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Title:Constraints on Subjects: An Optimality Theoretic Analysis
Authors:Vieri Samek-Lodovici
Comment:1996 Rutgers University Dissertation, 237pp, in 7 files
Abstract: This dissertation argues for an Optimality Theoretic analysis of

null subjecthood, subject inversion, agreement and structural case

assignment. It does so on the basis of the hypothesis that an analysis

in terms of the interaction of violable, conflicting constraints adds

to the deductive structure of linguistic explanations while simplifying

the definition of the relevant syntactic modules.

Among the most relevant results is a unified analysis of the

crosslinguistic and language-internal distribution of null and

inverted subjects. An initial investigation shows that subjects are

null when referring to antecedents with topic status, and inverted

when focused, a result formalized through the constraints DropTopic

and AlignFocus. The interaction between these constraints and the

constraints Subject and Parse, favoring subjects in preverbal subject

position, determines the distribution of null subjects language-

internally and crosslinguistically, eliminating the need for an

independent pro-drop parameter (Grimshaw & Samek-Lodovici 1995).

A second result concerns expletives, whose language specific

inventories are shown to follow to a high degree from the interaction

between the above constraints and Full-Int, a constraint requiring

that all constituents be interpreted. This shows that expletive

inventories can be derived by way of grammar, with no recourse to

lexical stipulation (PrinceÊ&ÊSmolensky 1993, Grimshaw 1995, Grimshaw

& Samek-Lodovici 1995). The analysis also predicts the universal ban

on overt expletives in null subject languages.

A similar result is pursued with respect to agreement, which is

derived by means of three general agreement constraint-schemata.

Finally, the position of subjects and their case assignment

configuration in Italian declaratives, gerundives and subjunctives

are derived from the interaction between CaseGov, a constraint

requiring case assignment under proper government, and the other

constraints of UG. Once reranked, the same constraints derive

declaratives in Arabic and infinitivals with overt subjects in

English and Portuguese, with no appeal to a parametric account of

abstract case assignment.

Crucially, the analysis of crosslinguistic variation consistently

turns out to be closely tied with the analysis of language-internal

variation, as predicted by an Optimality Theoretic approach to Syntax.
Article:Version 1