Linguistic Variation Yearbook 2006
  • ISSN 1568-1483
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9900
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This paper reconsiders the analysis of Transitive Expletive Constructions (TECs) across Germanic in light of recent developments in the Minimalist Program (Chomsky 1995 et seq.). I argue that prevailing views of expletives as merged directly into the Spec-TP position are untenable under the Probe-Goal Agree system of Minimalist Inquiries, and propose that T is anomalous amongst the core functional categories (C, T, v) in lacking the Merge-Expl property. This anomaly, I propose, is reducible to another anomaly setting T apart from C and v, namely T’s status as a nonphase head. It follows from the resolution of a basic indeterminacy in the composition of phases that Expl must merge in Spec-vP, the Object Shift position. This, in turn, throws new light on the patterns of complementary distribution that characterize the interaction between Expl, external arguments, and raised internal arguments exhibited by TECs. A strong form of Bures’s Generalization emerges — TECs are directly tied to the availability of full-DP Object Shift in a manner that is arguably both empirically and conceptually superior to existing analyses. Universal, interface-imposed, phase-based constraints on Object Shift and Merge-Expl are thus sufficient to account for the observed patterns of crosslinguistic variation in TEC distribution.


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