Actes du congrès annuel de l’Association canadienne de linguistique 2010.
Proceedings of the 2010 annual conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association.
© 2010 Rashid Al-Balushi
THE LICENSING OF STRUCTURAL CASE IN STANDARD
University of Toronto
In this paper I propose a new theory to account for the structural Case facts in
Standard Arabic (SA). I argue that structural Case in SA is licensed by a
feature called Verbal Case (VC). To motivate my proposal, I first argue that the
two major theories of the feature(s) responsible for licensing structural Case
cannot account for the Case checking facts in SA. I then show that structural
Case is not licensed when VC is not licensed, despite the presence of tense,
agreement, and mood. Finally, I revitalize an old observation about verbs in
SA, basically the fact that they receive some form of case from particles
(Sibawayhi 8th century). I formalize this observation and claim that, like DPs,
verbs in SA receive abstract formal licensing, thus have a [VC] feature. By
showing that Case/licensing is active in the verbal as well as the nominal
system, this account argues against proposals eliminating abstract Case from
UG, like Marantz (1991) and McFadden (2004), among others.
2. The Licensing of Case in the Absence of Agreement and Tense
There are two main proposals in the literature on the feature that licenses
structural Case. The first is advanced in Schütze (1997) and Chomsky (2001),
among others, and argues that Case is licensed to the DP, crosslinguistically, as
a reflex of valuing the φ-features on the Case checking head; I will refer to this
as the [φ]-approach. This approach has recently been extended to SA in Soltan
(2007). The second is advanced in Pesetsky & Torrego (2001, 2004), and
argues that Case is licensed on the DP as a result of valuing a [uT] feature on
D0 by T0; I will refer to this as the [T]-approach. The following two subsections
will present some arguments against these two approaches.
2.1. Case in the Absence of Agreement
The [φ]-approach is based on the assumption that verbs agree with their
subjects and objects in terms of φ-features, [Number], [Gender], and [Person],
which indicates that the Case-checking functional heads must have a full set of
φ-features. In other words, the [φ]-approach assumes that the [φ] specification
on T0 and v*0 must always be complete in order for the functional head to value
* I would like to thank Diane Massam for valuable comments on an earlier version
of this paper. The data are based on my intuitions, being a native speaker of the
language, as well as from the Holy Qur’aan. The following abbreviations are used: Acc:
accusative, d: dual, f: feminine, Fut: future, Impf: imperfective, Impr: imperative, Ind:
indicative, Juss: jussive, m: masculine, Neg: negative, Nom: nominative, p: plural, Pst:
past, Prs: present, s: singular, Sub: subjunctive, 1: 1st person, 2: 2nd person, 3: 3rd person.
Case on the relevant DP. As Chomsky (2001:7) argues, a φ-incomplete probe is
a φ-defective one, which cannot value [Case] on the goal.
However, a number of facts from the SA agreement system show that φ-
agreement is defective in the language, which suggests that this approach
cannot be extended to it. First, verbs in SA do not fully agree with their
subjects, always lacking [Number], as (1a) shows. Second, as (1b) shows, verbs
in SA are not allowed to fully agree with their subjects. In other words, if the
[φ]-approach were extendable to SA, (1b), without the asterisk, would have
been the strongest argument for it. However, the fact that (1b) is ungrammatical
speaks against extending the [φ]-approach to SA. Furthermore, the conclusion
that (1b) undermines the [φ]-approach as far as SA is concerned is supported by
the fact that verbs in the language can in principle realize full agreement with
the agentive DP, as (1c) shows.
(1) a. kataba-t-Ø l-banaat-u r-risaala-t-a
Pst.write.3-sf-Ind the-girls-Nom the-letter-f-Acc
‘the girls wrote the letter.’
b. * katab-na-Ø l-banaat-u r-risaala-t-a
Pst.write.3-pf-Ind the-girls-Nom the-letter-f-Acc
c. Ȥal-banaat-u katab-na-Ø pro r-risaala-t-a
the-girls-Nom Pst.write.3-pf-Ind ec the-letter-f-Acc
‘the girls wrote the letter.’
