Layers of predication: The non-lexical syntax of clauses

Caroline Heycock, University of Pennsylvania


The special status of subjects is a long-standing problem for syntactic theory. This dissertation investigates the syntactic properties of subjects in a number of languages and concludes that the special status of subjects cannot be derived from the lexical properties of heads; rather, the theory of grammar must recognize a primitive syntactic relation of predication. Chapter 1 discusses the evolution of analyses of clausal structure and sets out the framework of the dissertation. The proposal that predication is a syntactic relation independent of the properties of heads is first supported by an analysis of the distribution of expletive elements in English, German, Yiddish, and Mainland Scandinavian (Chapter 2). It is argued that this distribution requires the assumption that predication licenses syntactic positions independently of the argument structure projected by individual lexical items. Once the necessity for an independent syntactic relation of predication has been established, the configuration in which this relation obtains is discussed (Chapter 3). Evidence is presented that predicates of all categories are always maximal projections, to which their subjects are adjoined. Apparent cases of subjects in complement positions in German and Japanese are shown to be amenable to the analysis proposed. In Chapter 4 it is argued that predicates can be superimposed, resulting in multiple layers of predication in a single clause. Independently motivated principles determine whether the subject of a layer $L\sb n$ is the same as or distinct from the subject of layer $L\sb{n-1}$, and important properties of copular constructions are shown to follow from the possibility of the predicate of one layer functioning as the subject of a superimposed layer. Finally, in Chapter 5, evidence from Japanese and English is presented to show that predication is independent of the properties of heads not only in requiring the generation of expletives, but also in licensing the occurrence of non-expletive noun-phrases that are not arguments of any lexical head.

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Recommended Citation

Heycock, Caroline, "Layers of predication: The non-lexical syntax of clauses" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9202106.