Agreement and reconstruction correlate in Swedish
This paper presents two novel findings: I show (i) that there is a strong connection between ϕ-feature agreement and scope freezing in Swedish, and (ii) that Swedish tough-constructions (TCs) involve movement of the embedded object into the matrix subject position. Scope freezing is shown to take place in adjectival TCs, morphological passives and adjectival raising structures in Swedish, but not in verbal TCs, periphrastic passives or verbal raising constructions. The difference in scope possibilities in adjectival and verbal contexts is captured by analyzing movement induced by ϕ-feature agreement (adjectival cases) as taking place in the syntax, and purely EPP-driven movement (verbal cases) as taking place post-syntactically. Following Sauerland and Elbourne (2002), it is assumed that reconstructed readings do not involve any undoing operation but reflect the position of an element prior to post-syntactic movement. Regarding TCs, I further show that adjectival and verbal TCs in Swedish are uniformly derived via long A′–A-movement of the underlying object into the matrix subject position. Since infinitival clauses in Swedish have been shown to have a smaller structure than a full CP (Engdahl 1986), movement of the object does not violate the Williams Cycle (Williams 2003) and is therefore not an instance of Improper Movement. Swedish TCs thereby share properties both with English TCs (A′-properties) and with German TCs (long movement), placing the Swedish ones in between.
KeywordsReconstruction ϕ-feature agreement tough-construction in Swedish Long A′–A-movement
It is generally assumed that reconstruction of a phrase is only possible into positions that the phrase has occupied at some stage of the derivation (see e.g. Romero 1998; Fox 1999; Sportiche 2006a). It follows, then, that a subject that cannot be interpreted scopally in the position where it appears to be assigned its θ-role might never actually have appeared in that position (Chomsky 1993; see also Sportiche 2006b). Precisely this issue comes up in analyses of tough-constructions (TCs) (for discussion, see e.g. Fleisher 2013).
In fact, while the adjectival type of TC in (3a) has been examined to some extent before in Swedish, other types of TC (of which (3b) is just one example) have not received much attention. For instance, although Malmgren (1984) gives examples of some verbal TCs, his discussion is focused on adjectival ones. Similarly, Engdahl (2012) is concerned with properties of the non-reconstructing, adjectival type and concludes that TCs in Swedish have base-generated subjects. The contrast in reconstruction properties of different types of TC, (3b)–(3a), has thus not been noticed. If the ability to reconstruct indeed correlates with movement, as argued in, among others, Romero (1998), Fox (1999) and Sportiche (2006b), then the data in (3) seems to suggest two different derivations of TCs in Swedish. More precisely, those TCs that allow for reconstruction of the subject, (3b), would be derived via movement, while those that do not reconstruct, (3a), would involve a base-generated subject.
In this paper I will be concerned with the derivation of TCs in Swedish, but I will also look at correlations between morphological agreement and lack of reconstruction in Swedish more generally. Regarding TCs, I will argue against a solution with two derivations for these constructions and present evidence that both adjectival and verbal types are derived via movement from the embedded clause. Firstly, TCs behave uniformly when it comes to reflexive binding, indicating that the subject has moved. Secondly, those TCs that fail to reconstruct do so for independent reasons, I will argue, and not because they do not involve movement of the subject. Specifically, I will show that reconstruction is unavailable in Swedish more generally in contexts with morphological agreement between the subject and the predicate. The pattern observed for TCs, (3), thus holds also for passives and raising structures. It will be argued that morphological agreement arises from ϕ-feature agreement between the subject and predicate in Swedish, and that cases without a morphological reflex as well as cases with a default morphological form do not involve ϕ-feature agreement. A subject that has agreed in ϕ-features with its predicate is frozen in place for scope reconstruction purposes.
The paper is structured as follows: In Sect. 2, I begin by laying out the properties of TCs in Swedish, looking at predicate types, binding properties and scope reconstruction properties. As will be shown, both binding and scope provide evidence for movement into the subject position in TCs in Swedish. For the ability to reconstruct, however, it matters whether the predicate agrees morphologically with the subject or not. Section 3 therefore looks at morphological agreement in Swedish, both straight-forward and unexpected agreement patterns. I argue that common gender and plural agreement marking arise as a result of ϕ-feature agreement but that ϕ-feature agreement is absent in other subject-predicate relations in Swedish. When ϕ-feature agreement has taken place, the subject is frozen in place and necessarily gets wide (non-reconstructed) scope. I show that the proposed analysis of ϕ-agreement and scope freezing carries over also to passives and raising constructions. In Sect. 4, I turn to the syntactic derivation of TCs. I argue that TCs are derived via a combination of A′- and A-movement of the underlying object into the matrix subject position.