Now the difference between the post-verbal DP ‘l-banaat-u’, meaning
‘the girls’, in (1b) and the same DP in (1c), where it is preverbal, is that it is a
subject in (1b) but a topic in (1c), fitting the syntactic and semantic properties
associated with topics and left-dislocated elements.1 This insight comes from
the Basran grammarians of Arabic (Sibawayhi 8th century, and associates),
revitalized and formalized in Minimalist terms in Soltan (2007). As
successfully argued in Soltan (2007), while the post-verbal DP subject in (1a)
realizes structural Nom Case licensed by T0, the pre-verbal DP topic in (1c)
realizes default Nom case, obtained at PF (for morphophonological reasons,
and as a result of not being in the scope of a Case assigner).
Third, as (1a) shows, verbs in SA usually agree with the subject in terms
of [Person] and [Gender], but not in [Number], which counts as defective
agreement in Chomsky’s (2001) terms. In addition, the SA facts show that φ-
agreement can be even more defective. To illustrate, as the Qur’aanic verse in
(2) shows, verbs can agree with the subject only in terms of [Person], but not
[Gender] or [Number].
(2) “ȤiThaa jaaȤa-kum l-muȤminaat-u muhaajiraat-in” p.550
if Pst.come.3-you the-believer.pf-Nom migrating.pf-Gen
‘if the female believers came to you migrating ….’
1 One irrelevant difference between these two DPs is the form of the definite
article. Basically, the definite article ‘Ȥal-’ becomes ‘l-’ when the DP is preceded by
This thus indicates that agreement is always defective in SA when there
is a subject that requires structural Nom Case. Fourth, in addition to the
defective subject agreement in the language, SA verbs also do not realize object
agreement, neither fully, as (3a) shows, nor partially, as (3b) shows.
(3) a. * katab-na-Ø r-rajul-u r-rasaaȤil-a
Pst.write.3-pf-Ind the-man-Nom the-letter.pf-Acc
b. * katab-uu-Ø r-rajul-u r-rasaaȤil-a
Pst.write.3-pm-Ind the-man-Nom the-letter.pf-Acc
Taking verbal morphology to reflect the featural structure of functional
categories, it becomes clear that T0 and v*0 are not φ-complete, but rather φ-
defective. Therefore, assuming with Chomsky (2001) that a φ-defective probe
cannot license Case to the goal, and given the fact that both Nom and Acc
Cases are licensed in the absence of complete φ-specification, as the examined
data suggest, it becomes clear that φ-features do not license structural Case in
2.2. Case in the Absence of Tense
The [T]-approach is based on the assumption that for structural Case to be
licensed, verbs must always realize tense semantically (and morphologically),
which means that the Case-checking heads must always have an interpretable
[iT] feature which can value an uninterpretable [uT] feature on the DP, which
amounts to the valuation of [Case]. Pesetsky & Torrego (2004:2) argue that “all
instances of structural Case are actually instances of uT on D”. Thus the
presence of tense is crucial for the licensing of Case. However, SA provides
evidence that structural Case can be licensed in the absence of tense. First, SA
imperatives are tenseless (as are those of many other languages), yet both Nom
and Acc Cases are licensed.2 The claim that SA imperatives are tenseless is
based on the fact that the SA imperative verbs lack tense morphology, as table 1
shows; they only realize person (as well as number and gender) morphology
and the imperative morpheme [Impr] (plus the VC specification).3
2 That imperative verbs and clauses are tenseless has been argued in Huntley
(1980), Henry (1995), Han (1998), Rupp (1999), Jakab (2002), and Bennis (2007),
among many others.
3 The claim that SA imperative verbs are derived from the jussive form (Wright
1967) further shows that they are tenseless. This is because the jussive form is tenseless
since it occurs in past negative sentences where [T] is realized on the negative particle,
as (i) shows, and also in conditional sentences that have no time frame, like (ii).
(i) lam ya-njaH-Ø l-walad-u
Neg.Pst Impf-pass.3sm-Juss the-boy-Nom
‘the boy did not pass.’
(ii) mataa tu-THaakir-Ø ta-njaH-Ø
when 2-study.sm-Juss 2-pass.sm-Juss
‘when(ever) you study, you pass.’
