be followed by an Accusative + infinitive construction (Jenkins 1975: 3): (16) a. * I spotted John cross the street. b. I noticed John cross the street. c. I saw John cross the street. Spot can only be followed by an Accusative + participle construction: C-selection constrains the range of possible arguments in terms of their syntactic category. (17) a. I spotted John crossing the street. b. I noticed John crossing the street. c. I saw John crossing the street. This is related to the fact that spot, unlike other verbs of perception, can only take a direct object which refers to an individual or a group, but not to an event (Declerk 198:15). This can also explain why spot, unlike see and other verbs of inert perception, also disallows that-clauses or wh-clauses as its complement: (18) a. * They spotted that he crossed the street. b. * They spotted when he crossed the street. c. They saw that he crossed the street. d. They saw when he crossed the street. 137

6 Such restrictions determine how many arguments a verb needs and which category is allowed as its complement, i.e. they determine the structure of the sentence. Verbs like love, hate, like, cut must take an obligatory NP complement: (19) a. I hate injustice. b. Her publisher cut several stories out of her memoirs. c. They don t love their villages in the way that their parents did. d. I love cigar smoke. Bark, chirp, capsize, thunder or pelt take no complement: (0) a. Loud crashing noises thundered from the next room. b. When the boat capsized we managed to swim ashore. c. The rain was pelting down outside. Verbs like give and send can take two NP complements: (1) a. The woman gave me a dollar tip. b. I promised I would send her the money. Act, behave, mean, treat, word require an obligatory adverbial modifier (), defend, disgrace, conduct, content, revenge, justify, resign, pride or vindicate must always take a reflexive pronoun as a complement (under one particular meaning) (4) while rumour and repute can only occur in passive sentences (3): () a. She meant well./*she meant. b. She behaved badly in the hospital./??she behaved in the hospital. c. We were treated well. /*We were treated. (3) a. He was rumoured to be living in Detroit. b. The buildings were reputed to be haunted. (4) a. He instructed them in how to conduct themselves inside the mosque./ *in how to conduct inside the mosque. b. I contented myself with the use of words./*i contented with the use of words. c. I m not going to justify myself./*i m not going to justify. The few empirical data presented so far show that complements and subjects are licensed by the lexical properties of the verb, which behaves like an unsaturated element that needs a number of arguments for saturation. These arguments are required to have certain morphosyntactic and semantic properties. The composition of a sentence is, consequently, determined by the selectional properties of the verb, which can be considered the semantic core of the sentence. 138

7 In the previous section arguments were defined as obligatory constituents, required in the sentence as a reflex of the theta-assigning properties of the verb. It was also said that arguments are obligatory constituents of the VP and, consequently, of the sentence. But nothing was said about the properties of these obligatory constituents. In what follows we will be looking at the different types of arguments a predicate can have. The notion of argumenthood is closely related to the subcategorisation properties of predicates, though one should make a distinction between the two. The subcategorisation frame of a verb provides information with respect to the number and the type of complements that the verb requires. For example, the subcategorisation frame of the verb eat is [ NP]. We say that eat selects or subcategorises for an NP complement. The subcategorisation frame of sleep is [ ]. It takes no complement. A verb like rely selects a Prepositional Phrase, i.e. it selects a complement which is required to be a PP. Its subcategorisation frame is [ PP]. But the sucategorization frame does not provide any information about the type of subject which the verb takes. As we can see, the subject is not part of this frame, though it is part of the argument structure of the verb. Let us take a look at the structure of the VP whose head is the lexical verb read and see what it can tell us about the arguments which a verb can take. A verb like read can assign two theta-roles (Agent and Patient), which means that its argument structure will contain two arguments. In (5) below, the complement (books) is assigned the role of Patient. It is in a sister relationship to V (read) and it is dominated by V. Since theta-assignment is local, the other argument (Students), which receives the Agent theta-role, has to be in the local domain of its theta-role assigner, i.e. inside the VP. The Specifier position is the one which hosts this argument; it is a sister to V, and it c-commands the verb and its complement. (5) VP 3 Spec V Students 3 V Complement read books The two arguments which the verb can take are generated in specific structural positions: the Complement position and the Specifier position. Since the argument in complement position is inside the VP, in a more direct relationship with the verb, it is labelled the internal argument of the verb. The verb first assigns a thetarole to its complement, i.e. its internal argument. The theta-role which the argument in the Specifier position receives is then compositionally assigned by the verb and its internal argument. The subject is always the last argument to be semantically composed with the predicate (Marantz 1984: 8). It is referred to as the external argument :. TYPES OF ARGUMENTS.1. EXTERNAL VS. INTERNAL ARGUMENTS The term external argument was originally related to the fact that the subject occurs outside the VP at S-Structure, it is external to the VP. The internal argument is assigned a theta-role by the verb. The external argument is assigned a theta-role compositionally by the verb and its internal argument. 139