2 Properties of TCs in Swedish
In this section, I look at the properties of TCs in Swedish in some detail. As TCs in Swedish differ in their ability to reconstruct depending on their type of predicate, I begin, in Sect. 2.1, with an overview of the different predicate types found. After that I turn to expletive-drop constructions in Sect. 2.2, as such constructions superficially look like TCs, but are distinct from these. Sections 2.3 and 2.4 discuss binding and scope properties of TCs.
2.1 Predicate types
In addition to syntactic differences, there are also morphological differences between the predicates. While adjectival tough-predicates show morphological agreement with the subject, nominal and verbal ones do not. I will return to this property in Sect. 3.
2.2 TCs and expletive-drop constructions
In the next two subsections, I turn to binding and scope reconstruction properties of TCs in Swedish. Such properties can be indicative of whether the constructions involve movement of the subject or not.11
2.3 Reflexive binding
2.4 Scope properties
3 Predicative agreement and reconstruction in Swedish
In the following, I propose an analysis that ties the lack of reconstruction in adjectival TCs to the particular subject–predicate agreement taking place in these contexts. I begin by giving a short overview of predicative agreement in Swedish, before I turn to the analysis of the different agreement contexts in Sect. 3.1, and discuss why some of these contexts lead to scope freezing in Sect. 3.2. After that, I show that the analysis also extends to passives and raising constructions, in Sects. 3.3–3.4.
To sum up, common gender marking on the predicative adjective is restricted to contexts with non-bare common gender singular subjects and plural marking is restricted to contexts with subjects in the plural that are neither clauses nor eventive nominals. Neuter marking, on the other hand, is found in contexts with neuter gender singular subjects as well as in contexts with bare subjects of either gender, eventive nominals and clauses appearing on their own or conjoined.
3.1 Gender and number agreement
When simplifying the feature grids above, we removed the Number feature from the non-plural cases.24 Although singular DPs thus lack a Num feature, they are of course able to appear with the articles en (‘a/one’ common gender) or ett (‘a/one’ neuter gender). On my analysis, en and ett are indefinite markers, spelling out Definiteness features, rather than Number features. Definiteness is also involved in the difference between (33a) and (33b)–(33c) above. (33b)–(33c) lack a Definiteness projection.
3.2 ϕ-feature agreement and scope freezing
To account for the Swedish TC data, I propose an analysis along the lines in Sauerland and Elbourne (2002). Thus, in Swedish, ϕ-features are obligatorily checked in the syntax and the ensuing movement is syntactic. This is the structure interpreted at LF, accounting for the obligatory surface scope reading. When there is no ϕ-feature checking and movement is purely EPP-driven, movement takes place at PF. In this case, the subject can either be interpreted in its syntactic position, i.e. get narrow scope, or it can Quantifier Raise to a higher position at LF, and then get wide scope. Since the reconstructed reading is not achieved via lowering or some other undoing operation on this analysis, it is not necessary to stipulate that such an operation is available only when no ϕ-feature agreement takes place. Instead the scope readings uniformly reflect the syntactic structure, or are achieved via Quantifier Raising at LF if a second, higher scope reading is available.27
To sum up, subject-predicate agreement that involves ϕ-features results in scope freezing in Swedish. With common gender and plural agreement on the predicate, the subject can only get a surface scope reading, but with neuter gender and with verbal or nominal predicates both readings are possible because these do not involve ϕ-feature agreement. This analysis makes an empirical prediction: also in non-TC contexts involving movement, reconstruction should be blocked when the predicate is marked for common gender or plural, but should not be blocked otherwise. Examples of such structures are passives and raising constructions.
As pointed out by a reviewer, the reconstruction pattern for passives is complicated by the fact that stress can play a role. Essentially, stress can have the effect of strongly favouring one reading over another. To some but not all speakers, focus can also bring out a reading that is not otherwise available. Under the assumption that Focus structure is operative at LF, its interaction with scope readings comes as no surprise as scope relations too are determined at LF. This interaction deserves a full investigation, but it falls somewhat outside the scope of the present paper. For some relevant data, see the Appendix.
As we have seen, the basic pattern that emerges for passives is similar to what can be observed in TCs. Morphological passives allow for both surface and narrow scope readings of their subjects, while periphrastic passives only allow for the surface scope reading when the participle is marked for common gender or plural. Periphrastic passives with neuter gender agreement are more flexible in often allowing for both readings. Before turning to the derivation of TCs in Swedish in Sect. 4, I will briefly look at raising structures, another context with movement into the subject position.
