The aim of this book is to consider some aspects of the distribution of nominal arguments in the Germanic languages and in particular aspects of the cross-linguistic variation in this domain of the syntax. The central questions that will be addressed on the basis of the Germanic languages are: (a) What are the common underlying properties which determine the distribution of nominal arguments across languages? and (b) How can the considerable cross-linguistic variation be accounted for? With respect to these issues, two main claims will be made. First, it will be argued that the basic distributional properties of nominal arguments which hold across languages can be derived from the definition of syntactic categories and in particular from the interaction between nominal and verbal elements in this respect. And secondly, it will be proposed that several aspects of the cross-linguistic variation in the syntax of nominal arguments can be directly related to morphological properties which also differ across languages, i.e. to properties such as verbal agreement or case morphology. Both of these results will be obtained by developing certain proposals made within the Minimalist Program (cf. Chomsky 1993, 1995, 2000, 2001) and in particular by trying to restrict the inventory of syntactic features in a given language to features which play a role at least at one of the two interface levels. The goal of this chapter is to provide the theoretical basis for our discussion in the later chapters.


External Argument Thematic Role Subordinate Clause Clause Structure Nominal Element 
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  1. 1.
    Note that (1) is similar to purely representational approaches such as Brody (1995) in that only a single syntactic representation is produced. However, I will follow Bobaljik (1995) and Groat and O’Neil (1996) in assuming that this single representation is obtained through derivational processes and I will therefore continue using derivational terminology here (cf. also Chomsky 1995:222ff., 2000:98f).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Note that in terms of such a framework the actual morphophonological shape of a lexical item is determined only in the PF wing of a model like (1) (morphology) in line with proposals made within Distributed Morphology (“Late insertion”, cf. e.g. Halle and Marantz 1993). Cf. e.g. chapter 6 fn.5 for an illustration of this option in the context of agreement in Icelandic.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    But cf. chapter 2.7 for a potential alternative way of motivating movement which is based neither on Chomsky (1995) nor on Chomsky (2000, 2001).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    This type of richness of agreement morphology is not the same as in the case of the pro-drop parameter. V-movement is possible in languages like French or Icelandic which do not have referential pro-drop. V-to-I therefore can be triggered by a weaker form of rich agreement than pro-drop.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    More precisely, V2 is ruled out in subordinate clauses containing an overt complementizer. Subordinate clauses whose complementizer is dropped do allow V2 (cf. e.g. Er sagte [morgen sei er wieder hier]— He said tomorrow is he again here— ‘He said he would be here again tomorrow’)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Haeberli
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of ReadingUK
  2. 2.University of GenevaSwitzerland

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