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On the Nature of Default Case

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This paper presents arguments that Universal Grammar includes a notion of “default case” different from that which has generally been assumed in the literature. It comprises the case forms used to spell out nominals that do not receive a case specification by assignment or other syntactic means. As such, it does not interact with the Case Filter, which is argued to be a purely syntactic constraint as opposed to a morphophonological one. It is shown that diverse phenomena in the distribution of pronouns in English can be parsimoniously treated using default case, and further that English can thereby be assimilated to “richer” case languages such as German, rather than being analyzed with arbitrary language-particular rules. A sampling of phenomena from other languages demonstrates that evidence for default case is widespread, and moreover, that crosslinguistic differences in case patterns can often be reduced to the choice of a default case.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: UCLA, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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