Expletives in Existentials

Author: Jutta M. Hartmann
LOT Number: 181
ISBN: 978-90-78328-55-1
Pages: 329
Year: 2008
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Expletives in Existentials
English there and German da

This thesis refutes the generally accepted claim within Generative Grammar that English there is an expletive (meaningless element) that is only present to satisfy a syntactic requirement. Instead it is argued that there is a proform that picks up a situation (or location) from the context. There is a part of the predication structure in existential sentences, which state about the situation that it contains an individual (or amount of a property) specified by the postverbal noun phrase.

New data that are relevant for the definiteness effect are presented and it is demonstrated that we need to distinguish between two types of there­sentences: the results of a Magnitude Estimation Experiment for example show that these so­called there­BE and there­V sentences behave differently with respect to wh movement (among other differences). Therefore, the two construction types are analysed differently: in there­BE sentences, there is proposed to function as the subject of predication, whereas it functions as the predicate in there­V sentences (just like in the locative inversion construction). The thesis concludes with applying the result of the investigation of English there to German da, and shows that also da is a proform that can pick up locations, times and complex situations in the context.
The study offers new insights into the analysis of existential sentences and has implications for the analysis of potential subject positions, the EPP, and the classification of expletives in the Germanic languages. It is therefore interesting for scholars working in these fields and syntax in general.

Expletives in Existentials
English there and German da

This thesis refutes the generally accepted claim within Generative Grammar that English there is an expletive (meaningless element) that is only present to satisfy a syntactic requirement. Instead it is argued that there is a proform that picks up a situation (or location) from the context. There is a part of the predication structure in existential sentences, which state about the situation that it contains an individual (or amount of a property) specified by the postverbal noun phrase.

New data that are relevant for the definiteness effect are presented and it is demonstrated that we need to distinguish between two types of there­sentences: the results of a Magnitude Estimation Experiment for example show that these so­called there­BE and there­V sentences behave differently with respect to wh movement (among other differences). Therefore, the two construction types are analysed differently: in there­BE sentences, there is proposed to function as the subject of predication, whereas it functions as the predicate in there­V sentences (just like in the locative inversion construction). The thesis concludes with applying the result of the investigation of English there to German da, and shows that also da is a proform that can pick up locations, times and complex situations in the context.
The study offers new insights into the analysis of existential sentences and has implications for the analysis of potential subject positions, the EPP, and the classification of expletives in the Germanic languages. It is therefore interesting for scholars working in these fields and syntax in general.

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