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Featuring the subject in Dutch imperatives

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Abstract

In Dutch imperatives we find a remarkable contrast with respect to the occurrence of lexical subjects. In subject position, the subject strictly agrees with the morphosyntactic properties of the imperative verb. However, in clause-final position, a plural subject can be combined with a non-plural verb. This contrast is the starting point for an analysis of subjects and, in particular, the appearance of <i>pro </i>in imperatives in Dutch.The account developed in this paper is based on the idea that the head of the highest functional projection of the root clause determines the pragmatic force of the sentence. In imperatives, the imperative force can be argued to assign to CP the status of ImpP. The head of this phrase will be assumed to contain a specified feature for 2nd person in Dutch. This assumption correlates with the pragmatic fact that imperatives are always directed towards an addressee, and thus that imperative verbs are typical instances of verbs that are morphosyntactically marked for 2nd person. From this assumption it can be made to follow that <i>pro </i>may appear in imperatives in Standard Dutch, but only if the verb is uninfl ected (or ø -infl ected). It also follows that <i>pro </i>does not appear in ordinary declaratives or most other sentence types; that the polite pronoun <i>U </i>only shows up if the imperative verb has a <i>t </i>-infl ection; that the weak subject pronoun <i>je </i>does not appear in imperatives; and that <i>pro </i>can receive an interpretation that corresponds to the pronouns <i>jij </i>, <i>U </i>[+polite] and <i>jullie </i>[+plu], as manifested in binding, control and right dislocation facts.The theory presented crucially depends on a particular interpretation of the theory of agreement, in which the distinction between interpretable and noninterpretable features and the specificity of the verbal morphosyntactic paradigm play an essential role.

References

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