Thus, although adjectival and verbal raising constructions do not form minimal pairs, the pattern observed for TCs largely carries over to raising constructions.
4 The derivation of TCs in Swedish
In the sections above, I presented evidence from reflexive binding and scope reconstruction indicating movement into the matrix subject position of TCs in Swedish. In the following sections, I propose that TCs in Swedish are derived via movement of the embedded object in two steps: an initial A′-movement step in the embedded clause, followed by A-movement into the matrix subject position. Section 4.1 lays out the evidence for the initial A′-step. In Sect. 4.2 I discuss problems encountered when applying previous A′-movement analyses of English TCs to Swedish ones. In 4.3 I instead suggest a long-distance A′–A movement analysis of TCs in Swedish, placing them in between the English and German types of TC.
4.1 A′-movement in the embedded clause
4.2 The matrix subject: Base-generation or smuggling
There are different ways in which an A′-moved element could be linked to the matrix subject. Broadly speaking, A′-analyses of TCs either assume that this is achieved through further movement into the subject position (movement analyses) or via a base-generated subject that enters into an interpretive relation of some kind with the A′-moved element (an Operator) in the embedded clause (base-generation analyses).
The booksare easy [OPPRO to read t]
The booksare easy (for Kate) [[Op t]to read t]
4.3 Improper Movement and clause size
*Oscarwas asked [[ how likely tto win ]it was t]
5 Concluding remarks
This paper presents two novel findings: I show that there is a strong connection between ϕ-feature agreement and scope freezing in Swedish, and I demonstrate that Swedish TCs involve movement of the underlying object into the matrix subject position.
I follow Sauerland and Elbourne (2002) in assuming reconstructed readings are not achieved via lowering or other undoing operations, but instead to reflect the final syntactic position of an element. In Swedish, movement related to ϕ-feature agreement is syntactic but purely EPP-driven movement (not involving ϕ-feature agreement) is post-syntactic. Subjects of adjectival predicates marked for common gender or plural have undergone ϕ-agreement, while subjects of verbal, nominal and adjectival predicates marked for neuter have not. The former are interpreted in the surface position (i.e. the subject position) for scope purposes (i.e. they get wide scope relative to quantified elements lower down), while the latter can either be interpreted in their syntactic position (i.e. the object position, where they have narrow scope relative to another quantifier) or in the higher position, achieved via Quantifier Raising at LF. These patterns can be observed in TCs, passives and raising structures, all three of which come with both adjectival and verbal predicates.
The second finding concerns TCs more specifically. TCs in Swedish are like English ones in having A′-properties; they license parasitic gaps and are not sensitive to arguments intervening between the embedded object position and the matrix subject. Unlike English TCs, Swedish TCs can have a reflexive element in the subject bound in the embedded clause. For Swedish, then, there is evidence for movement of the object all the way from the embedded clause, involving an initial A′-step. Since infinitival clauses in Swedish have been shown to have a smaller structure than a full CP (Engdahl 1986), movement of the object does not violate the Williams Cycle (Williams 2003) and is therefore not an instance of Improper Movement. German TCs lack the A′-properties of English and Swedish TCs and are analyzed as being derived via long A-movement (Wurmbrand 2003). On the proposed analysis, Swedish TCs can be placed in between the English type and the German type.
The position where the matrix subject has its thematic interpretation is indicated with a co-indexed ___ in the TC examples. I also indicate whether the sentences are examples of adjectival, verbal or nominal TCs (aTC, vTC, nTC) just above or to the right of the example.
The following abbreviations are used in the glosses: cmn—common gender; neut—neuter gender; pl—plural; def—definite; acc—accusative case; nom—nominative case; gen—genitive; refl—reflexive pronoun; pass—passive verb form; ptc—passive participle; part—particle.
Common gender (glossed as cmn) is a non-neuter gender in the singular.
See Klingvall (2011).
- 7.Although nominal TCs behave like verbal ones with regard to wh-question, (i), they are structurally more similar to adjectival ones. To many speakers, adjectival and nominal TC predicates are alike in that both can appear as complements of small clause taking verbs like anse (‘consider’), without vara (‘be’), (ii). This indicates that the verb is not part of the predicate in either case. The wh-question in (i) is ill-formed because it is not an appropriate question for the type of predicate present. When used as a predicate, mardröm does not have the literal meaning of ‘nightmare,’ but instead means something like ‘difficult’ or ‘a hassle.’ Nominal tough-predicates are therefore quite limited in what type of modification they allow for, (iii), and hence in what type of related question can be formed.
