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The Relationship between Agreement and Morphological Case: Evidence from Arabic

Concentric: Studies in Linguistics
44.2 (November 2018): 69-109 DOI: 10.6241/concentric.ling.201811_44(2).0003
The Relationship between Agreement and Morphological
Case: Evidence from Arabic
Rashid Al-Balushi
Sultan Qaboos University
This paper argues for the dissociation between agreement and structural Case, based
on data from Standard Arabic (SA) and the Omani variety of Arabic (OA), and makes two
claims in this regard. First, agreement is related to morphological case (m-case) in two
ways: 1) agreement deputizes for m-case when m-case is absent (either because m-case is
not realized or because the DP is not overt); and 2) the agreement affixes (subject vs.
object) reflect the case values (Nom vs. Acc) that DPs surface with. This applies to
structural and lexical as well as default case types, thus indicating lack of connection to
arguments. Second, using data from OA, whose DPs do not bear m-case and verbs bear
full agreement with both arguments, it will be argued that the proposed relationship
between agreement and m-case, where agreement deputizes for m-case in the
morphological component, helps in θ-role assignment.
Key words: structural Case, lexical case, default case, morphological case, agreement
1. Introduction
Agreement in terms of -features has been argued to be the licensor of structural
Case (George & Kornfilt 1981, Chomsky 1981, 2001, Schütze 1997). Despite this
standard view, several authors have argued that -agreement does not license
structural Case (Carstens 2001, Tanaka 2005, Alboiu 2006, Bobaljik 2008, Al-Balushi
2011). The surveyed Standard Arabic (SA) data will show that agreement does not
license Case, since Case is licensed in the presence of defective agreement (between
functional categories and arguments), and not licensed when agreement is complete.1
The examined data also show that complete agreement appears on the relevant
governor (verb or copula or particle) only when morphological case (m-case) is
absent, either because m-case is not morphologically realized, which is the case of
Omani Arabic (OA), or because the m-case-realizing DP does not surface; that is,
when the DP is not overt.
Since this behavior of agreement is not contingent on the type of case that a DP
bears, it is argued that agreement is not related to structural Case. In other words, if
I would like to thank the editors of Concentric: Studies in Linguistics, as well as the anonymous
reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper.
1 Structural/abstract Case may be licensed by tense (Chomsky 1980, Pesetsky & Torrego 2001, 2004),
mood (Aygen 2002), or verbal Case (Al-Balushi 2011, 2016). There have been other approaches to
Case (e.g., Marantz 1991, McFadden 2004, Sitaridou 2006, Baker 2015, Levin 2015, Sheehan & van
der Wal 2015). It has yet to be established whether any of these approaches is extendable to SA and
OA, a task that goes beyond the scope of this paper. Here, ‘Case’ is reserved for structural Case, and
‘case’ for lexical and default case.
44.2 (November 2018)
agreement (morphology) can reflect and deputize for the m-case that represents all
three case types (structural, lexical, and default) in the same way, as (1)–(3) below
show, then agreement may not be related to structural Case, as is standardly assumed,
but rather to m-case, since there are differences between the three case types. While
structural Case is checked on arguments (subjects and objects), which have [Case]
features, by functional heads (T0 and v0), lexical case is assigned by lexical elements
(particles, copulas, believe-type verbs) to non-arguments (topics and nominal and
adjectival predicates), which have no [Case] features in narrow syntax; lexical case is
Acc in SA. Unlike structural Case, which indicates a thematic relation between the
Case-checking head and the argument DP, lexical case does not indicate such a
relation. Default case is obtained by non-arguments when they reach PF without an
m-case specification as a result of not being in the scope of lexical case assigners
(Schütze 2001, Soltan 2007); default case is Nom in SA (Mohammad 1990, 2000,
Ouhalla 1994). In (1), the subject, which receives structural Nom Case, is represented
by the subject agreement, -ū, and the object, which receives structural Acc Case, is
represented by the object agreement, -hunna. In (2), the topic (of the predicate
nājiħ-īn ‘successful (PL.M)’), which surfaces with default Nom case (Al-Balushi, to
appear) is represented by the same subject agreement morphology as in (1), -ū,
indicating that it is Nom that controls agreement, not thematic nor grammatical
relations. In (3), the topic (of the predicate nājiħ-ā-t-un ‘successful (PL.F)’), which
surfaces with lexical Acc case assigned by ʔinna (Al-Balushi 2016), is represented by
the same object agreement morphology as in (1), -hunna, despite the absence of
thematic and grammatical relations between ʔinna and the topic; more on this
relationship in Sections 3 and 4.
(1) SA
‘They (M) talked to them (F).’
(2) SA
kān-ū nājiħ-īn. successful-PL.ACC
‘They (M) were successful.’
2 I use the following abbreviations: ACC: accusative; COMP: complementizer; DL: dual; EMPH: emphatic;
ENER: energetic; F: feminine; FUT: future; GEN: genitive; IMPF: imperfective; IMPR: imperative; IND:
indicative; JUSS: jussive; M: masculine; MOD: modality; NEG: negative; NOM: nominative; PL: plural;
PASS: passive; PRON: pronominal element; PST: past; SG: singular; SUB: subjunctive; 1: 1st person; 2: 2nd
person; 3: 3rd person.
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
(3) SA
ʔinna-hunna nājiħ-ā-t-un.
COMP-3.PL.F successful-PL-F-NOM
‘They (F) are successful.’
The absence of m-case (in OA) is problematic for the Case Filter, which states that
lexical DPs must have Case (Chomsky 1981). Moreover, since the Case Filter is a
PF-requirement, DPs have to bear m-case. It is also problematic for the Visibility
Condition (Aoun 1979), since DPs need abstract Case and its morphological
manifestation, m-case, to be visible at LF for θ-role assignment.3 In the absence of
m-case, OA will be argued to utilize agreement. Unlike SA, whose verbs carry
incomplete subject agreement and no object agreement, the OA verbs carry full
subject and object agreement. Therefore, agreement will be argued to deputize for
m-case in the morphological component, which helps to assign θ-roles to the relevant
arguments. A survey of various constructions in SA shows that the verb must realize
full agreement with the arguments that are not overt and those that cannot bear m-case
(like CPs and PPs).
