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The Origin and Content of Expletives: Evidence from “Selection”

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Abstract. 

While expletive there has primarily been studied in the context of the existential construction, it has long been known that some but not all lexical verbs are compatible with there insertion. This paper argues that there insertion can be used to diagnose vPs with no external argument, ruling out transitives, unergatives, and also inchoatives, which are argued to project an event argument on the edge of vP. Based on the tight link between there insertion and low functional structure, I build a case for low there insertion, where the expletive is first merged in the specifier of a verbalizing head v. The low merge position is motivated by a stringently local relationship that holds between there and its associate DP; this relationship plays a crucial role in the interaction of there with raising verbs, where local agreement rules out cases of “too many theres” such as *There seemed there to be a man in the room. An account of these cases in terms of phase theory is explored, in which I ultimately suggest that there must be merged in a nonthematic phasal specifier position.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of MassachusettsDepartment of Linguistics226 South CollegeAmherst, MA 01003USA, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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