8 (6) VP Spec V V Complement External argument Internal argument The internal argument, the one which combines with V to form V, is also referred to as the direct object of the verb. The term direct object denotes a grammatical function which is defined in terms of the position which the respective element occupies in the tree. One can define the direct object as that constituent which occupies the Complement position inside a VP and which is dominated by V. The external argument, the subject, begins its existence in the Specifier of VP position. But, as we are going to see, unlike the direct object, which can remain in the VP-internal position, where it is assigned a thetarole, the external argument has to move outside the VP. This definition captures the old intuition that there is a certain asymmetry between the subject and the object of a verb. Firstly, the subject is more prominent than any internal argument. The fact that it occurs higher in the tree can account for a variety of phenomena. For example, the subject can bind reflexive (7a-b) and reciprocal pronouns (7c-d) which occur in other positions (McCloskey 1997): (7) a. Mary i looked at herself i in the mirror. b. He i hurt himself i while chopping onion. a. The children i loved each other i dearly. b. They i could rely on each other i. In English, every sentence must have a subject while there is no such requirement for the internal arguments of a verb. Further evidence in favour of the asymmetry between the external and the internal arguments is provided by the fact that the choice of the object can affect the role of the subject, but the choice of the subject does not affect the role of the object. Consider the following sentences (taken from Marantz 1984: 6): (8) a The policeman threw NP. b. The boxer threw NP. c. Aardvarks threw NP. d. The social director threw NP. e. Throw NP! The role of the NP which is the direct object of throw is the same in all the sentences above, irrespective of the subject. But the choice of the object can determine a change in the interpretation of the predicate and, indirecty, of the role of the subject. Consider the VPs in (9) (30) (taken from Marantz 1984:6): 140

9 (9) a. throw a ball b. throw a fit (30) a. kill a cockroach b. kill a conversation c. kill an evening watching TV By choosing different objects, the verb will assign different roles to its external argument. The verb does not impose any selectional restrictions on the subject on its own. Selectional restrictions can be imposed only by the verb together with its direct object. This is also related to the fact that the linguistic structure which results from the merging of the verb with its direct object can receive an idiomatic interpretation. The asymmetry is also confirmed by the fact that there are lots of object idioms but extremely few, if any, subject idioms (Marantz 1984)... THE EXTERNAL ARGUMENT..1. The VP-internal subject hypothesis According to the VP-internal subject hypothesis, subjects are analysed as generated inside the VP. The Specifier of VP is considered the base-position of the subject. There are several arguments in favour of this analysis. We will refer to only two of them. The first one has already been discussed. The external argument receives a theta-role from the lexical verb. Since theta-roles are assigned locally, the assignee has to be inside the domain of its assigner, the lexical verb. The other argument is related to the position of the so-called floating quantifiers. Quantifiers such as both or all can occur either within the subject NP, as illustrated in (31), or they can float out of the NP and occur separated from the noun, as illustrated in (3): (31) a. All my students have bought the textbook. b. Both his sons are studying linguistics. (3) a. My students have all bought the textbook. b. His sons are both studying Linguistics. This suggests that in (3) the noun and the quantifier form a discontinuous constituent, i.e. they actually belong to the same constituent, to the same NP, but they can occur separated. They are discontinued by the elements which intervene between them. The fact that the quantifier occupies the pre-verbal position provides evidence that the whole NP was base-generated in this VP-internal subject hypothesis: the subject is base-generated in [Spec VP]. 141