Another view is expressed by, among others, Hornstein (2001) and Kim (1995). They argue that the adjective in TCs must be able to assign a theta-role to the subject, since the infinitival clause can sometimes be omitted, in which case the embedded verb cannot be the theta-role assigner. The infinitival clause has the status of adjunct, according to these authors. Comrie and Matthews (1990), in contrast, argue that omission of the infinitival clause is only possible when its meaning can be retrieved from the context. The omission is thus more like object-omission than adjunct-omission and this indicates that the theta-role of the subject is assigned by the embedded predicate. For discussion, see Hicks (2003, 2009).
- 9.I take the unpronounced expletive subject (indicated as Open image in new window ) to appear in the position after the verb, precisely as regular subjects in the presence of a non-subject clause-initial element:
- 10.As pointed out by a reviewer, the sentences can also be disambiguated with personal pronouns. These pronouns have distinct forms for subject and object case (with the exception of det ‘it’ (neuter), den ‘it’ (common) and dom ‘they’). Pronouns in the subject form are incompatible with a (dropped) expletive subject. Personal pronouns are however a less useful test for my purposes as the ones having distinct subject and object forms are those referring to animate entities.
- 11.For TCs in English, Experiencer PPs are also used to argue for as well as against movement of the subject (for different views, see e.g. Hartman 2011a,b; Keine and Poole 2016). Such phrases are however not a useful diagnostic in Swedish. Unlike in English, Swedish för-phrases are clearly PPs and not infinitival for-subjects, (ia). Furthermore, för-PPs are well-formed in both TCs and their expletive counterparts, (ib)–(ic). Because PPs (at least of this kind) are not interveners for movement in Swedish, they are not a useful diagnostic for either movement or base-generation in TCs.
I assume that the Agent av-PP (‘by’-PP) in the passive is generated above the participle, hence in a position where it can bind the object before it moves into the subject position.
The reflexive data in this section as well as the scope reconstruction data in the next section have been checked with 4–8 native speakers each. Some of the speakers are trained linguists, but the variation is not linked to that. When a sentence is marked %, some speakers find it fully acceptable, while others find it questionable.
The intended readings in (16) are episodic. In generic contexts, reflexives can be acceptable even without an overt binder (see Teleman et al. 1999:335). In such cases, the reflexive is presumably bound by the generic operator.
- 15.A reviewer points out that some speakers find the expletive constructions corresponding to the type of sentences in (16) and (19) well-formed, cf (i). To me, however, sentences like (i) take on a generic reading in the absence of a för-phrase. On such readings, see also Teleman et al. (1999:332, fn. 1).
- 16.Unbound reflexives are not much discussed in the literature on Swedish, presumably because they are not considered to be possible (see Engdahl 1986:107 and Heinat 2006:130–131, where the issue is briefly mentioned). In this regard, Swedish is like its closely related language Norwegian (see Lødrup 2007), but unlike English (the example in (ia) is from Pollard and Sag 1992:274 and the Norwegian counterpart in (ib) is from Lødrup 2007:186): Reflexives in picture-nouns in Swedish also differ from their English counterparts in not allowing split antecedents. The possibility of having split antecedents has also been taken to indicate that the reflexive is not syntactically bound (on English, see Bouchard 1984, discussed in Charnavel and Sportiche 2016:36) (the example in (iia) is from Charnavel and Sportiche 2016:36):
- 17.As discussed in Charnavel and Sportiche (2016:39), exempt (syntactically unbound) anaphors must have antecedents whose referents are live persons. Thus if the referent of the antecedent is inanimate (and is not used as a proxy for people), the reflexive anaphor is not exempt. TCs like those in (14)–(15) can be constructed with inanimate antecedent för-phrases, although they then require a special context. Imagine, for instance, a context in which there is something faulty with a camera so that it takes pictures of itself but cannot be used to take pictures of other things. In that case, we can utter:
- 18.Platzack (2012a:201, ex. (10)) gives example (i) as an illustration that the TC subject cannot include reflexives: While I agree that the sentence in (i) is not completely natural, I would not mark it as unacceptable. In the main text above, I give examples with reflexives in the subject of the TC that are judged as well-formed.
The examples in (25)–(27) below are episodic in the past tense, to avoid so-called illusive scope effects that can arise under generic tense (see Fox and Sauerland 1995).
- 20.While the wide scope reading is marginally possible in the expletive-drop constructions in (28)–(29), it is ruled out in canonical expletive constructions: It seems likely that the different surface orderings of the constituents in expletive constructions with overt and dropped expletives play a role for the availability of the different scope readings. It is beyond the scope of the present paper to account for these differences.