The next section argues that agreement does not license Case in SA and OA. It
also provides arguments that pre-verbal DPs in OA are topics. This indicates that the
complete agreement in OA in both orders is not the licensor of Case, since it appears
when there is a lexical subject (VSO order) and when there is no lexical subject (SVO
order). Section 3 presents SA data to show that the agreement affix (subject vs.
object) reflects the type of m-case (Nom vs. Acc) that represents structural, lexical,
and default case types. Section 4 presents OA data that show that agreement is
complete with both arguments in the absence of m-case marking (i.e., the same
pattern observed in SA), which might help in θ-role assignment. Section 5 presents an
apparent counterargument. Section 6 concludes the paper.
2. Background
2.1 Agreement does not license Case in SA
I assume with Sībawayhi (1990:278) and Soltan (2007:50–61) that pre-verbal DPs
in SA, like ʔal-mudarris-ā-t-u ‘the female teachers’ in (4), are not subjects, but rather
topics that are base-generated in their surface position, which is Spec, TopP (Topic
Phrase, Rizzi 1997); the subject is a post-verbal pro merged in the canonical subject
3 It is noteworthy that the current proposal is not contingent on any particular conception or view of
θ-roles and θ-role assignment.
44.2 (November 2018)
position, Spec, vP.4 Also, I assume with Chomsky (2001) that incomplete agreement
is defective, hence unable to value [Case] on the goal.
(4) SA
ʔal-mudarris-ā-t-u katab-na pro r-risāla-t-a.
the-teacher-PL-F-NOM PST.write-3.PL.F the-letter-F-ACC
‘The female teachers, they wrote the letter.’
Thus, full agreement in the SVO order, as in (4), does not count as subject
agreement with ʔal-mudarris-ā-t-u since ʔal-mudarris-ā-t-u is a topic that receives
default Nom case at PF (for Case Filter purposes). The grammaticality of (5)–(6),
where a lexical Nom-marked subject (VSO order) obtains in the presence of defective
-agreement, indicates that -agreement is not the feature that licenses the subject (via
Case) in SA because agreement is incomplete (in [Person] and [Gender], as in (5), and
in [Person], as in (6), but never in [Number]).
(5) SA
*katab-na/ kataba-t l-mudarris-ā-t-u r-risāla-t-a.
PST.write-3.PL.F/ PST.write-3.SG.F the-teacher-PL-F-NOM the-letter-F-ACC
‘The female teachers wrote the letter.’
(6) SA
ħaara n-nisāʔ-u.
PST.come.3.SG.M the-women-NOM
‘The women came/have come.’
(Al-Hashimi 2006:98)
Similarly, object agreement in SA is not allowed, as (7) shows, further supporting
the view that -agreement is not involved in the licensing of structural Case.
(7) SA
*qaraʔ-na r-rajul-u l-jarāʔid-a. the-man-NOM the-newspapers.F-ACC
4 The claim that pre-verbal agentive DPs in SA are topics is also based on the fact that while
participles are grammatical in the S-participle-O order (SVO), they are ungrammatical in the
participle-S-O order (VSO). This is because the participle, an adjectival category, does not license
structural Nom Case on a subject in the post-participle position. By contrast, the topic in the
pre-participle position avails itself of the default case mechanism (Al-Balushi, to appear).
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
Now the fact that complete agreement obtains in the absence of a lexical subject,
as in (4), and defective agreement obtains in the presence of a Nom-marked overt
subject, as in (5)–(6), indicates that agreement is inert in the syntax in SA, as argued
in Al-Balushi (2011, 2016).
As for OA, agreement in terms of -features ([Person], [Number] and [Gender])
between the verb and both the subject and object is complete, as (8) shows. Although
this prompts the extension of the standard view of Case licensing (Case as a reflex of
-feature valuation, Schütze 1997, Chomsky 2001), I will argue that structural Case in
OA is not licensed by agreement. Example (8) also shows that, like those of the other
modern (regional) dialects of Arabic, OA DPs do not bear m-case suffixes.5
(8) OA
katb-in-ha l-banāt r-rəsālah.
PST.write-3.PL.F-3.SG.F the-girls.NOM the-letter.F.ACC
‘The girls wrote the letter.’
First, if subject agreement were the feature responsible for licensing the [Case]
feature on the subject in (8), this agreement is expected to appear only when there is a
lexical subject, as in (8), which is the VSO order. As (9) shows, however, the same
complete subject agreement appears on the verb in the absence of the lexical subject.
This indicates that agreement has another function, as will be argued in Sections 3 and
4. Here, I assume that pre-verbal DPs in OA are like their SA counterparts in being
topics (not subjects). Section 2.2 will provide arguments for this assumption.6
Therefore, though complete, agreement in OA is inert in the syntax; that is, it does not
license Case.7
(9) OA
ʔəl-banāt katb-in-ha pro r-rəsālah.
the-girls.NOM PST.write-3.PL.F-3.SG.F the-letter.F.ACC
‘The girls, they wrote the letter.’
5 Therefore, the OA nominals will appear with the same Case or case values like their SA equivalents.
6 For a response to previous analyses of the relevant agreement facts in SA as well as to the view that
the post-verbal and pre-verbal DPs are transformationally related, see Soltan (2007:36–50).
7 The claimed link between agreement and structural Case has also been questioned in different
languages, e.g., Kannada (Agbayani & Shekar 2007), most Niger-Congo languages (Baker 2010),
languages with context-sensitive agreement systems like Georgian and Nishnaabemwin (Béjar
2003:178–179), and Bantu (Carstens 2005).
44.2 (November 2018)
Second, structural Case in OA may not be licensed by agreement since agreement
does not license Case in SA either. This argument is based on an ancestral relationship
between OA and Classical Arabic (CA), which is the direct ancestor of SA.