10 position: (33) IP I I 0 VP V V 0 VP have Spec V 4 V 0 NP bought 4 the textbook In (33) the Specifier of VP hosts the NP all my students at D-Structure. But, for reasons which we will discuss in the next section, the subject NP moves to a higher position. The quantifier can move along with the noun, resulting in (31), or it can choose to remain in situ, i.e. in the position where the whole constituent was base-generated, resulting in (3). The presence of the quantifier in pre-verbal position has been interpreted as evidence that this is actually the position in which the subject NP was base-generated. We will return to this problem after discussing the movement of the subject NP.... Movement of the subject NP At S-Structure, the canonical subject position is [Spec IP]. 14 Let us take a look at the sentences in (34) below: (34) a. John hates linguistics. b. John is studying linguistics. c. John was awarded a prize. The bolded NP is the subject in each sentence. The semantic role of this NP is different (Experiencer in a, Agent in b, and Patient in c). What the NPs in the sentences above share is not the theta-role but the position in which they occur: the sentence-initial position. The position in which the subject normally occurs in a clause is the [Spec IP]. This is why this is considered the canonical subject position. (35) below gives the tree representation of the S-Structure of the sentence in (34a): (35) IP NP I John I 0 VP /z/ V

11 hate Returning to (34), in each sentence the subject NP John occurs in [Spec IP], regardless of its thematic role. Absence of an overt NP in the canonical subject position leads to ungrammaticality: (36) a. * hates linguistics. b. * is studying linguistics. c. * was awarded a prize. These facts show that the Specifier of IP, the canonical subject position in English, has to be filled with overt material. The Specifier of IP is, then, an obligatory position. This is captured by the Extended Projection Principle (EPP) (Chomsky 1995:55): (37) The Extended Projection Principle: the [Spec IP] position must be occupied by a subject. One informal way in which we can capture this requirement is by saying that every sentence must have a subject. But we have established that the subject NP is base-generated inside the VP, in [Spec VP], in agreement with the locality condition imposed on theta-assignment. In Chapter I, when discussing the mechanism of movement, it was established that an element moves only if it has to move. This actually captures two facts. First, movement cannot be optional. Second, an element may move only if it has to, otherwise it must remain in situ. This corresponds to the view that operations are subject to economy. Movement can only be a Last Resort operation, i.e. an element is allowed to move only if it has no other (more economical) choice. The question which we will now address targets the reason(s) for which the subject NP moves out of the VP to the [Spec IP] position. The movement of the subject NP is related to the Case Filter, which can be formulated as in (38) below: (38) The Case Filter: any overt NP must receive case. Simplifying things, we could say that an NP stands in a certain relationship to the verb or to other elements in the sentence. The identification of these relationships is possible because of the case which the NP receives and which makes it visible, i.e. interpretable. The role of an NP argument becomes visible in the syntax only if the NP is assigned case. Going back to the subject NP, it has to receive case in accordance with the Case Filter. But in English Nominative case has no morphological marker, it is abstract. We assume that it is assigned by agreement with finite inflection. One important assumption with respect to case within the P&P framework is that case is not only morphological case; it is rather an abstract property of all overt NPs. This captures the fact that subjects generally agree with the verb, i.e. with its inflection (person and number agreement). The structural configuration in which this agreement relation can be achieved is a Specifier-head configuration. The element which occupies the Specifier position agrees with the features of the element which is the head of the projection 3. Nominative case is assigned in a Spec-head agreement relation that involves the [Spec IP] position and the head of V 0 NP linguistics The Extended Projection Principle: the [Spec IP] position must be filled. The Case Filter: any overt NP must receive case. 3 For more on the relevance of case assignment for syntax, see also Chapter I, section 6.3, sections..3.4,..4,.3.1 and.3. in this chapter, as well as Chapter VII, section

