University of Massachusetts
Standard Case licensing principles are not designed to handle
situations in which the Case of an argument depends on factors
other than the features of the local head, such as how many
additional arguments are present and what Cases those other
arguments have. These problematic valency and dependency
phenomena can be handled if violable markedness and faithfulness
constraints are added to Case Theory.
Examples of such problematic Case phenomenon include the
prohibition on accusative Case licensing on an object when there
is no external subject (Burzio's generalization) or when the
subject has dative or ergative Case. Dative and ergative Case
licensing may also be prohibited when no other argument is
present in the clause. Previous attempts to solve such problems
placed restrictions on accusative Case licensing (Burzio 1986,
Woolford 1993), or ordered/ranked the Case assignment rules (Yip,
Maling, and Jackendoff 1987, Legendre, Raymond, and Smolensky
1993). The approach proposed here retains the standard Case
licensing principles as universal and inviolable, accounting for
dependency and valency effects, and other cross-linguistic
differences in Case patterns with a supplementary set of ranked,
violable markedness and faithfulness constraints. Whenever there
is a choice of licensed Cases for a particular argument (a
situation which occurs frequently), the violable constraints
determine which Case will surface. Markedness constraints prefer
less marked Cases such as nominative over more marked Cases such
as accusative or ergative. Faithfulness constraints require the
realization of lexical Cases licensed by certain verbs.
Under this approach, dependency effects follow from markedness.
Unaccusative constructions, and all other contexts in which it
appears to be necessary to block accusative Case licensing, turn
out to be situations in which either nominative or accusative
Case can be licensed on the object; nominative is selected
because it is the less marked Case. Restrictions on the
distribution of ergative or dative Case to transitive Clauses or
to particular aspects is the result of the interaction of
markedness and faithfulness constraints, including faithfulness
constraints that are contextually restricted.
The same set of violable constraints accounts for the surface
inventory of Cases used in a particular language. All languages
license the same Cases, but not all Cases surface.