Benmamoun & Hasegawa-Johnson (2013) argue that the modern dialects of Arabic
are descendants of CA (the language of the Holy Qurʔān), and that they share the
same syntactic system, including clause structure. Besides, Wilmsen (2016) argues
that the Omani varieties of Arabic share the same ancestor with the language of the
Holy Qurʔān, CA.8 Thus, the assumed ancestral relationship between SA and OA
could indicate that agreement does not license structural Case in OA.
2.2 Pre-verbal DPs in OA are topics
Like their SA counterparts, pre-verbal DPs in OA are base-generated topics, for
several reasons. First, example (8), which is the VSO structure, is a neutral statement
of an event, so-called ‘thetic reading’. By contrast, example (9), which is the SVO
structure, introduces an individual and comments on it, so-called ‘categorical reading’
(Kuroda 1972, Basilico 1998). Thus, (8) and (9) do not convey the same
interpretation, indicating that they are not likely to have the same structure or be
transformationally related. This is further supported by the fact that a pre-verbal DP
may not be indefinite non-specific, as (10) shows. By contrast, a post-verbal DP may
be indefinite non-specific, as (11) shows. This indicates that the two positions do not
make a movement chain (Barss 1986), since movement chains allow reconstruction,
which does not obtain here, suggesting the lack of a transformational relation between
the pre-verbal and post-verbal positions.
(10) OA
*riggāl zār-na.
man.NOM PST.visit.3.SG.M-1.PL
(11) OA
zār-na riggāl.
PST.visit.3.SG.M-1.PL man.NOM
‘A man visited us.’
It should be noted, however, that indefinite topics are allowed in (at least) two
contexts in SA as well as in OA. These are when the sentence expresses bizarre/odd
information (Fassi Fehri 1993), and when the pre-verbal DP is modified (Mohammad
8 See Ferguson (1959) for an alternative view.
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
2000). The OA sentences in (12)–(13) are the equivalents of the relevant SA data,
respectively. Obviously, none of these conditions applies to (10). This means that
pre-verbal DPs and post-verbal ones are not related transformationally, since while
there is no restriction on the indefiniteness of the latter, the indefiniteness of the
former is restricted to special contexts.
(12) OA
baqrah tkallmi-t.
cow.NOM PST.spoke-3.SG.F
‘A cow spoke.’
(13) OA
walad *(wīl) ga.
boy.NOM tall.NOM PST.come.3.SG.M
‘A tall boy came.’
Second, that the pre-verbal DP occupies an A-bar position is shown by the fact
that, like left-dislocated elements (which occupy A-bar positions), it can be associated
with either the agent or the theme, as (9) and (14) respectively show.
(14) OA
ʔəl-ʔəmtəħān ʕadd-ū-h -ṭəllāb.
the-test.NOM PST.pass-3.PL.M-3.SG.M the-students.NOM
‘The test, the male students passed it.’
Third, when a post-verbal DP in a coordinate structure is spelled out pre-verbally,
it must be resumed by a pronoun in the coordinate structure, as (15)–(16) show. Since
the coordinate structure is an island for movement, Ahmad may not have moved. In
other words, Ahmad must have been merged in its surface position in (16), indicating
lack of movement from the post-verbal position.
(15) OA
sār-ū [Ahmad w Talal].
PST.leave-3.PL.M Ahmad.NOM and Talal.NOM
‘Ahmad and Talal left.’
(16) OA
Ahmad sār/ sār-ū [*(huwwo) w Talal].
Ahmad.NOM PST.leave.3.SG.M/ PST.leave-3.PL.M he and Talal.NOM
‘Ahmad, he and Talal left.’
44.2 (November 2018)
Fourth, assuming that the claim that Neg0 is higher than T0 in SA (Fassi Fehri
1993:87, Soltan 2007:185) is extendable to OA, (17) shows that the pre-verbal DP is
higher than Spec, TP. As (18) shows, the Neg particle may not precede the pre-verbal
DP, topic, to derive the same meaning.9 Given these arguments, I contend that the
pre-verbal DP in OA is a topic, merged in Spec, TopP.
(17) OA
TopP ʔəl-mdarrs-ā-t [NegP mā ba-y-kitb-in-ha pro
the-teacher-PL-F.NOM NEG FUT-IMPF-write-3.PL.F-3.SG.F
‘The female teachers, they will not write the letter.’
(18) OA
*[CP mā [
TopP l-mdarrs-ā-t ba-y-kitb-in-ha pro
NEG the-teacher-PL-F.NOM FUT-IMPF-write-3.PL.F-3.SG.F
‘The female teachers, they will not write the letter.’
Having shown that agreement does not license Case in both varieties of Arabic,
the next two sections argue that agreement has another function, one in which it is
related to m-case, not Case.
3. Agreement and m-case in SA
3.1 Agreement and m-case of structural Case
The data in this section show that -agreement both reflects and deputizes for the
m-case (Nom vs. Acc) that represents structural Case in the morphological component
(leading to PF). Data from SA embedded clauses, passives, and imperatives are
reviewed to show that if a DP is not overt (hence m-case marking is absent), the verb
must realize full agreement with it. If the DP is overt (hence m-case is realized), the
verb carries either defective or no agreement with it. This complementary distribution
relation between agreement and m-case indicates that the two elements may have the
same function.
9 Example (18) is grammatical, but with another meaning, one where the topic is in the scope of
negation. The Neg particle has moved in the Comp domain to the left of the topic. Thus the present
translation is ‘it is not the female teachers who will write the letter (someone else will)’, mā being also
a constituent negation particle (Ouhalla 1993).