12 IP, which has to be finite. Only tensed clauses can have Nominative subjects: (39) IP Spec I I 0 VP + finite V V 0 NP The movement of the subject NP to [Spec IP] is case-driven. The head is the one that assigns case to the element hosted by the Specifier position. The [Spec VP] position cannot assign Nominative case to the subject NP. In accordance with the Case Filter, this NP needs case. In order to satisfy this need, it will move to a Case assigning position, i.e. [Spec IP]. So, John, the subject NP in (34), will move out of the [Spec VP], where it occurs at D-Structure, to the [Spec IP] position, in a movement driven by its need for case: (40) IP Spec I I 0 VP /z/ John V NP hate linguistics The subject NP has to move or else the sentence will be ungrammatical, violating the Case Filter and also the Extended Projection Principle. The moved NP leaves behind a trace (t), with which it is coindexed. In (41), John and its trace t have the same index, i. (41) IP Spec I V 0 John i I 0 VP /z/ t i V 3 V 0 NP hate linguistics The moved constituent and its trace form a chain (John i t i), in which the highest link marks the Case assigning position, whereas the lower link marks the theta-assigning position. The trace left behind is an empty category. The only way in which it can be identified is via its antecedent, the overt moved constituent. The overt NP controls the empty category, the trace left behind. In configurational terms, the moved consti- 144

13 tuent, the NP John, c-commands its trace 4. As promised, let us now go back to the quantifiers left in post-verbal position. We said that the D-Structure subject of a sentence like (9a) is base-generated in [Spec VP] as shown in (4): (4) VP V VP have Spec V 4 all my students V 0 NP bought 4 the textbook The NP all my students is base-generated VP-internally, in [Spec VP]. Because it cannot be assigned Case and in accordance with the Extended Projection Principle it has to move to [Spec IP], a Case assigning position. But the quantifier can choose: it can either move along with the NP or it can stay behind. If it chooses the first available strategy, the result will be the one in (43), where the [Spec IP] hosts the whole NP, the quantifier included: (43) IP all the students i I V 0 I 0 VP V V 0 VP have Spec V 4 t i V 0 NP bought 4 the textbook If the second strategy is used, the result will be the representation in (43), where the [Spec IP] hosts the NP the students and the quantifier all is still hosted by the [Spec VP]: (44) IP the students I I 0 VP V V 0 VP have 4 For a definition of c-command, see Chapter II, section

14 Spec V 4 all V 0 NP bought 4 the textbook The structure in (44) provides evidence that the NP all the students was base-generated in [Spec VP]. All has remained in situ. To sum up, the subject NP has been defined as that argument of the lexical verb which is base-generated in the [Spec VP] position and moves to the canonical subject position, [Spec IP], in order to avoid violation of the Case Filter and to meet the Extended Projection Principle. The base position, [Spec VP], is the one where the argument receives a theta-role. The derived position, i.e. the landing site reached as a result of the operation Move, is associated with case assignment...3. Expletive subjects It But there are cases when the verb does not assign a thetarole to the superficial subject. Consider the following sentences: (45) a. It annoys my students that they have to draw trees. b. It surprised them that they could do it easily after little practice. In (45), it occupies the canonical subject position. This is proved by the fact that, like any other subject, it can invert with the auxiliary in Subject-Auxiliary Inversion: (46) a. Does it annoy my students that they have to draw trees? b. Did it surprise them that they could do it easily after little practice? But is it an argument of the verb? Does it receive a thetarole? A look at the argument structure of the lexical verb in (45a) reveals that annoy has one internal argument, my students, and an external argument, [that they have to draw trees]. Compare the sentence in (45a) with (47) below, where it is absent: (47) That they have to draw trees annoys my students. The sentence is grammatical. The verb annoy has two arguments, in accordance with the Projection Principle and the Theta-Criterion. Similarly, in (45b), the verb surprise has one internal argument, them, and one external argument, the CP [that they 146

