Subjects: Typology and Theory - נושאים: טיפולוגיה ותיאוריה


Yehuda N. Falk
Office 7812
Office Hours: Sundays and Wednesdays 10:15-11:00

Year-long 2008-9 Wednesday 8:30-10:00 room 2501
MA Course, Linguistics Department, Generative Linguistics Stream

We will examine typological issues relating to the grammatical function "subject" and develop a theory of subjecthood within a general theory of grammatical functions. Among the topics to be discussed: the subject as the expression of an argument, the relational hierarchy, subjects and anaphora, subjects in multi-clausal constructions, syntactic ergativity, and the universality of the subject

Course Outline

    Semester A

  1. Subjects
    1. What is a "Subject"
    2. Properties of Subjects
  2. Typology
    1. Ergativity
    2. Subject Properties in "Mixed-Subject" Languages
  3. The Most Prominent Argument
    1. Argument Mapping: Inverse Mapping theories
    2. Argument Mapping: Against Inverse Mapping
    3. Predicted Properties
  4. Pivot
    1. Dixon's concept
    2. Van Valin and LaPolla's concept
    3. Falk's concept
  5. Semester B

  6. "Wh Movement" Constructions
  7. Control and Raising Constructions
  8. Universality of "Subject"
  9. Principles and Parameters

Course requirements

Final project
Seminar paper (student option)

Handouts available for downloading in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format

Note: If these don't print correctly on your printer but display properly in Acrobat, try using the "Print as image" option in Acrobat.
Syllabus (5 November)
Theoretical Approaches (5 November)
Properties of Subjects [12 November]
Argument Typology [26 November]
Mixed Subject [3 December]
Anaphora [31 December]
The PIV Function [14 January]
Form/Function Mismatch [28 January]
"Wh Movement" [18 March]



Assigned 5 November for 12 November: Keenan, Edward L. (1976) "Towards a Universal Definition of 'Subject'." in Charles Li, ed., Subject and Topic. New York: Academic Press. pp. 303-333. P 291 S9. (Also in Edward L. Keenan, ed. (1987) Universal Grammar: 15 Essays. London: Croon Helm. P 201 K37) Read section II.3 pp. 311-323. (Note: b-sentences=basic (unmarked) sentences; b-subjects=subjects in b-sentences)

Assigned 12 November for 19 November: Dixon, R. M. W. (1994) Ergativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. P 291.5 D59 Read pp. 1-18

Assigned 19 November for 26 November: Falk, Yehuda N. (2006) Subjects and Universal Grammar: An Explanatory Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.P 271 F36 2006 Read section 1.2 (pp. 2-16)

Assigned 3 December for 10 December:

Assigned 10 December for 17 December: Falk (2006). Read Chapter 2

Assigned 31 December for 7 January:

Assigned 7 January for 14 January: Falk (2006). Read Chapter 3

optional: Assigned 18 March for 25 March: Falk (2006). Read Chapter 4

Assigned 25 March for 1 April: Falk (2006). Read Chapter 5

Assigned 13 May for 20 May: Falk (2006). Read Chapter 6

Assigned 3 June for 10 June: Guilfoyle, Eithne, Henrietta Hung and Lisa Travis (1992) "SPEC of IP and SPEC of VP: Two Subjects in Austronesian Languages." Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 10: 375-414. Skip the section on Malay and Indonesian pp. 397-404

Assigned 10 June for 17 June: Falk (2006). Read Chapter 7