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
The following data will also show that verbs with argument CPs and PPs, which
cannot realize m-case, as well as verbs with DP arguments that cannot carry m-case
(like pro and overt pronouns in Arabic), realize the -specification relevant to those
XP arguments. Following Uriagereka’s (2006) proposal that CPs are personless, I will
assume that they are also genderless and numberless; I will also assume this to be true
of PPs. Therefore, verbs with CP and PP arguments are expected to realize the default
agreement specification, that is, 3rd person, singular, and masculine, the unmarked
features (Noyer 1992, Harley & Ritter 2002, among many others). That clausal
arguments receive structural Case (for LF visibility) has been argued in the traditional
grammar of Arabic (Sībawayhi 1990) as well as in Delahunty (1983), Massam (1985),
Chomsky (1986), Plann (1986), Bošković (1995), Tsai (1995), Picallo (2002), Lee
(2005), Uriagereka (2006, 2008:108–109), and Al-Balushi (2016); see Stowell (1981)
for the opposite view. Also, Kempchinsky (1991:237) argues that “the PP [which also
receives the GOAL thematic role] will receive accusative Case, violating the Case
Resistance Principle (Stowell 1981)”. She argues that there is no way for the PP to
avoid being Acc Case-marked, if (following GB-theoretic syntax), Case must be
assigned at Surface Structure.
Also, contexts with pronominal DP subjects will provide further evidence that
agreement reflects and deputizes for m-case when the latter does not surface, because
pronouns (overt and pro) do not bear m-case. We have already seen this with pro
subjects, as in the SVO structure in (4) above, since pro is phonetically null. This is
also true of sentences with overt pronouns in SA, which, unlike their English
counterparts, do not carry m-case, as (19) shows.10
10 Though uncommon, sentences like (19) with overt pronouns are grammatical, the overt pronoun
being optional. When in a coordinate structure, the pronoun is obligatory, as (i) shows. Without the
pronoun, (i) may sound grammatical to some Arabists. In this case, however, wa would not be the
conjunctive wa, but rather the wa-of-simultaneity (wāw-u-l-maʕiyyah), and the sentence would have a
different meaning. Also, as the Qurʔānic verse in (ii) shows, a post-verbal pronominal subject is licit in
the presence of full subject agreement. Even if the pronoun in (ii) is allowed or required for emphasis,
it still co-occurs with full subject agreement on the verb.
(i) SA
ðahab-ū [*(hum) wa ʔixwān-u-hum] ʔila l-madrasat-i.
PST.go-3.PL.M they.M and brothers-NOM-their to the-school-GEN
They (M) and their brothers went to the school.’
(ii) SA
ʔimmā ʔan tu-lqiy-a, wa ʔimmā ʔan na-kūn-a naħnu l-mulqīn.
COMP 2-throw-SUB, and or COMP 1.PL-be-SUB we the-throwers.ACC
‘The magicians said: oh (Moses) either you throw (what you have), or we will be the throwers.’
(The Holy Qurʔān, 7:115)
44.2 (November 2018)
(19) SA
qābal-ū hum l-mudarris-ā-t-i. they.M the-teacher-PL-F-ACC
‘They (M) met with the female teachers.’
In what follows, I present a set of constructions to support the proposed
relationship between agreement and the m-case that represents structural Case. I
assume with Soltan (2007) that SA does not exhibit A-movement.
The main verb in (20), a typical control construction, realizes defective subject
agreement with the external argument, since this can carry m-case, and default
agreement with the internal argument, since CPs have the default -specification. The
features 3rd person, singular, and masculine have no morphological realization.
Similarly, the embedded verb carries no agreement with the embedded overt DP
object. Since the embedded subject is pro, which cannot bear m-case, the verb carries
the relevant subject agreement morphology (-na, marking 3.PL.F) with it. That this
approach to the relationship between agreement and m-case is on the right track is
shown by the fact that more defective subject agreement on the main verb is allowed,
as (21) shows. In contrast, the embedded verb may not realize incomplete agreement,
as (22) shows, since pro cannot bear Nom m-case.
(20) SA
TP ħāwala-t l-banāt-ui [
CP ʔan ya-ktub-na proi
PST.try-3.SG.F the-girls-NOM COMP IMPF-write-3.PL.F
‘The girls tried to write the letter.’
(21) SA
ħāwala l-banāt-ui [ʔan ya-ktub-na proi
PST.try.3.SG.M the-girls-NOM COMP IMPF-write-3.PL.F
‘The girls tried to write the letter.’
(22) SA
*ħāwala-t l-banāt-ui [ʔan ta-ktub-a/
PST.try-3.SG.F the-girls-NOM COMP 3.SG.F-write-SUB/
ya-ktub-ū proi r-risāla-t-a].
IMPF-write-3.PL.M the-letter-F-ACC
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
The ECM construction in (23) reveals the same m-case and agreement pattern.
Assuming that the embedded clause is a CP as argued in Al-Balushi (2016), ð̣anna
‘believe’ carries defective agreement ([Gender] and [Person] only) with the
m-case-realizing lexical subject, but it carries default agreement with the CP
complement, which encodes default -features (by assumption). The embedded verb
carries full agreement with the pro subject, and no agreement with the DP object. The
DP -ullāb-a ‘the students’ is an argument of neither predicate in this construction. It
is a topic, which receives lexical Acc case from ð̣anna ‘believe’, leaving the structural
Acc Case licensed by matrix v0 to the CP argument. The topic occupies the embedded
Spec, TopP position and is co-indexed with a pro subject in the embedded post-verbal
position. In support of the proposed relationship between agreement and m-case, the
main verb of (23) may bear more defective subject agreement, as (24) shows, but the
embedded verb may not, as (25) shows.
(23) SA
TP ð̣
anna-t l-mudarris-ā-t-u [CP -ullāb-ai
PST.believe-3.SG.F the-teacher-PL-F-NOM the-students-ACC
katab-ū proi r-rasāʔil-a]].
PST.write-3.PL.M the-letters.F-ACC
‘The female teachers believed the male students to have written the letters.’
(24) SA
TP ð̣
anna l-mudarris-ā-t-u [CP -ullāb-ai
PST.believe.3.SG.M the-teacher-PL-F-NOM the-students-ACC
katab-ū proi r-rasāʔil-a]].