15 could do it easily after little practice]. (48) below, which does not contain the pronoun it, is grammatical: (48) That they could draw trees so easily after little practice surprised them. The lexical verbs in the two sentences are two-argument verbs, and both arguments have been projected in each sentence. What is the role of the pronoun it then? In terms of meaning, it has no contribution, it is semantically empty. It does not refer to any entity, i.e. it has no reference of its own. This is why it is also called a non-referential or a dummy element. It receives no theta-role from the lexical verb. Its function is to fill in the canonical subject position, the [Spec IP], which has to project, in accordance with the Extended Projection Principle. Hence the term grammatical subject, which distinguishes its function from that of the real or logical subject of the sentence. It is a mere place-holder, anticipating the real subject. This is why it has also been called anticipatory it. In (45a) it anticipates the CP subject [that they have to draw trees]. In (45b), it anticipates the CP subject [that they could do it easily after little practice]. So far, the data show that: it is not a referring expression it is not assigned a theta-role it is not an argument of the verb its presence is required by some structural reason it is a slot-filler it contributes nothing to the meaning of the sentence. In all the examples above it anticipates a CP. Compare those examples to (49) below: (49) a. * It worries me this textbook. b. * It is important syntax. In (49) it anticipates an NP, not a CP, which results in ungrammaticality. This means that it cannot be the place-holder of an NP. Non-referential it can only replace a clausal constituent which has been moved from subject position to sentence final position. We say that such constituents have been extraposed. This property of non-referential it is summarised in (50): (50)..3.. There *IT i.(extraposed) NP i IT i. (extraposed) Clause i A similar situation can be noticed in the sentences below, where the canonical subject position is occupied by there: (51) a. There is a book on the table. b. There are many students reading books in the library. 147

16 There, just like it, occupies the canonical subject position, being the grammatical subject of the clause, as can be seen in the Subject-Auxiliary Inversion structures below: (5) a. Is there a book on the table? b. Are there many students reading in the library? There does not receive a theta-role from the verb. In (51b), the verb read assigns the role of Agent to many students and the role of Patient to books. There does not receive any role. Nor does it seem to contribute to the meaning of the sentence in the same way in which the other elements do. It fills in the canonical subject position, in accordance with the Extended Projection Principle. In (51a), there anticipates a book, and in (51b) it anticipates many students. The data show that there 5 shares a set of properties Expletives are non-referential elements which fill in the subject position. with it: there is not a referring expression there is not assigned a theta-role there is not an argument of the verb its presence is required by some structural reason there is a slot-filler there contributes nothing to the meaning of the sentence Such dummy pronouns are called expletives. They are defined as non-referential elements which occur in NP positions but which do not receive theta-roles and are not arguments of the verb. It and there are expletives. The [Spec IP] in English must be filled, in accordance with the requirement that every sentence must have a subject. The subject can be either a referential or a non-referential subject (such as the expletives there and it). The expletives there and it should be distinguished from locative there (illustrated in 53) and referential it (see 54): (53) a. Have you ever been to Antwerp? Yes, I have been there several times. b. Why did they decide to meet there, of all places? (54) a. I love this movie. It is great. b. We liked the house but it was too expensive. In (53a) there substitutes the PP to Antwerp and it contributes to the meaning of the sentence. It is an adverbial modifier. It replaces this movie in (54a) and the house in (54b). It is not a mere place-holder; it is the real subject of the sentence. 5 For more on the properties of sentences whose [Spec IP] hosts expletive there see Chapter IX, section. 148

17 It requires a clausal associate It vs. there So far, we have treated both it and there as evincing the same set of properties which qualify them as expletives. However, though not explicitly, one difference between the two has been mentioned: the associate of there is an NP whereas it cannot have an NP associate, it can only have a clausal associate. From this we can infer that the link between these two expletives and their associate may be of a different nature. And indeed, this view has been defended in several studies. Safir (1985) even argues that there is no expletive-argument link between it and its associate. The first obvious difference between expletive it and expletive there constructions is related to agreement. Consider the sentences below: (55) a. There is a book on the table. b. There are lots of books on the table. c. It seems likely that they will get married pretty soon. d. It seems likely that they will buy a nice house and move there pretty soon. e. *It seem likely that they will buy a nice house and move there pretty soon. (55a b) show that the verb in a there construction (usually) agrees 6 with the post-verbal NP. What (55c-e) show is that the verb in the structures which contain it always agrees with the expletive, i.e. there is no number agreement holding between the inflected verb and the clausal associate in expletive it constructions. This suggests that the relation between there and its associate is of a different nature than the relation between it and its associate Expletives and case The expletive and its associate form a chain. Expletives raise an interesting problem which derives from their property of being elements without a theta-role and, consequently, non-arguments. Just like lexical arguments, they need case. (56) is ungrammatical because expletive there occurs in a position where it cannot be assigned case: (56) *It seems there to be many students absent today. Case makes the role of arguments visible in the syntax. But expletives have no semantic role so they should not require case. This is what makes the ungrammaticality of (56) surprising. This puzzling behaviour has been analysed as the result of the case requirement of the NP associate. The NP associate is an argument, it is assigned a theta-role and, consequently, it needs case to make this role visible. The case requirement in (56) then is 6 In colloquial speech, the verb may exhibit agreement by proximity, i.e. agree with the NP closer to it, as in: There is a book and many flowers on the table. 149