This claim is also based on the fact that the SA imperative verbs lack
tense semantics since they do not exhibit the past vs. non-past distinction, thus
lacking the feature [Precedence], which “is at the heart of what can be called
the narrow tense system” (Cowper 2005:15). Thus lacking the [±Past]
distinction indicates lacking [T]. This approach to imperatives is supported by
the fact that the only temporal interpretation that imperatives convey is ‘future
orientation’, which makes reference to mood rather then tense (Cowper 2005,
and Cowper & Hall 2007). This way, imperative clauses in SA instantiate a
MoodP, rather than a TP. Despite the lack of tense, both Nom and Acc Cases
are licensed in the SA 2nd person canonical imperative construction, shown in
(4a), as well as in the special 3rd person imperative pattern, shown in (4b).
(4) a. Ȥu-ktub-Ø (Ȥanta) waajib-a-ka
Impr.2-write.sm-Juss you.sm.Nom homework-Acc-your
‘(you) write your homework!’
b. li-ya-ktub-Ø Ȥax-uu-ka waajib-a-hu
Impr-Impf-write.sm-Juss brother-Nom-your homework-Acc-his
‘make/have your brother write his homework!’
Second, another argument against the [T]-approach is based on one of
the arguments that Pesetsky & Torrego (2001) used to argue for their theory.
To illustrate, the authors state that one argument for their proposal comes from
the fact that the Nom Case suffixes in SA are identical to the mood suffixes of
the verb form that carries tense; their data are reproduced in table 2.
Singular Dual Plural
Despite the appeal of their reasoning, I believe that if this morphological
similarity has a theoretical utility, it should indicate connection between Nom
Case and mood, rather than tense. Third, the fact that some Acc Case suffixes
in SA are identical to the ‘mood’ suffixes of a verb form that does not realize
tense, the subjunctive, as shown in table 3, argues against Pesetsky & Torrego’s
(2004) proposal that Acc Case is also a [uT] on D0. As table 3 shows, tense is
realized on the negative particle. These facts indicate that tense cannot be the
feature that licenses Case in SA.
Subjunctive Acc-marked DPs
1. 1s lan Ȥu-darris-a
2. 2sm lan tu-darris-a
3. 3sm lan yu-darris-a
4. 3sf lan tu-darris-a
Given the facts discussed in this section, structural Case can be licensed
in the absence of agreement and tense, which means that agreement and tense
cannot be responsible for the licensing of Case in SA. The next section will
provide some more evidence for this conclusion, and will establish the assumed
link between structural Case and VC.
3. Verbless Sentences and Case in SA
This section presents the morphosyntax of the so-called verbless sentences in
SA, shown in (5a-b), with four goals. First, it shows that a verbless sentence is
composed of a topic and a predicate. Second, it shows that verbless sentences,
though lacking a verb, are finite clauses. Third, it argues that verbless
sentences do not witness the licensing of structural Case. Fourth, it proposes
that structural Case is not licensed in verbless sentences due to the absence of
the verb, thus establishing the connection between verbal and nominal
(5) a. Ȥal-walad-u sabbaaH-un
‘the boy is a swimmer.’
b. Ȥal-walad-u mariiD-un
‘the boy is sick.’
To establish the link between VC and Case, I would like to argue that a
verbless sentence is composed of a topic and a predicate, contra Fassi Fehri
(1993) and Benmamoun (2000, 2008) who argue that the DP in (5a-b) ‘the boy’
is a subject. This claim is based on three arguments. First, (5a-b) convey a
categorical interpretation where the DP ‘the boy’ is interpreted as the topic of
the discourse, with the predicate commenting on it.4 Second, the fact that (like
the preverbal DP in SVO sentences which, being a topic, cannot be indefinite
nonspecific, Soltan 2007) the DP in (5a-b) cannot be indefinite nonspecific, as
shown by the comparison between (6a) and (6b), indicates that it is a topic.
4 On the distinction between categorical and thetic readings, see Basilico (1998).
(6) a. Ȥal-walad-u mariiD-un
‘the boy is sick.’
b. walad-un mariiD-un
‘a sick boy.’