PST.write-3.PL.M the-letters.F-ACC
‘The female teachers believed the male students to have written the letters.’
(25) SA
*[TP ð̣
anna-t l-mudarris-ā-t-u [CP -ullāb-ai
PST.believe-3.SG.F the-teacher-PL-F-NOM the-students-ACC
kataba proi r-rasāʔil-a]].
PST.write.3.SG.M the-letters.F-ACC
Since SA does not exhibit A-movement, it does not have a typical raising
construction of the type found in languages like English (Mohammad 2000).
Nonetheless, SA has equivalent raising predicates which select clausal complements,
as in (26). Unlike the control and ECM predicates in SA, yabdū ‘seem’ does not take
an external argument. This is shown by the fact that when there is a pre-verbal DP in
the sentence, as in (27), yabdū (unlike the other verbs in SA) does not realize full
44.2 (November 2018)
agreement with it, suggesting the absence of a pro. Thus, yabdū has one argument, the
CP, and can license one Case value, Nom (Al-Balushi 2011:222–229). Since CPs
have the default -specification, the verb is expected to realize default agreement
(3.SG.M), which is the case. Also, the embedded verb carries full subject agreement
with the pro subject, -na (3.PL.F), and no agreement with the lexical DP object.
l-banāt-a in (26), which occupies the embedded Spec, TopP, is assigned lexical Acc
case by ʔanna, which occupies Force0. Also, ʔal-banāt-u in (27) is in the matrix Spec,
TopP without a case assigner, which makes it surface with default Nom case. That
yabdū in (26)–(27) agrees with the CP argument rather than with
ʔal-banāt-u/l-banāt-a ‘the girls’ is evidenced by the fact that it may not carry
feminine agreement morphology, as (28)–(29) show.
(26) SA
CP yabdū [
ʔanna l-banāt-a ʔakal-na pro -aʕām-a]].
seem.3.SG.M COMP the-girls-ACC the-food-ACC
‘It seems that the girls ate the food.’
(27) SA
CP ʔal-banāt-u yabdū [
ʔanna-hunna ʔakal-na pro
the-girls-NOM seem.3.SG.M COMP-3.PL.F
‘The girls, it seems that they ate the food.’
(28) SA
*ta-bdū [ʔanna l-banāt-a ʔakal-na pro -aʕām-a].
3.SG.F-seem COMP the-girls-ACC the-food-ACC
(29) SA
*ʔal-banāt-u ta-bdū [ʔanna-hunna ʔakal-na pro -aʕām-a].
the-girls-NOM 3.SG.F-seem COMP-3.PL.F the-food-ACC
This way, the complement CP behaves like passive subjects, which are merged as
internal arguments, but receive Nom Case. These characteristics of yabdū, being able
to license Nom Case through realizing the default agreement specification and having
a non-DP argument, will prove available in another construction in SA, namely the
SA has two passive patterns, as in (30) and (32). The verb in (30) realizes
defective agreement ([Person] and [Gender] only) with the lexical DP subject, which
can bear m-case. In (31), since the subject is pro, the verb carries full subject
agreement (-na, 3.PL.F) with it. This view of the observed pattern of m-case and
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
agreement is further supported by the passive construction in (32). Here the passive
verb is followed by a preposition, which makes a PP with the internal argument,
which appears with Gen Case, being inaccessible for Case checking by the verb/T0.
Thus it cannot receive Nom Case, though T0 has a Nom [Case] feature that must be
licensed, to avoid a crash. However, like CPs and unlike DPs, the PP cannot carry
(30) SA
quriʔa-t -uħuf-u. the-newspapers.F-NOM
‘The newspapers were read.’
(31) SA
quriʔ-na pro.
‘They (F) were read.’
(32) SA
qubia [ʕala l-liṣṣ-ā-t-i].
PST.PASS.arrest.3.SG.M on the-thief-PL-F-GEN
‘The female thieves were arrested.’
Therefore, the verb realizes default agreement with the PP since the PP has the
default -specification. The proposal that the DP l-liṣṣ-ā-t-i ‘the female thieves’
belongs in the PP is further supported by the fact that when it is not overt (hence a
pro), it is the preposition and not the verb that carries full agreement with it, thus
reflecting the Gen m-case. This can be seen in the contrast between (33) and (34).
(33) SA
qubia [ʕalay-hinna pro].
PST.PASS.arrest.3.SG.M on-3.PL.F
‘They (F) were arrested.’
(34) SA
*qubi-na pro.
The view that the verb in the P-passive construction has no pro subject, which
means that the PP is the subject, is supported by the fact that (like yabdū) the verb
carries default agreement in the SVO order, as (35) shows. The SVO order is
characterized by full agreement on the verb, but only when there is a pro.
44.2 (November 2018)
(35) SA
ʔal-liṣṣ-ā-t-u qubia ʕalay-hinna.
the-thief-PL-F-NOM PST.PA SS.arrest.3.SG.M on-3.PL.F
‘The female thieves, they were arrested.’
The verb in (36)–(37), the SA canonical 2nd person imperative, realizes no
agreement with the lexical DP object (which can carry Acc m-case), but full subject
agreement with the pronominal subject, which cannot bear m-case whether null or
overt, respectively. The sentence (37) shows that even if the pronoun subject can
reveal the -content of pro, the verb must realize full subject agreement, since the
pronoun does not bear m-case.
(36) SA
ʔu.ktub-napro l-wājib-a.
IMPR.2.write-PL.F-JUSS the-homework-ACC
‘You (PL.F) write the homework!’
(37) SA
ʔu.ktub-na-Ø /*ʔu.ktub-ī ʔant-unna l-wājib-a.
IMPR.2.write-PL.F-JUSS/ IMPR.2.write-SG.F-JUSS you-PL.F the-homework-ACC
‘You (PL.F) write the homework!’
