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The contrastive topic requirement on specificational subjects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2020

Daniel Milway
Affiliation:
University of Toronto
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Abstract

This paper offers a discourse-pragmatic account of the constraint on indefinite DPs as subjects of specificational copular clauses (a doctor is Mary). Building on Mikkelsen's (2004) proposal that specificational subjects are topics, I argue that they must be contrastive topics which properly contain F-marked constituents. I show that this can account for the absolute ban on simple indefinite subjects, and allow for more complex indefinites to be subjects. Finally, I discuss the syntactic analysis that would be predicted given my pragmatic analysis, and the puzzles that arise from it.

Résumé

Résumé

Cet article offre une analyse de type discours-pragmatique de la contrainte sur les DP indéfinis qui sont sujets de clauses copulaires spécificationelles (un médecin est Marie). En partant de l'argument de Mikkelsen (2004), qui avance que les sujets des clauses spécificationnelles seraient topiques, je propose qu'on les analyse en tant que topiques contrastifs qui incluent un constituant F marqué. Je démontre que cette analyse explique l'interdiction absolue sur des sujets indéfinis simples, tout en permettant des sujets indéfinis plus complexes. Pour clore, je discute de l'analyse syntaxique prédite par mon analyse pragmatique, et des énigmes qu'elle soulève.

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Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Linguistic Association/Association canadienne de linguistique 2020

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Footnotes

Special thanks to Michela Ippolito for her excellent supervision and helpful comments, questions and encouragement, and to the rest of my committee, Guillaume Thomas and Diane Massam, for their comments on various drafts of this paper. Thanks also to members of the UofT Syntax Project and the SEMPRAG group, the audience and organizers of BLS42, and anyone I asked for judgements.

References

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