‘*a boy is sick.’
Basically, the fact that (6b) is a DP, that is, ungrammatical as a clause,
indicates that the topic, unlike the subject, cannot be indefinite nonspecific.5
Third, the fact that the DP in (5b) has to be resumed by a pronoun within a
coordinate structure island, as (7) shows, suggests that it is base-generated in
the left-periphery, since it could not have moved out of such a structure.
(7) Ȥal-walad-u huwa wa Ȥax-uu-hu marDaa
the-boy-Nom he and brother-Nom-his sick.Nom
‘the boy, he and his brother are sick.’
Therefore, the DP in (5a-b) fits the syntactic and semantic properties
associated with topics/left-dislocated elements.
The claim that verbless sentences encode tense is based on three
arguments. First, as Fassi Fehri (1993) argues, if comparing (8a) to (8b) shows
that a verbal sentence (one with a verb) contains tense, then, by analogy,
comparing (9a) to (9b) must indicate that a verbless sentence also encodes
(8) a. Ȥar-rajul-u ya-Ȥkul-u l-Ȥaan-a
the-man-Nom Impf.Prs-eat.sm -Ind the-now-Acc
‘the man is eating now.’
b. * Ȥar-rajul-u ya-Ȥkul-u Ȥams
the-man-Nom Impf.Prs-eat.sm-Ind yesterday
(9) a. Ȥar-rajul-u mariiD-un l-Ȥaan-a
the-man-Nom sick-Nom the-now-Acc
‘the man is sick now.’
b. * Ȥar-rajul-u mariiD-un Ȥams
the-man-Nom sick-Nom yesterday
5 Subjects, which always follow the verb in SA, can be indefinite nonspecific, as
(i) shows, whereas topics cannot, as (ii) shows.
(i) kataba-Ø walad-un l-waajib-a
Pst.write.3sm-Ind boy-Nom the-homework-Acc
‘a boy wrote the homework’
(ii) * walad-un kataba-Ø l-waajib-a
boy-Nom Pst.write.3sm-Ind the-homework-Acc
Second, since, as argued in Eisele (1988), temporal adverbs must be
anchored by tense, then verbless sentences contain tense since they can co-
occur with temporal adverbs, as (9a) shows. Third, as argued in Benmamoun
(2000), verbless sentences have a tense category since they co-occur with
‘Ȥinna’, which selects tensed clauses, but not tenseless ones. As (10) shows,
‘Ȥinna’ occurs in the tensed main clause, but not in the tenseless embedded one.
Tenseless clauses are selected by ‘Ȥan’.6
(10) Ȥinna r-rajul-a Haawala [*Ȥinna/Ȥan ya-naam-a]
Comp the-man-Acc Pst.try.3sm Comp Impf-sleep.3sm-Sub
‘the man tried to sleep.’
Though lacking a verbal projection, Fassi Fehri (1993) argues that
verbless sentences encode sentential agreement, which appears on the negative
particle ‘laysa’, as shown by (11a). However, Fassi Fehri’s argument is
weakened by the observation that ‘laysa’ is a composite form, consisting of the
negative particle ‘laa’ and the archaic auxiliary ‘Ȥays’ (Wright 1967), thus
(11a) is not technically verbless. However, Fassi Fehri’s argument can be
strengthened by the fact that verbless sentences are ungrammatical with the
non-φ-inflecting negative particles, as (11b-c) show, thus suggesting that these
clauses encode φ-features that have to be hosted by the negative particle (in the
absence of the verb).
(11) a. Ȥal-Ȥawlaad-u lays-uu sabbaaH-iin
the-boys-Nom Neg-3pm swimmer-p.Acc
‘the boys are not swimmers.’
b. * Ȥal-Ȥawlaad-u laa sabbaaH-iin/-uun
the-boys-Nom Neg swimmer-p.Acc/-p.Nom
c. * Ȥal-Ȥawlaad-u maa sabbaaH-iin/-uun
the-boys-Nom Neg swimmer-p.Acc/-p.Nom
In addition to tense and agreement, verbless sentences can be argued to
encode indicative mood since they express facts, beliefs, and assertions, where
“‘indicative’ mood […] covers areas of actuality where the speaker merely
asserts a proposition as fact” (Winford 2000:67). Thus verbless sentences
encode [T], [φ], and [Mood]. The observation that verbless sentences encode
[Mood] but do not license structural Case (as will be argued soon) suggests that
[Mood] does not license Nom Case in SA, thus contra Aygen (2002) who
argues that mood and modality license Nom Case in Turkish as well as in
Tuvan, Kazakh, English, Catalan, European Portuguese, Japanese, and Italian.