A well-known fact about SA, a pro-drop language, is that it does not usually
require an overt pronominal subject in 2nd person imperative structures, which makes
(37) sound unusual. Nonetheless, the overt pronoun is required when the intended
function is emphasis, that is, to mean the addressee and not someone else. Regardless
of the intended discourse function, the 2nd person pronoun can appear overtly in the
imperative construction. Now, if full subject agreement were not there to deputize for
m-case (for the Visibility Condition purposes, as proposed in the next section), it
would have disappeared in the presence of the overt pronoun subject, a property of the
VSO order in SA, but it is obligatory despite the presence of the pronoun, as (37)
shows. This is because the pronoun does not realize Nom m-case in SA, in line with
the current proposal.
SA has another imperative pattern, one which can also be used for 3rd person, as in
(38)–(41). In (38)–(39), with a pronominal subject, the same pattern of subject and
object agreement is observed. The verb carries no agreement with the lexical DP
object, but full subject agreement, -na (PL.F), with the pronominal subject. As for
(40)–(41), the verb carries defective agreement with the lexical DP subject (no
[Number] agreement), and no agreement with the lexical DP object, since both can
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
bear m-case. This predicts that full subject agreement may not co-exist with subjects
that carry Nom m-case, a fact illustrated by (42)–(43).
(38) SA
li-ta-ktub-na pro l-wājib-a.
IMPR-2-write-PL.F-JUSS the-homework-ACC
‘You (PL.F) write the homework!’
(39) SA
li-ta-ktub-na ʔant-unna l-wājib-a.
IMPR-2-write-PL.F-JUSS you-PL.F the-homework-ACC
‘You (PL.F) write the homework!’
(40) SA
li-ya-ktub-Ø ʔixwān-u-ka l-wājib-a.
IMPR-IMPF-write.3.SG.M-JUSS brothers-NOM-your the-homework-ACC
‘Have your brothers write the homework!’
(41) SA
li-ta-ktub-Ø l-banāt-u l-wājib-a.
IMPR-3.SG.F-write-JUSS the-girls-NOM the-homework-ACC
‘Have the girls write the homework!’
(42) SA
*li-ya-ktub-ū ʔixwān-u-ka l-wājib-a.
IMPR-IMPF-write-3.PL.M-JUSS brothers-NOM-your the-homework-ACC
(43) SA
*li-ta-ktub-na-Ø l-banāt-u l-wājib-a.
IMPR-2-write-PL.F-JUSS the-girls-NOM the-homework-ACC
The surveyed data show that agreement is fully realized (in [Person], [Number],
and [Gender]) only when m-case is absent, thus supporting the claim that the
distribution of agreement is related to m-case. Here, I assume that defective
agreement is similar to the lack of agreement in that both require the presence of
m-case. For Chomsky (2001), both lack of agreement and defective agreement (in
terms of -features) may not result in valuing [Case] on the goal.
3.2 Agreement and m-case of lexical and default case types
This section presents data from SA to support the claim that agreement holds the
same relationship (that it has with the m-case of structural Case) with the m-case of
lexical and default case types. Basically, agreement deputizes for and reflects the
44.2 (November 2018)
m-case specification that a DP carries, regardless of whether the DP is an argument or
a non-argument.
Topics and predicates, which are never in the scope of structural Case checking
categories, always surface with default Nom case (Al-Balushi 2012), as in (44). The
exception is when they are in the scope of lexical case assigners.
(44) SA
ʔa-ullāb-u mujtahid-ūn.
the-students-NOM hardworking-PL.NOM
‘The male students are hardworking.’
When (44) is in the scope of the copula kāna, as in (45), the predicate surfaces
with lexical Acc case. Also, when (44) is in the scope of the particle ʔinna, as in (46),
the topic surfaces with lexical Acc case (Al-Balushi 2016). The topic remains with
default Nom with kāna (Al-Balushi, to appear), and the predicate remains with default
Nom with ʔinna.
(45) SA
kāna -ullāb-u mujtahid-īn. the-students-NOM hardworking-PL.ACC
‘The male students were hardworking.’
(46) SA
ʔinna -ullāb-a mujtahid-ūn.
COMP the-students-ACC hardworking-PL.NOM
‘The male students are hardworking.’
Now, when the lexical DP topic in (45)–(46) does not surface, it is represented
with the following agreement pattern on kāna and ʔinna, respectively.
(47) SA
kān-ū mujtahid-īn. hardworking-PL.ACC
‘They (M) were hardworking.’
(48) SA
ʔinna-hum mujtahid-ūn.
COMP-3.PL.M hardworking-PL.NOM
‘They (M) are hardworking.’
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
Since -ū and -hum stand for a topic (-ullāb ‘the male students’) in (47) and (48),
it may not be that -ū, which is a subject agreement morpheme, is agreement and -hum,
which is an object agreement morpheme, is a clitic, since there is no reason for why
there should be a difference. To make sense of these facts, I will say that -ū (subject
agreement) is the agreement affix with kāna because kāna is followed by a
Nom-realizing DP (default Nom), whereas -hum (object agreement) is the agreement
affix with ʔinna because ʔinna is followed by an Acc-realizing DP (lexical Acc). And
since agreement is argued here to reflect and deputize for m-case (when the relevant
lexical DP is not overt), the relevant agreement affix is different depending on the
m-case that the relevant DP bears. Examples (49)–(52) show that -ū replaces a subject
argument and -hum replaces an object argument in SA. This shows that the expected
agreement affix on the governor is conditioned by the m-case (not structural Case)
that the agreed-with DP should realize when it is overt.
(49) SA
qaraʔa -ullāb-u l-kitāb-a. the-students-NOM the-book-ACC
‘The male students read the book.’
(50) SA
qaraʔ-ū pro l-kitāb-a. the-book-ACC
‘They (M) read the book.’
(51) SA
ʕāqaba l-muʕallim-u -ullāb-a.
PST.punish.3.SG.M the-teacher-NOM the-students-ACC
‘The male teacher punished the male students.’
(52) SA
ʕāqaba-hum l-muʕallim-u.
PST.punish-3.PL.M the-teacher-NOM
‘The male teacher punished them (M).’
