Finiteness and response particles in West Flemish

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The empirical focus of the chapter is the morphosyntax of the morphologically marked response particles ja and neen in the Lapscheure dialect of West Flemish. Building on Krifka (2013)’s analysis of the corresponding German response particles ja/nein as TP pro-forms, we analyze morphologically marked Flemish ja/neen as TP pro-forms. First we show that the morphological marking on these particles is sui generis: it does not correspond to the marking found on verbs nor does it correspond to a clitic form of the subject pronoun. We develop a cartographic analysis of the syntax of the morphologically marked response particles in the dialect, endorsing Rizzi and Shlonsky (2006, 2007)’s proposal that a finite TP is dominated by a specialized projection for the subject, SubjP, a criterial projection. The pronominal marking on ja/neen is an instantiation of finiteness. If all finite clauses have SubjP then the finite TP pro-form realized by morphologically marked ja/neen is also dominated by (the criterial) SubjP. In the absence of an overt subject, following Rizzi and Shlonsky (2006, 2007), we assume that the Subject Criterion is satisfied by nominal φ-features generated on Fin and that morphologically marked ja/neen moves to Fin in order to license these features. Our analysis predicts that West Flemish morphologically marked ja/neen are a root phenomenon. In addition to the variant with pronominal marking, there is also a bare variant of the ja/neen pro-forms. The presence and absence of the pronominal marking on ja/neen correlates fairly closely with the distribution of finite and non-finite clauses, and we correlate the presence vs. absence of pronominal marking with a finiteness opposition.


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