Despite the fact that verbless sentences encode all the three features of
finiteness, they still do not witness the licensing of structural Case. This claim
is supported by the observation that both the topic and the predicate in (5a-b),
6 It is noteworthy that Benmamoun’s argument is based on the distribution
of the Moroccan Arabic equivalent of ‘Ȥinna’, which in ‘bƽlli’.
repeated in (12a-b), receive default Nom case at PF. My conception of default
case is that of Schütze (2001) and Soltan (2007) according to which a nominal
receives default case only if it is not in the scope of a Case assigner.
(12) a. Ȥal-walad-u sabbaaH-un
‘the boy is a swimmer.’
b. Ȥal-walad-u mariiD-un
‘the boy is sick.’
The claim that the topic in (12a-b) receives default Nom case (and so is
not in the scope of a Case assigner) is supported by the fact that it realizes Acc
Case in the presence of ‘Ȥinna’, a lexical Acc Case assigner, as (13a) shows,
and also when in the embedded subject position of an ECM predicate, as (13b)
(13) a. Ȥinna l-walad-a mariiD-un
Comp the-boy-Acc sick-Nom
‘certainly the boy is sick.’
b. Zanna-Ø l-mudarris-u l-walad-a mariiD-un
Pst.believe.3sm-Ind the-teacher-Nom the-boy-Acc sick-Nom
‘the teacher believed the boy to be sick.’
This thus indicates that the DP ‘the boy’ is not in the scope of a Case
assigner in (12a-b), thus in a left peripheral/A-bar position, otherwise it would
not have assumed the Case assigned by ‘Ȥinna’ or the ECM verb (in 13a-b). I
here assume the Case Freezing Condition (CFC) of Uriagereka (2008)
according to which a nominal may not assume more than one Case value. By
the same token, the predicate in (12a-b) receives default Nom since in the
presence of the copula ‘kaana-Ø’, it realizes lexical Acc Case, as (14a-b) show.
(14) a. kaana-Ø r-rajul-u mariiD-an
Pst.be.3sm-Ind the-man-Nom sick-Acc
‘the man was sick.’
b. sa-ya-kuun-u r-rajul-u mariiD-an
Fut-Impf-be.3sm-Ind the-man-Nom sick-Acc
‘the man will be sick.’
Thus given the finding that structural Case is not licensed in the
presence of [T], [φ], and [Mood], and in the absence of the verb, it seems
reasonable to assume that there is some verbal property (other than the three
features that are well-known to indicate finiteness) that is responsible for the
licensing of structural Case. The next section explores this intuition and reveals
the assumed verbal property.
4. Case in the SA Verbal System
One crucial observation about the verbal system in SA that comes from the
traditional grammar of Arabic (Sibawayhi 8th century, and associates) is that
verbs in the language receive some form of case. In the generative framework,
Fassi Fehri (1993) interpreted this insight such that verbs in SA receive
Temporal Case (TC), and Soltan (2007) treated TC as an uninterpretable
feature, [uTC], on T0 (with no abstract licensing-related functions). This fact
about SA verbs is illustrated in (15).
