Presentation on theme: "Syntax Lecture 3: The Subject. The Basic Structure of the Clause Recall that our theory of structure says that all structures follow this pattern: It."— Presentation transcript:
The Basic Structure of the Clause Recall that our theory of structure says that all structures follow this pattern: It therefore must be the case that clauses have this structure too they must have a: Head Complement Specifier
The Contents of the Clause Generally it is accepted that clauses contain three obligatory elements: – A subject – A predicate (= VP) – A category (referred to as ‘Inflection’) which is made up of one of the following: A modal auxiliary (will, could, shall, must, etc.) The marker of the infinitive (to) A marker of tense (tense inflection on verbal element)
The Contents of the Clause For example: – [the bomb] [may] [destroy the building] – (they want) [the bomb] [to] [destroy the building] – [the bomb] [destroyed the building]
The Contents of the Clause Each of these elements is obligatory – * may destroy the building(no subject) – * the bomb may(no predicate) – * the bomb destroy the building(no inflection)
The Head of the Clause Given that the subject and the predicate are phrases, the only possible head of the clause is the inflection as: – It is a word – It comes in the middle of the clause – The inflection determines the ‘type’ of the clause Finiteif it contains a modal or a tense Infinitiveif it contains ‘to’
How the clause fits X-bar theory Heads determine the nature of the phrase, therefore the clause is an inflectional phrase As the VP follows the inflection, it seems to be in the complement position As the subject precedes the inflection, it seems to be in the specifier position
Three kinds of subjects Natural subjects – Arguments which naturally go in the subject position – usually agents or experiencers Mark shot John Displaced subjects – Arguments which naturally go elsewhere – e.g. objects in passives John was shot (by Mark) Pleonastic subjects – Non-arguments which fill the subject position: It seems that Mark shot John
Natural subjects Agents are always subjects (except in special cases such as passives) – John ate the sandwich -- ? The sandwich ate John Experiences are typically subjects: – John heard the music -- ? The music heard John – But if there is an agent, this will be subject John frightened Bill Themes can be subjects with certain verbs, but only in the absence of other arguments: – The window broke – John broke the window – The brick broke the window
Natural subjects Arguments typically appear inside the VP Natural subjects are therefore special as they appear in the specifier of IP Q1: why are natural subjects different from other arguments?
Displaced subjects In passives, the subject position is filled by what is interpreted as object: – The paper will be read (by everyone) Objects don’t usually occupy this position – – * the paper will read (by everyone) In passives the object position cannot be filled – * The paper will be read the article
The Passive An explanation for this is that the object moves from the object position to the subject position:
The Passive If phrases move, this means that there are two levels of description for structures – The one before movement takes place – The one after movement takes place D-structure movement S-structure
The Passive A consequence of this analysis is that the subject position of the passive is empty at D- structure
The Passive The object must move: – * was shot John (= S-structure) Q2: why must the object move?
Pleonastic subjects For some verbs, the subject is not an argument: – It would seem that the ice melted – It could turn out that he will read the paper The subject in these cases has no semantic purpose (it is meaningless) But it is obligatory * would seem that the ice melted Q3: Why can’t the subject just be left out?
The EPP That objects must move in passives and that pleonastic subjects are necessary indicate: – The subject position must be filled This requirement is called the Extended Projection Principle
Conclusion This gives a uniform analysis to displaced and pleonastic subjects – They are both ways of filling an empty subject position
Why are natural subjects different? In cases of displacement (e.g. passives) and pleonastic subjects, the subject position is empty at D-structure But it seems that with natural subjects the subject position is filled at D-structure Recall Q1 (why are natural subjects different from other arguments?)
Subjects in VP Sometimes we find subjects inside VP: – The heat made [the ice melt] ‘the ice melt’ is like an IP (clause) – The heat caused [the ice to melt] But ‘the ice melt’ is not an IP (clause) because it doesn’t contain an I: – * the heat made [the ice to melt] – * the heat made [the ice will melt] – * the heat made [the ice melted/melts] The only other thing it could be is a VP – containing a subject
Problems If there are subject positions inside VP and inside IP, why don’t we get sentences with two subjects? – * John will Mary shoot Mark
Solutions This is similar to the observation that there can’t be two objects in the passive – * John was shot Mary Therefore it may receive a similar solution – In passives, the object is filled at D-structure and then moves – In actives, the VP internal subject position is filled and then the subject moves
Consequences The subject position is always empty at D- structure Because of the EPP it must be filled at S-structure In actives, it is the VP internal subject (agent, etc.) that moves In passives, as there is no VP internal subject, it is the object that moves When there is no VP internal subject or object, a pleonastic subject is used
Example (active) Subject position is vacant (waiting for something) All the arguments are inside VP
Example (active) Argument moves to vacant subject position
Example (passive) In passives there is no subject argument at D- structure The subject position is still vacant and needs to be filled
Example (passive) Therefore a different argument has to move – i.e. the object.
Example (pleonastic subject) With verbs like seem, there is no subject or object argument at D-structure
Example(pleonastic subject) So at S-structure a grammatical subject is inserted
Summary All arguments of the verb start off inside the VP – This allows for a simple theory of basic argument positions The specifier of the IP must be filled If there is an argument inside the VP (subject or object) that can move, it will move to the specifier of IP If there is no argument, a meaningless subject (it) will be inserted