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Clausal architecture and case in Iceland

Johannes Gisli Jonsson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The basic goal of this work is to explore three interrelated issues in Icelandic syntax: the identification of structural case positions, the mechanisms for case checking and the role of case in NP licensing. As for the first issue, it is argued that nominative subjects in Icelandic are case-checked in Spec-IP or a lower position identified as Spec-TP (following Jonas 1992, 1993 and Jonas & Bobaljik 1993), but accusative objects are case-checked in their base-generated complement position or in a VP-external position identified as Spec-AgrOP (following Deprez 1989 and others). There are certain semantic restrictions on arguments in Spec-IP, Spec-TP or Spec-AgrOP but they are shown to be independent of case and derivable from the Mapping Hypothesis of Diesing (1992), the Shortest Derivation Requirement and other principles of grammar. In contrast to much recent work on Icelandic syntax, the traditional view that A-movement is always case-driven is defended in this thesis. Thus, it is argued that inherently case-marked NPs move to Spec-IP or Spec-TP to have covert nominative case checked as inherent case in Icelandic is irrelevant for satisfaction of the Case Filter. For the same reason, inherently case-marked objects in Icelandic need covert accusative case to satisfy the Case Filter whether they stay in situ or move to Spec-AgrOP. This approach to quirky arguments in Icelandic is used as a basis for a new analysis of nominative objects and agreement. Case checking of an NP requires government by a lexical head or a spec-head relation with a functional head of the appropriate kind. An NP can also satisfy the Case Filter by chain-linking to a structural case position, i.e. case transmission as in expletive-argument chains. More specifically, case is transmitted from the expletive in Spec-IP to the argument in the expletive passive/unaccusative construction (Safir 1985, Burzio 1986), but from the argument in Spec-TP to the expletive in the expletive-TP construction.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Jonsson, Johannes Gisli, "Clausal architecture and case in Iceland" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9638979.