(15) a. yu-riid-u l-walad-u *(Ȥ
Ȥan) yu-shaahid-a t-tilfaaz-a
Impf-want-Ind the-boy-Nom Comp Impf-watch-Sub the-t.v.-Acc
‘the boy wants to watch TV.’
b. sa-Ȥa-ȥmal-u *(Hattaa) Ȥa-njaH-a
Fut-1-study-Ind until 1-succeed-Sub
‘I will work until I make it.’
c. * (Ȥ
Ȥin) tu-THaakir-Ø ta-njaH-Ø
if 2-study.sm-Juss 2-pass.sm-Juss
‘if you study, you pass.’
d. * (lam) ya-ktub-Ø l-mudarris-u d-dars-a
Neg.Pst Impf-write.sm-Juss the-teacher-Nom the-lesson-Acc
‘the teacher did not write the lesson.’
e. Ȥal-walad-u yu-Hibb-u l-kutub-a
the-boy-Nom Impf-like.3sm-Ind the-books-Acc
‘the boy likes books.’
f. kataba-Ø l-walad-u r-risaala-t-a
Pst.write.3sm-Ind the-boy-Nom the-letter-f-Acc
‘the boy wrote the letter.’
The data (15a-b) show that the particles ‘Ȥan’ and ‘Hattaa’ assign the
subjunctive verbal case; (15c-d) show that the particles ‘Ȥin’ and ‘lam’ assign
the jussive verbal case. The data (17e-f) show that the indicative verbal case is
not assigned by particles. In fact, there are several positions on how the
indicative verbal case obtains; see Owens (1988:62-63) for an overview. Fassi
Fehri (1993:164) states that he “follow[s] traditional grammarians in taking the
first TCase [Temporal Case] [meaning indicative] to be assigned by default
(thus paralleling Nominative in the nominal system), whereas other cases are
assigned/checked under government”. Unlike these proposals, the present
analysis claims that there is a difference between morphological verbal case (m-
vc) and abstract Verbal Case (VC) in terms of how they obtain as well as their
syntactic utility. Basically, while m-vc obtains as a result of assignment by
particles (subjunctive and jussive) or default specification (indicative), abstract
VC licensing (for all the three verbal forms) obtains structurally. Thus the
crucial contribution that this analysis makes is proposing verbal licensing in
SA, on a par with DP licensing. In other words, if morphological nominal case
(m-case) indicates the existence of abstract DP licensing/Case, which is
Vergnaud’s (1977) insight that led to the introduction of the theory of abstract
Case in Chomsky (1980, 1981), then by analogy, I propose that m-vc indicates
the existence of abstract verbal licensing, Verbal Case (VC). In Al-Balushi (In
prep.), I present an account of the claimed abstract VC feature on verbs, one
which shows that verbs in SA are in fact similar to DPs in terms of abstract
structural licensing. Also, since the fact that (SA) verbs realize [T], [φ]], and
[Mood] morphology led to the assumption that they encode [T], [φ], and
[Mood] features, then the fact that they realize VC morphologically should
indicate that they have a [VC] feature. Thus, besides m-vc, verbs in SA receive
VC. I assume that this VC feature is realized as an unvalued formal feature
[uVC] on T0 and v*0. The next section will show how this feature is valued,
and how it values [Case] on the relevant DPs.
It should also be noted that the terms ‘indicative’, ‘subjunctive’, and
‘jussive’, as used in this paper, do not make reference to modality. This
terminology was a European contribution to the inquiry, but I agree with Fassi
Fehri (1993) and Benmamoun (2000) that what Wright (1967) called
‘indicative’, ‘subjunctive’, and ‘jussive’ do not map to the three relevant
moods. Therefore, I will call these verbal forms ‘VC forms’ and the suffixes
that Wright (1967) calls ‘mood suffixes’ ‘VC suffixes’. Unlike Fassi Fehri
(1993) and Soltan (2007), I will call this feature ‘Verbal Case’ (VC) instead of
‘temporal Case’, since it obtains in the presence of verbs, rather than tense,
since verbless sentences, which have tense, do not have VC. The next section
capitalizes on the insight that the verbal property that co-exists with structural
Case is [VC] (rather than [T], [Mood], or [φ]).
5. Verbal Case Licenses Structural Case
5.1. The Proposal
Given the observation that DP licensing/structural Case is contingent on the
licensing of verbs, as well as the fact that verbs in SA receive a VC
specification that is morphologically realized, the licensing of VC has two
manifestations, one abstract and the other morphological. To illustrate, narrow
syntax first witnesses the abstract manifestation of VC licensing (seen in the
form of licensing structural Case), which I will call ‘VC checking’. It then
witnesses the morphological specification of VC (seen in the form of the m-vc
specification realized by the verb), which I will call ‘VC assignment’.