18 not the case requirement of the expletive there but of its NP associate. The expletive and the associate are analysed as forming a chain. The expletive is the head of the chain and the associate is the foot of the chain. The head and the foot are coindexed. This suggests that the case requirement applies to the whole chain. If one position in the chain is a case-marked position, then the whole chain is case-marked (Safir 198, Chomsky 1986). In a there construction, the expletive occupies a case position, where it can get Nominative case, which it transmits to the other link in the chain, i.e. its associate. Notice that this analysis relies on the assumption that the NP associate occupies a position where it cannot be case-marked. In Chapter IX, section we will analyse the case assigning properties of those verbs which can occur in there constructions. We will see that all belong to the class of one-argument predicates which do not assign Accusative case 7. Further evidence that the post-verbal NP does not receive case in a there construction is provided by sentences like (57): (57) There are usually many students in this pub. In (57), usually intervenes between the verb and the NP associate of there. In English, case assignment requires adjacency between the verb and the NP. Compare (57) to (58) below, which is ungrammatical because the adjacency requirement is not met: (58) *They drink usually coffee. The Principle of Full Interpretation: every element in a sentence must be semantically interpreted. At LF, the expletive and the associate are interpreted together, in the same position. In (58), usually occurs between the verb and the NP, blocking case assignment. The fact that (57) is grammatical suggests that the NP many students does not receive case from the verb. Case is transmitted to this NP via the chain to which it belongs. In (58) there is assigned Nominative case, in a Spec-head configuration, in [Spec IP]. The chain there i many students i is then case-marked, since one position in the chain has received case. The NP associate will get case through the chain Expletives and the Full Interpretation Principle Another interesting problem stems from the nonreferentiality of expletives. They are semantically vacuous. But we have argued several times in the chapters of this textbook that the meaning of a sentence is compositional. It is the result of the properties of each component and of the way in which 7 For a different point of view which holds that unaccusatives do assign a particular type of inherent case, see Belletti (1988) and Lasnik (199). Their analysis obviously assumes that case transmission along a chain does not exist. 150

19 these components relate to each other. This fact is captured by the Principle of Full Interpretation (Chomsky 1981), which can be briefly formulated as in (59): (59) The Principle of Full Interpretation: Every element in a sentence must be semantically interpreted. How do expletives, which are semantically empty, fare with respect to the Principle of Full Interpretation? They should be illegitimate at LF. You will remember that expletives do not travel alone; they always have an associate with which they form a chain. Because they are semantically deficient, at LF they will be saved by their associate. One way in which the derivation can be saved is to assume that at LF expletives are eliminated (see Chomsky 1986, 1991 for the analysis of there). Being semantically vacuous, they have to be replaced. This is called expletive replacement (Chomsky 1986), which results in the replacement of the expletive by its semantically full associate, base-generated in Spec VP: (60) IP There I I 0 VP Spec V V 0 At LF the expletive is practically invisible because it has no semantic content. Its associate moves to the position of the expletive, adjoining to it. The NP moves to [Spec IP] not in order to check its own features but to save the expletive which is semantically deficient, i.e. cannot be interpreted on its own. At LF, both the expletive and the NP associate occur in [Spec IP], and get interpreted together. The LF representation of There are students in the hall is given in (61): (61) LF-representation: [There i students i] are t i in the hall. It is important to underline that movement at LF is covert, i.e. it cannot be seen in the syntax. This account cannot capture two facts: (i) that there, unlike expletive it 8, may have a semantic interpretation at LF, and (ii) that the relation between there and its associate may be of a different nature than the one between it and its clausal associate. One analysis which can capture these two facts is the one put forth in Hoekstra & Mulder (1990). They argue that copular be in a sentence such as The best solution is this one is a oneargument verb which takes a small clause complement: (6) 8 See Chapter IX. 151

