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Re: CHAT: Esperanto and prepositions taking the nominative [was Re: CHAT: Back on the list; Anti-conlanging bigots]

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Thursday, December 6, 2001, 22:29
Quoting Christian Thalmann <cinga@...>:

> --- In conlang@y..., "Thomas R. Wier" <trwier@M...> wrote: > > > It is arguable, however, that this allative sense is really layered > > over the underlying case assignment of null-nominative. Note that > > we also see such layering in a natural language, German, where the > > dative is retained even when the passive is used: > > > > (3) Der(NOM) Mann hat mir(DAT) geholfen. > > The man helped me. > > (4) Mir(DAT) wird geholfen. > > I am helped. > > The German passive typically moves the accusative object of a > transitive verb into the subject slot:
> In a sentence with both accusative and dative objects, the dative > remains unchanged:
> The problem arises when there isn't an accusative object to transform > into a subject. In your sentence, there is no subject present, though > it seems you're dropping the generic stand-in subject "es" that could > be used in this situation: > > (e) Es (NOM) wird dem Mann (DAT) geholfen. > The man is helped. [lit. *"It is helped to the man."] > > The "es" doesn't really have any other duty than to provide a subject > to the passive sentence, it doesn't correspond to any former accusative > object (which the verb "helfen" couldn't support anyway). > Correct me if I'm wrong, you seem to be more of a linguist than I.
No, you're right about this. This is going to take a LONG time to explain, so please bear with me. In an X-bar theoretical analysis, here is how it would work: Every word has a subcategorization frame that is stored in the lexicon along with the meaning and various other kinds of information. This subcategorization frame tells you whether that particular word can take NP subjects or NP objects or complementizer phrases like those in English headed by "that", "to", etc. For example, the English word "help" and "paint" would have subcat frames kinda like this: <help, V[case: ACC, -PASS, -AUX], [T1; ___ TP(TFORM: to; T2)]> part of case semantic compliment sem. speech role role ("theta- role") <paint, V[case: ACC, -PASS, -AUX], [T1; ___ DP(T2)]> Now, when you're constructing the sentence, the subcategorization frame tells you what a licit deep-structure sentence will look like. So, for this frame, we might construct a deep-structure tree for "He helped her to paint the house": TP \ T' / \ T VP DP[T1] V' he \ V TP[-tense][T2] helped \ T' / \ T VP to DP[T1] V' she V DP[T2] paint the house Now look back at the subcat frame. The subcat frame accurately predicts that "she" is the agent of the painting. So, why is "she" underlyingly *after* "to" in the syntax, and not before? That's because the deep-structure that we have posited is not licit in itself; there are other structural principles that also need to be obeyed before the sentence can become grammatical at the surface. One of these is, in X-bar theory, that all specifier positions (i.e., the left-branches) of a TP phrase must be filled with something. Therefore, to compensate for this, the underlying "she" gets moved up to that specifier position at surface structure, where it gets case from "help", which assigns ACC case as marked above in the subcat frame: TP \ DP[T1] T' He / \ T VP (t) V' / \ V TP[-tense][T2] helped / \ DP[T1] T' her / \ T VP to (t) V' V DP[T2] paint the house [(t) = "trace", place where the word is posited to move from] Now, other verbs may take very different subcat frames. "Seem", for example, does not take an external theta role (T1, i.e., does not take any subject): <seem, V[case: N/A; -PASS; -AUX], [ ___ TP(TFORM: to; T2)]> no T1 here She seemed to paint the house Deep Structure: TP \ T' / \ T VP V' \ V TP[-tense][T2] seemed \ T' / \ T VP to DP[T1] V' she V DP[T2] paint the house This deep-structure does not, however, immediately obey our metarules, so we need to invoke a movement rule: "she" moves out from the embedded phrase, and up to fill the specifier of both the embedded and the matrix TP phrase. We see a surface structure like the following: TP DP[T1] \ She T' / \ T VP (t) V' \ V TP[-tense][T2] seemed \ (t) T' / \ T VP to (t) V' V DP[T2] paint the house "She" gets case from the T node, which always assigns nominative in English. Now, here is where we get back to your problem: German and English both share the rule mentioned above that SpecTP must be filled by something, even if it's meaningless. That's why we get expletive "it" in English and expletive "es" in German like below: Deep structure of "It has rained." TP T' T VP V' V VP has DP V' it V rained Deep structure of "Es hat geregnet." TP T' T VP V' V VP hat DP V' es V geregnet In both of these structures, the expletive pronoun (it and es respectively) must surface at the topmost SpecTP: Surface structure of "It has rained." TP DP T' T VP it (t) V' V VP has (t) V' V rained Surface structure of "Es hat geregnet." TP DP T' T VP es (t) V' V VP hat (t) V' V geregnet German works like English in this respect (or English like German, depending on your point of view), because also like English, it doesn't *require* an expletive pronoun. Something else may move up to fill that place, too. We may posit a subcat frame for the German verb <helfen> like the following: <helfen, V[case: DAT; -PASS; -AUX], [T1; ___ DP[T2]]> From this, we could come up with a deep structure of an active and passive sentence: Active: Er hilft mir. (He helps me) TP T' T VP DP V' er V DP[T2] hilft mir Passives, in both German and English, are lexicalized transformations from the active: they loose their external subject (here, "er"), and don't take core cases. Helfen, however, does not assign a core case, but an oblique one: Passive: TP T' T VP V' V VP wird V' DP V mir geholfen ("Geholfen" switches the position of the V and DP here.) At the surface, this DP "mir" needs to move up to fill SpecTP: TP DP T' T VP Mir (t) V' V VP wird (t) V' (t) V geholfen So, in other words, unlike the core cases you mentioned, the dative has a semantic connotation that accusative does not. So it stays in that case, overriding the nominative it would normally get from the T. In X-bar theory, this would also override the number checking that would normally happen, so that you get "wird" (third person singular) instead of the expected "werde" (first person singular). So, at long last, what you pointed out about "es" filling in the position is actually integrally related to case-marking (in X-bar Theory, anyways), because the desire to mark case seems to be the impetus to move in the first place. (I have tried to keep my opinions about what's going on distinct from what X-Bar Theory says. There are many aspects of X-bar Theory that really bug me, so if there is a problem with the analysis above, it might be because there is a problem with X-Bar Theory, not me. :) I hope I have not simply succeeded in muddying the waters further. I'm not fully convinced that the above argument is a satisfactory explanation of the data.) ===================================================================== Thomas Wier <trwier@...> <> "...koruphàs hetéras hetére:isi prosápto:n / Dept. of Linguistics mú:tho:n mè: teléein atrapòn mían..." University of Chicago "To join together diverse peaks of thought / 1010 E. 59th Street and not complete one road that has no turn" Chicago, IL 60637 Empedocles, _On Nature_, on speculative thinkers