A Reinterpretation of Quirky Subjects and Related Phenomena in Spanish

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A number of verb classes in Spanish display oblique arguments that occupy the preverbal position otherwise typical of transitive subjects. Based on this observation, a number of works have suggested that these oblique arguments are a kind of quirky subject, similar (though not identical) to the quirky subjects of Icelandic. In this paper I provide evidence against these analyses. I show that Spanish preverbal obliques have none of the defining characteristics of quirky (or non-nominative) subjects. I also show that phenomena where Spanish and Icelandic seem to be similar are in fact unrelated and depend on entirely different grammatical conditions. I conclude by showing that the word order facts observed with these oblique arguments are unrelated to subjecthood. Rather, I show that unmarked word order in Spanish is regulated by the thematic roles of the arguments of the verb and not by subject properties. Hence, there are cases where an oblique argument occupies the preverbal position because its theta-role ranks higher in the Thematic Hierarchy than that of the grammatical subject.<i></i>


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