20 is [ SC the best solution this one] Inside the small clause in (6), the first NP, the best solution, is the subject and this one is the predicate. The subject NP will move out of the small clause to [Spec IP] in the matrix for case reasons, resulting in (63): (63) The best solution is this one. They extend this analysis to there-constructions 9, such that the D-Structure of (64a) is assumed to be the one in (64b):..4. Overt vs. null subjects (64) a. There is a student in the room. b. is [ SC a student there in the room]. On such an approach there is no need to assume any LF movement. There has a definite interpretation 10. In non-finite clauses the subject can be phonologically null. So far it has been argued that in English the subject of the sentence must be overt and occur in the [Spec IP] position. When the real subject does not occupy this position, it has to host an expletive, which plays the part of a grammatical filler. The [Spec IP] position must be filled by some overt material. English, unlike Romanian or Italian, does not allow null subjects in finite clauses. The pro-drop parameter has a negative value in English. But this does not mean that null subjects do not exist in English. Consider the following sentences: (65) a. I want [to go to the cinema]. b. She remembered [posting the letter]. c. I asked John [to buy bread on his way home]. The sentences in square brackets above are all non-finite embedded clauses and their subject is null, i.e. it lacks phonetic content. All the sentences are, however, grammatical. This means that we have to add one more fact to our conclusions with respect to subjects in English. The subject requirement demands that sentences have a subject. This subject has to be overt in finite clauses 11 but it may be non-overt in non-finite ones. Going back to (65) above, postulating the presence of a subject derives from the Projection Principle and the Theta- Criterion. The verb go in (65a) takes an external argument and so does post in (65b). But the argument is not overt, it is an empty category. This raises two immediate questions: (i) what is the status of this empty subject? and (ii) how can we interpret 9 See also Chapter IX, section.7 for a presentation of various possible analyses of the structure of there-sentences. 10 But see Groat (1995), where it is claimed that both there and it have a null semantic interpretation at LF. 11 See Chapter IX, Noncanonical sentences, where instances of null subjects in finite sentences are discussed. 15

21 The Empty Category Principle: null elements must be identified. it? Being an empty category, it has to be identified. This requirement is called The Empty Category Principle and it could be formulated as in (66): (66) The Empty Category Principle: Phonetically null elements must be identified. In all the sentences in (65) the null subject of the non-finite clause has the same referent as either the subject (65a b) or the object (65c) in the matrix. The subject in [to go to the cinema] has the same index as I in the matrix, the one in [posting the letter] the same as she in the matrix. In (65c), the null subject has the same referent as the direct object John in the matrix. We say that the subject /object in the matrix controls the null subject in the embedded clause, i.e. the interpretation of the phonetically null subject depends on the overt subject/object in the matrix. In this respect, the null subject behaves like an anaphor, which is referentially dependent on an antecedent in its clause 1. Consider himself in (67): (67) John asked himself what he should do next. Himself can only be interpreted if it has an antecedent. In this case, control is obligatory. The same type of control can be identified in (65a c) above, where PRO is controlled by either the subject or the object in the matrix. We call the type of control illustrated in (65a b) subject control and the one illustrated in (65c) object control. We can capture this idea giving the null subject (which will be represented as ec, i.e. empty category, for the time being) and its controller the same index: (68) a. I i want [ec i to go to the cinema]. b. She i remembered [ec i posting the letter]. c. I asked John i [ec i to buy bread on his way home]. But null subjects are not always obligatorily controlled by an antecedent. Consider the following sentences: (69) a. I know that it is important [to be polite.] b. She wondered whether [going to the seaside] was worth it. In (69) the null subject in the bracketed non-finite clauses may have the same referent ( I know that it is important that I be polite/ She i wondered whether her i going ) as the subject in the matrix but it can also have a different referent ( I know that it is important for people etc. ). Control in this case is optional. We capture this allowing the empty subject to bear two indices: one identical with the optional controller in the matrix and a different one: 1 See Chapter VII, section 3 for an analysis of the referential properties of noun phrases. 153