Likewise, the following data show the same pattern, namely that agreement
represents the m-case values realized by the relevant non-argument DPs. Kāda, which
belongs to a class of verbs known as verbs-of-appropinquation by traditional
grammarians of Arabic (Wright 1898:106–108), behaves like kāna in that it is
followed by a Topic-Predicate structure, and never followed by a canonical subject
(Hasan 1960:615). Thus the DP following kāda is a topic that bears default Nom, as in
(53). This predicts that when the Nom-realizing topic is not overt, the agreement on
44.2 (November 2018)
kāda must be subject agreement, -ū (3.PL.M), a prediction that is borne out, as (54)
shows. Also, assuming that the DP -ullāb-a ‘the students’ in (55) is a topic (in the
embedded CP), which receives lexical Acc case from ð̣anna ‘believe’ (Al-Balushi
2016), the agreement on ð̣anna is expected to be -hum, object agreement, when the
Acc-realizing DP does not surface. As (56) shows, this is true.11
(53) SA
kāda -ullāb-ui [ʔan ya-rsub-ū proi]. the-students-NOM COMP IMPF-fail-3.PL.M
‘The male students were about to fail.’
(54) SA
kād-ū [ʔan ya-rsub-ū pro]. COMP IMPF-fail-3.PL.M
‘They (M) were about to fail.’
(55) SA
anna l-muʕallim-u [-ullāb-a pro
PST.believe.3.SG.M the-teacher-NOM the-students-ACC
‘The male teacher believed the male students to be hardworking.’
(56) SA
anna-hum l-muʕallim-u [pro mujtahid-īn].
PST.believe.3.SG.M-3.PL.M the-teacher-NOM hardworking-PL.ACC
‘The male teacher believed them (M) to be hardworking.’
What further shows that -ū and -hum are agreement markers that are related to
m-case is the fact that they only surface when m-case does not show up, which is the
case of OA. The data in (57)–(60) show that agreement reflects and deputizes for
m-case, which is the reason why both of them may not be realized, as the
ungrammaticality of (58) shows. The proposed relationship between agreement and
m-case also explains why only one of them may surface, as (57) and (59) show. When
both are absent, as in (60), ungrammaticality results.
11 It should be noted that in constructions with kāna, kāda, ʔinna, and ð̣anna, that is, where the case
recipient is a topic (non-argument), the topic binds an empty category in the relevant argument position.
This binding relation allows for the transmission of the relevant θ-role from the empty category to the
topic, at LF.
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
(57) SA
ʕāqaba l-ʔābāʔ-u l-banāt-a.
PST.punish.3.SG.M the-fathers-NOM the-girls-ACC
‘The fathers punished the girls.’
(58) SA
*ʕāqab-ū-hunna l-ʔābāʔ-u l-banāt-a.
PST.punish-3.PL.M-3.PL.F the-fathers-NOM the-girls-ACC
(59) OA
ʕāqb-ū-hin l-ʔābāʔ l-banāt.
PST.punish-3.PL.M-3.PL.F the-fathers.NOM the-girls.ACC
‘The fathers punished the girls.’
(60) OA
*ʕāqab l-ʔābāʔ l-banāt.
PST.punish.3.SG.M the-fathers.NOM the-girls.ACC
Full agreement holds the same relationship with the m-case of lexical and default
case types; that is, the agreement morphemes are obligatory in the absence of the
m-case-realizing DPs, topics in this case. Otherwise, ungrammaticality results, as
(61)–(64) show.
(61) SA
*kāna mujtahid-īn. hardworking-PL.ACC
(62) SA
*ʔinna(-hu) mujtahid-ūn.
COMP(-3.SG.M) hardworking-PL.NOM
(63) SA
*kāda [ʔan ya-rsub-ū]. COMP IMPF-fail-3.PL.M
(64) SA
anna(-hu) l-muʕallim-u [pro mujtahid-īn].
PST.believe.3.SG.M(-3.SG.M) the-teacher-NOM hardworking-PL.ACC
The SA and OA data examined so far show that agreement does not surface in full
unless m-case is absent, irrespective of the case type, structural, lexical, or default,
and that full agreement with a DP (argument or non-argument) and the m-case of that
DP may not be realized in the same structure. This suggests a relationship between
agreement and m-case, namely that they may have the same function.
44.2 (November 2018)
4. Agreement and m-case in OA
The data and discussion in the previous section have shown that agreement on the
verb reflects and deputizes for m-case in SA (and OA), irrespective of the type of case
involved, in the same way. This might thus provide a means for satisfying the Case
Filter and the Visibility Condition in a language with no m-case but with complete
-agreement with arguments, like OA.
Assuming Chomsky (1980), who took m-case to be indicative of abstract Case,
the absence of m-case presents a problem for the standard Case theory, which
assumes that Case is a universal property of DPs (Chomsky & Lasnik 1977, Vergnaud
1982, 2008).12 Although the statement of both the Case Filter and the Visibility
Condition makes reference to Case, not m-case, they, in essence, refer to m-case. This
is because Chomsky (1981:49) assumes the Case Filter to be a filter in the
PF-component, thus referring to the phonetic manifestation of Case, which is m-case.