Moreover, given the observation that the VC licensing particles are
either merged in or eventually moved to C0 (Al-Balushi, in prep.), as well as
the observation that structural Case is not licensed unless VC is licensed, I
claim that the source of the abstract manifestation of VC licensing (‘VC
checking’) is the Comp domain. Also, given the observation that, unlike
subjunctive and jussive VC verb forms, indicative VC verb forms do not require
overt VC assigning particles, I will argue that the source of ‘VC checking’ is
not the particle, thus pointing out to the existence of an ‘abstract’ licenser.
Therefore, assuming Rizzi’s (1997) Split-Comp-Hypothesis where he suggests
that Fin0 is the locus of finiteness in the Comp domain, I claim that the Fin0
head is the source of ‘VC checking’. In addition, given the observation that the
presence of the VC assigning particles results in the verb realizing a form other
than the so-called ‘citation form’ (which is morphologically the indicative VC
form), I will assume that the source of the morphological manifestation of VC
licensing (‘VC assignment’) is the particle.
In addition, since the observation that DPs receive structural Case led to
the assumption that [Case] is an unvalued feature on D0 (Pesetsky & Torrego
2001, 2004, among others), I will assume that the observation that verbs
receive VC must indicate that [VC] is an unvalued feature on T0 and v*0. This
way, ‘VC checking’ proceeds as follows. I will assume that Fin0 has a valued
[VC] feature which, via Agree (Chomsky 2001), values the unvalued [VC]
features on T0 and v*0. This results in T0 and v*0 valuing, via Agree, the [Case]
features on the subject and object, respectively. Thus VC checking results in
structural Case checking. Moreover, ‘VC assignment’ proceeds as follows.
Upon introduction in the derivation, the particle enters an Agree relation with
the verb, which results in assigning the verb a VC specification that will be
relevant for the morphological component. I assume that particles have indices
that specify the VC values that they assign. For example the subjunctive VC
assigning particle ‘Ȥan’ looks like ‘ȤanSub(junctive)’; likewise, the jussive VC
assigning particle ‘lam’ looks like ‘lamJuss(ive)’. Thus VC assignment makes no
contribution to the licensing of structural Case.
Furthermore, given the observation that [T], [φ], and [Mood], the three
features taken to signal finiteness do not license structural Case in SA, I will
propose that these features make reference to what I call Infl Finiteness (I-
finiteness), and that there is another type of finiteness, which constitutes the
licenser of structural Case, and which I call Comp Finiteness (C-finiteness),
which refers to [VC], since Fin0 resides in the Comp domain.
Moreover, given the fact that SA has verbal sentences, where both Nom
and Acc Cases are licensed, and verbless sentences, where neither Nom nor
Acc is licensed, we seem to need a condition on the featural structure of Fin0
that would regulate when structural Case needs to be licensed; that is, we need
a condition that regulates when Fin0 must and must not have a [VC] feature.
Assuming the conception of categorial selection in Chomsky (1995:54), Adger
(2003), and Hallman (2004), I will propose that Fin0 has a [VC] feature iff it
selects an XP that has (at least) one I-finiteness feature ([T], [Mood], [φ]) and a
categorial [V] feature. The following section implements this syntactic system
on a sentence from SA.
5.2. A Sample Derivation
This section shows how the proposed syntactic system accounts for Case
checking in a VSO sentence; (16a) receives the clause structure in (16b).
(16) a. ya-ktub-u l-mudarris-uun T-Talab-a
Impf-write.sm-Ind the-teacher-p.Nom the-request-Acc
‘the teachers are writing the request.’