- 21.Putting the sentences in (28) and (29b) in the yes/no format yields an ill-formed or only marginally acceptable result: For speakers who think yes/no questions of sentences like (28) and (29b) marginally acceptable but not completely ill-formed, it might be possible to analyze such sentences simply as non-agreeing TCs, rather than as expletive-drop constructions. In terms of (non)-agreement, these sentences would behave similarly to the so-called “Pancake sentences” (Josefsson 2010, 2014) discussed in Sect. 3 below. The potential existence of non-agreeing TCs has no bearing on the correlation between agreement and scope freezing, discussed in the paper.
Adjectival TCs in Swedish are also noteworthy cross-linguistically since their binding and scope properties do not go hand in hand. As extensively discussed in Romero (1998) and Fox (1999), if the embedded clause is available for scope reconstruction purposes of some fronted element, it should also be available for binding purposes of this element. For Swedish adjectival TCs with common gender or plural marking, however, a binding relation into the embedded clause is possible although the scope reconstruction into this clause is not possible.
- 23.Crucially, the default form is not the same as the absence of a form. On Preminger’s (2009) analysis of Basque, the default form arises when agreement fails, while the absence of a form is the result of failed clitic doubling. Josefsson (2006) argues against a default analysis. According to Josefsson, personal pronouns lack gender but nevertheless do not result in neuter marking, which one would expect if neuter was the default form (example (ib) is from Josefsson 2006:her ex. (24a)). On my analysis, the personal pronoun is specified for common gender and therefore gives rise to common gender marking on the predicative adjective. Hon in (ib) is the head of the nominal and is the entity agreeing with the predicate. Biträdet is in apposition to the head.
On this analysis, bare plurals, like (34) above, also lack a number feature. By definition, these plurals cannot appear with any quantification sensitive to number. As soon as they do, they are no longer bare, and they will co-occur with plural marking on the adjective.
- 25.This is also true for nominal predicates in TCs, (31a). In other predicational constructions, however, nominal predicates agree with the subject in number:
- 26.The motivation for positing two different features relating to number on these nouns is that they can simultaneously behave as singular and plural. They can for instance license singular or plural anaphors, agree with the verb in the singular or the plural, and at the same time be preceded by a singular determiner (examples from Sauerland and Elbourne 2002:289–290):
It is also possible to analyze the data without PF movement of this kind. The narrow scope reading could, for instance, be achieved via lowering (e.g. May 1977, 1985; Chomsky 1995; Boeckx 2001), or via copy-deletion (e.g. Chomsky 1993; Hornstein 1995; Fox 1999). On a copy-deletion analysis, any copy would in principle be available for the interpretation, unless something made it unavailable. In Swedish, ϕ-feature agreement could make lower copies unavailable for scope interpretation. The subject would be fixed in relation to the predicate once agreement has taken place. As pointed out by a reviewer, however, an analysis on which ϕ-feature-driven movement is syntactic while purely EPP-driven movement is not, as proposed in the main text, offers a more explanatory account of the difference in scope possibilities.
In (45b), both readings are possible although the DP två elever (‘two pupils’) is in a position lower than the raising predicate. I will assume that the reading on which två elever (‘two pupils’) scopes over verkar (‘seems’) is achieved via Quantifier raising of the DP.
Wurmbrand’s analysis is in some ways similar to the analysis in Nanni (1978, 1980). Nanni also posits an ‘incomplete’ structure inside the TC. On this analysis, the adjective and the infinitival clause are reanalyzed as a complex adjective (see also Chomsky 1981), making movement from the object position into the matrix subject position unproblematic. Nanni’s analysis differs from the one in Wurmbrand (2003), however, in positing a biclausal structure that becomes reduced (monoclausal) in the reanalysis.
The embedded DP cannot receive case DP-internally as DP-internal DPs need a preposition to get case in English (Hicks 2009:547).
Without negation, the patterns in (57)–(60) below are considerably weaker. More precisely, stress on the noun is then often felt to be very odd, and the reconstructed reading is harder to get.
I wish to express my thanks to three anonymous NLLT reviewers. Their comments and suggestions have vastly improved this article. Parts of the article have been presented at LAGB (London, 2015), the Grammar Seminar (Lund University, 2016) and the Linglunch Seminar (Queen Mary, University of London 2013). I am very grateful for the feedback from the audiences at these occasions. I would also like to thank Fredrik Heinat for valuable discussion. The research presented in this paper was partly funded by a grant from The Birgit Rausing Language Programme, 2012/157.
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