22 (70) a. I i know that it is important [ec i/j to be polite.] b. She i wondered whether [ec i/j going to the seaside] was worth it. This time, the null subject behaves more like a pronoun, which may be either free or have an antecedent outside its clause. And there are cases when the empty subject has no antecedent at all: PRO behaves both like an anaphor and like a pronoun with respect to binding. PRO must occur in an ungoverned position. PRO must occur in a position where case cannot be assigned. 154 (71) a. [Learning linguistics] is fun. b. [To be] or [not to be], that is the question. In (71a) (71b) the null subject has an arbitrary interpretation, it is interpreted as meaning one or someone or people in general. It has no controller. We capture this by giving the null element the index arb, i.e. arbitrary: (7) a. [ec arb Learning linguistics] is fun. b. [ec arb To be] or [ec arb not to be], that is the question. What the data point to so far is that non-finite sentences may have a null subject, which displays a hybrid behaviour with respect to its identification requirement. It behaves both like an anaphor (it needs an antecedent) and like a pronoun (it can have no antecedent, i.e. it can be free). This is why this type of null element has been defined as having mixed features: [+ anaphor, + pronoun]. It has been labelled PRO, to distinguish it from pro null subjects in finite sentences in pro-drop languages. In all the sentences above, we can replace the label ec with PRO. We have answered then the two questions: the null subject in non-finite clauses is of type PRO, and its identification properties qualify it as [+ anaphor] and [+pronoun]. It can be subject to obligatory control, to optional control or no control at all. Unlike the null subjects (pro) in finite clauses in pro-drop languages, PRO cannot be replaced by an overt NP. Compare the Romanian sentences in (73) with the English ones in (74): (73) a. Mi-a spus că pro pleacă la mare. b. Mi-a spus că Ion pleacă la mare. c. S/he told me that pro/ion is going to the seaside. (74) a. She tried PRO to leave. b. *She tried she to leave If the position which PRO occupies cannot be filled by an overt NP, this suggests that the position is one in which case cannot be assigned. Remember that the Case Filter does not allow overt NPs that have not received case at S-Structure. Again, we are faced with two questions: (i) what position does PRO occupy? and (ii) does it receive no case at all?

23 Earlier in this chapter, it was argued that the external argument of a verb is base-generated VP-internally. It then moves to the canonical subject position, [Spec IP], for two reasons: it needs case and the Extended Projection Principle requires the [Spec IP] to be filled. If PRO is null, does it move to get case or does it remain in its base position, i.e. in [Spec VP]? Overt NPs need case, but PRO is non-overt. We will then assume that it does move only to satisfy the EPP: the [Spec IP] must be occupied. So, in order to meet the subject requirement, PRO will move out of the VP-internal position to [Spec IP], as represented in (75): (75) IP[-finite] Spec I * I VP Spec V PRO V Crucially, this is not a caseassigning position. Only finite inflection can assign Nominative Case. PRO does not receive Case or, according to more recent studies, it receives null Case. Null Case can only be assigned by non-finite morphology. We have established that English also allows null subjects. The status of null subjects is PRO, i.e. an empty category with mixed features: [+ anaphor, +pronoun]. The distribution of PRO is restricted to non-finite clauses. Like any other subject, PRO is base-generated VP-internally, in [Spec VP]. It then moves to [Spec IP] in order to satisfy the EPP. The position it moves to cannot assign Case (or it assigns null case), which explains why this type of subject is null and why it cannot be substituted by an overt NP. C So far, every time we talked about the subject of a sentence the subject was an NP. But the subject need not always be an NP. Consider the following sentences which all have a subject that is not an NP: (76) a. On the beach is a good place to go daydreaming. b. In September would be the best time to go to Greece. c. After lunch is a good time to have coffee with a friend. d. Between six and seven will suit me. e. During the vacation is what we decided (Jaworska 1986: 356). The bolded subjects in (76) are all PPs. Not only do they occupy the sentence-initial position but they also behave like NP subjects with respect to Subject-Auxiliary Inversion: Null subjects in non-finite clauses are instances of PRO...5. Subjects which are not NPs The subject of a clause can be an NP, an IP, a SC, a CP or a PP. 155

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