write ya-ktub-u T v*P
the-teachers l-mudarris-uun v*’
write ya-ktub-u v* VP
write ya-ktub-u V DP
The merge operations proceed as follows. The verb, which has a valued
categorial [V] feature, is merged in V0 with the object in its complement
position; the object has an unvalued [Case] feature. Then, v*0 which has an
unvalued [VC] feature is merged with the VP. Now, the external argument,
which has an unvalued [Case] feature, is merged in Spec, v*P. Next, T0, which
has an unvalued categorial [V] feature as well as an unvalued [VC] feature and
a valued (present tense) [T] feature, is merged with the v*P, forming the TP;8
this unvalued [V] feature enables T0 to select the v*P. Finally, Fin0 is merged
with the TP, forming FinP. Since this Fin0 selects an XP (TP) with a categorial
[V] feature and a [T] feature, then it must be the version of Fin0 that has an
unvalued categorial [V] feature as well as a valued [VC] feature and an
unvalued [T] feature.9 For purposes of c-selection, the valued categorial [V]
feature on the verb is projected (or transmitted) to the v*P projection.
The feature valuation operations proceed as follows. Upon merge of T0,
Match between the unvalued categorial [V] feature on T0 and the valued
categorial [V] feature on the v*P takes place, which results in the two elements
entering an Agree relation, which, in turn, results in the latter valuing the
former. Also upon Merge of T0, v*0 enters an Agree relation with T0 to get its
unvalued [VC] feature valued, but no valuation takes place (since both heads
have negative specification of the feature). However, a permanent link is
created between the two features, and they become two instances of one feature,
a situation dubbed ‘Agree as feature sharing’ (Frampton & Gutmann 2000, and
Pesetsky & Torrego 2007). Now if one instance is valued via Agree with
another head, the other instance is automatically valued. Moreover, the now
7 The strikethrough signals the phonetically deleted copies.
8 It is worth emphasizing that this approach to labeling of merged elements is just
one of various hypotheses on the issue of labeling, and since none of the proposals in
this paper is contingent on a specific approach to labeling of merged elements, I will not
get into the debate; see Chomsky (2000, 2005), Boeckx (2002), Adger (2003:73),
Collins (2002), Cecchetto (2006), and Donati (2006) for a discussion of the relevant
9 I here assume that Fin0/C0 encodes a [T] feature, in agreement with many
proposals in the literature (Stowell 1982, Raposo 1987, and Enç 1987, among others).
valued categorial [V] feature on T0 is projected to the TP projection, which
enables it to be selected by the version of Fin0 that has an unvalued categorial
[V] feature as well as a valued [VC] feature and an unvalued [T] feature. Upon
merge of Fin0, it enters an Agree relation with T0, which results in valuing [V]
and [T] on Fin0 and [VC] on T0, and automatically on v*0. At this point, the
subject and object enter Agree relations with T0 and v*0, respectively, and get
their [Case] features valued as Nom and Acc, respectively. Thus, VC checking
by Fin0 on T0 and v*0 results in Case checking on the subject and object,
respectively. Finally, the verb, which, not being in the scope of a VC assigning
particle, is not assigned a VC specification, which means that it will realize the
default indicative m-vc specification at the morphological component. Thus VC
assignment does not take place.10
In Al-Balushi (In prep.), I show that this analysis of Case checking can
account for the structural Case facts in a variety of clauses in SA, comprising
SVO sentences, copular sentences, verbless sentences (with ‘Ȥinna’), control
constructions, raising constructions, ECM constructions, imperatives, passives,
unaccusatives and unergatives, as well as participial sentences.
6. Concluding Remarks
The proposal laid out in this paper argues for the presence of abstract Case in
UG. It also argues against the proposal that Case is licensed by an I-finiteness
feature, since there is no single I-finiteness feature responsible for licensing
Case, nor is Case licensed in the absence of [VC]. It thus draws a distinction
between finiteness in the Infl domain and finiteness in the Comp domain. This
proposal thus restores the Government and Binding (GB) and early
Minimalism idea that Case-checking categories/heads have a dedicated [Case]
feature, which is [VC] in the proposed system. It also restores the early GB idea
that C0 has a Case assigning property (Stowell 1981, Massam 1985, among
others). The difference between these proposals and the one presented in this
paper is that while they assume that C0 licenses Case to the DP in Spec, TP, the
present account argues that C0 licenses Case to the Infl domain functional
heads, which then license Case to the subject and object. Though it works for
SA, this proposal is yet to be tested on data from other languages. Since this
task is beyond the space limits of this paper, I will leave it for another occasion.
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