# Lecture 4: The Complementiser System

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Lecture 4: The Complementiser System
Syntax Lecture 4: The Complementiser System

Complementisers Complementisers are words which introduce subordinate clauses: I know that [he’s mad] I wonder if [you’ve heard] I was hoping for [it to be sunny] Unlike other subordinating particles, they always precede the subordinate clause: John left though he didn’t want to John left, he didn’t want to though * I know he’s mad that

Complementisers and X-bar
If X-bar theory applies to everything: Complementisers are heads They project a ‘complementiser phrase’ They have complements They have specifiers

Clauses differ in force Some make statements Some ask questions The force of the sentence is often determined by the complementiser: He stated that I was right I asked if I was right

Where is the CP in the clause?
It is not part of the IP: All the positions in the IP are taken Specifier = subject Head = inflection Complement = VP CP is independent of IP: I wonder if [I’m not totally sane] and [he’s not totally mad] They say that he’s mad. But if [so], then so am I

Where is the CP in the clause?
Complementisers form a constituent with the clause: This shows [that he is mad] and [that I’m not] They say [that I’m mad] but I don’t believe [it] * They say [that I’m mad] but I don’t believe that [it] It replaces C + IP, not just IP

IP as complement of complementiser
Complements are phrases that always follow heads IP is a phrase that always follows the complementiser Functional heads select for a single complement Complementisers only ever precede IPs

Features of the Complementiser
Complementisers can be declarative and interrogative: +wh = interrogative = if -wh = declarative = that Complementisers can also be distinguished in terms of what kind of clause they introduce I know [that he disappeared] finite clause I long [for him to disappear] infinitival clause

Features of the Complementiser

Whether Whether can be used to introduce non-finite interrogatives clauses: He wondered whether [to stay in bed] However, whether is unlike a complementiser: It can introduce both finite and non-finite clauses He wondered whether [he should stay in bed]

Whether It can introduce a clause with a ‘missing subject’ * I am anxious for [to leave] It can be coordinated with an interrogative phrase He wondered whether and (if so) when to tell her *he wondered if and (if so) when to tell her This suggest that whether is not a complementiser but more like an interrogative phrase (more on these later)

Obligatory nature of the complementiser
If the complementiser provides the force of the sentence, it should always be present. Sometimes there is no complementiser I think that he fled I think he fled It seems that we have to suppose an invisible complementiser: I think [CP e [IP he fled]]

Evidence for the empty complementiser (argument 1)
If there were no complementiser there would be no CP So verbs with clausal complements could take IP or CP complements I think [CP that he fled] I think [IP he fled] But what a verb takes as its complement is a lexical matter – unpredictable/idiosyncratic

Evidence for the empty complementiser (argument 1)
But EVERY verb which takes CP complement takes IP complements – so this is predictable I think/suppose/said/know/feel/... (that) he fled If the complementiser can be empty: all these verbs take only CP complements I think [CP that/e he fled] whether the complementiser is pronounced or not is an idiosyncratic fact about complementisers

Evidence for the empty complementiser (argument 2)
I said yesterday that he fled I said that yesterday he fled When a modifier is next to the verb, it modifies it – when it is separated from the verb, it modifies the following clause I said yesterday he fled This is ambiguous – but why? If there is an empty complementiser it is easy to account for I said yesterday e he fled I said e yesterday he fled

Evidence for the empty complementiser (argument 3)
Certain questions involve a wh-phrase in front of the subject I wonder [why he fled] The subject is in the IP specifier position (like all other subjects) The wh-phrase must therefore be outside the IP

Evidence for the empty complementiser (argument 3)
Wh-phrases are phrases – so they can’t be heads A suitable position for a phrase which precedes the IP is the specifier of CP If there is a CP, there must be a C – but this in empty in this case

Wh-movement Many wh-phrases which appear in the specifier of CP have other functions inside the IP Who did you meet object Who did he say fled subject When will you leave modifier

Wh-movement These positions are always empty when there is a wh-phrase in CP specifier * who did you meet him * who did you say he fled * when will you leave at 6 o’clock This suggests that the wh-phrase starts in these positions and moves

Wh-movement Wh-phrases start off in the position appropriate to their function Object Subject Modifier Then they move to the specifier of CP

Evidence in favour of wh-movement (argument 1)
Sometimes the wh-phrase does not move You saw who! He said who fled! You will leave when! These are called echo questions They don’t have the same meaning as wh-questions with moved wh-phrases But they do show that wh-phrases can occupy these positions

Evidence in favour of wh-movement (argument 2)
When ‘want’ is followed by ‘to’ they can be contracted into ‘wanna’ Who do you want to fight Who do you wanna fight

Evidence in favour of wh-movement (argument 2)
But this is not always possible Who do you want to fight Bill * Who do you wanna fight Bill The difference is in the function of the wh-phrase Who do you want to fight who = object You want to fight him Who do you want to fight Bill who = subject You want him to fight Bill

Evidence in favour of wh-movement (argument 2)
When there is a subject, it sits between ‘want’ and ‘to’ I want him to go Obviously ‘want’ and ‘to’ cannot contract in this case But the only way a wh-phrase at the beginning of a sentence can interfere between ‘want’ and ‘to’ is if it sits between then at some point So it must have been in this position once, and then moved

Examples These can contract

Examples Then movement takes place These can’t

Conclusion Complementisers introduce clauses
They determine the force of the sentence They provide a position for wh-phrases to move to This is not surprising as wh-phrases appear in questions and this is to do with the force of the sentence