Lasnik (2008:35) also concludes that the Case Filter is a PF requirement. Since it is
m-case and not abstract Case that is (phonetically) salient at PF, it is the former that
enables the computational system to assign the relevant θ-roles to the right
arguments.13 Indeed, Aoun (1979) argues that the PF-component disregards items
with no Case; thus Case here is understood to refer to m-case. Therefore, both
constructs invoke m-case, and so some other mechanism must satisfy the two
constructs (Case Filter and Visibility Condition) in the absence of m-case.14
Following standard thought, I will assume that subjects and objects in OA have
[Case] features in narrow syntax, which are valued as Nom and Acc by T0 and v0,
respectively. However, they do not realize the relevant m-case suffixes at PF (required
by the Case Filter and the Visibility Condition), as the surveyed data will show. To
avoid an impasse, full agreement will be argued to stand for m-case. The implication
of m-case realization for the DPs, which is visibility at LF, is achieved by agreement,
12 While this is the prevalent pattern crosslinguistically, some languages witness cases of mismatch
between abstract Case and m-case. Legate (2008) shows that when an abstract Case value has no
morphological representation (m-case) of its own, it is represented in the morphological component by
an elsewhere m-case morpheme. Along the same lines, Al-Balushi (2013) shows that non-singular DPs
in SA have no Acc case morphology, and so surface with the Gen m-case suffixes of the DPs that
encode the same number and gender features. Despite this mismatch, the predominant state of affairs is
13 Chomsky (1981:117) states the following:
Aoun (1979) notes that there is a certain parallelism between θ-role and Case, the former a
property of the LF-component and the latter essentially a property of the PF-component, an
idea that he explores further in this paper and in Aoun (1980). Intuitively, NPs are identified
by Case in PF-representation and by θ-role in LF-representation.
Thus ‘Case’ is meant to refer to its morphological manifestation, m-case.
14 This is not to say that the absence of m-case indicates the absence of abstract Case, but rather to say
that there should be some means by which abstract Case can be detected and recognized, like m-case,
or agreement, as in the present account.
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
which is fully realized by the verb, with both the subject and the object, and in a
specific order. In other words, structural Case is licensed and the recipient of a certain
θ-role is known by the position of its agreement in relation to the verb root. This
differs substantially from the view that -agreement between arguments and
Case-checking heads licenses structural Case (Schütze 1997, Chomsky 2001) since
Case is checked in narrow syntax, but agreement is argued here to be a
morphological, not syntactic, operation, a claim also made in Bobaljik (2008). That
agreement is not the licensor of structural Case has been shown by the fact that
agreement holds the same relationship with the m-case of all the three case types.
The following data support the claim that agreement in OA does what m-case does
in SA, namely satisfying the Case Filter, and hence the Visibility Condition. Unlike
SA, which is well-known for its rich m-case morphology as well as defective subject
agreement and lack of object agreement, as (65)–(67) show, OA lacks m-case
morphology but exhibits rich subject and object agreement, as (68)–(70) show, in line
with the current proposal. OA DPs mark dual, but the verbs do not.
(65) SA
qābala l-mudarris-u l-mudarrisa-t-a. the-teacher-NOM the-teacher-F-ACC
‘The male teacher met with the female teacher.’
(66) SA
qābala l-mudarris-ān l-mudarrisa-t-ayn. the-teacher-DL.NOM the-teacher-F-DL.ACC
‘The two male teachers met with the two female teachers.’
(67) SA
qābala l-mudarris-ūn l-mudarris-ā-t-i. the-teacher-PL.NOM the-teacher-PL-F-ACC
‘The male teachers met with the female teachers.’
(68) OA
qābal-ha lə-mdarris lə-mdarrsa-h. the-teacher.NOM the-teacher-F.ACC
‘The male teacher met with the female teacher.’
(69) OA
qābl-ū-hin lə-mdarrs-ēn lə-mdarris-t-ēn. the-teacher-DL.NOM the-teacher-F-DL.ACC
‘The two male teachers met with the two female teachers.’
44.2 (November 2018)
(70) OA
qābl-ū-hin lə-mdarrs-īn lə-mdarrs-ā-t. the-teacher-PL.NOM the-teacher-PL-F.ACC
‘The male teachers met with the female teachers.’
Given this version of Case theory (Aoun 1979, Chomsky 1981, Vergnaud 2008),
the computational system assigns the agent θ-role to the DP l-mudarris-u in (65) since
it bears the Nom m-case suffix -u, and the theme θ-role to the DP l-mudarrisa-t-a
since it carries the Acc m-case suffix -a. As for (71) below, the morphology of the
verb (passive, lacking v0, Chomsky 1995) indicates that it does not project an external
argument and license structural Acc Case (unaccusative, Burzio 1986), which in turn
prompts the computational system to assign the theme θ-role to the available
argument, despite the Nom m-case that it carries.
(71) SA
qūbila-t l-mudarrisa-t-u. the-teacher-F-NOM
‘The female teacher was met (with).’
When m-case is absent, as in (68)–(70), the computational system must resort to
some other mechanism to identify which argument receives which θ-role, as long as
the Case Filter and the Visibility Condition are on the right track. Therefore, I argue
that the computational system utilizes agreement on the verb. Thus, at LF, the
argument whose agreement suffix is closer to the verb root receives the external θ-role
and the one whose agreement comes next receives the internal θ-role, as (72)–(73)
show. The opposite order of agreement morphemes in the verbal complex is illicit, as
(74)–(75) show, despite the free word order of OA, as (76)–(78) show.
(72) OA
qar-ū-hin l-ʔawlād l-qəṣa. the-boys.NOM the-stories.F.ACC
‘The boys read the stories.’
(73) OA
katb-inn-oh l-banāt l-wāgib.
PST.write-3.PL.F-3.SG.M the-girls.NOM the-homework.M.ACC
‘The girls wrote the homework.’
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
(74) OA
*qar-hin-ū l-ʔawlād l-qəṣa. the-boys.NOM the-stories.F.ACC
(75) OA
*katb-oh-inn l-banāt l-wāgib.
PST.write-3.SG.M-3.PL.F the-girls.NOM the-homework.M.ACC
(76) OA
katb-inn-oh l-wāgib l-banāt.
PST.write-3.PL.F-3.SG.M the-homework.M.ACC the-girls.NOM
‘The girls wrote the homework.’
(77) OA
ʔəl-banāt katb-inn-oh l-wāgib.
the-girls.NOM PST.write-3.PL.F-3.SG.M the-homework.M.ACC
‘The girls, they wrote the homework.’
(78) OA
ʔəl-wāgib katb-inn-oh l-banāt.
the-homework.M.NOM PST.write-3.PL.F-3.SG.M the-girls.NOM
‘The homework, the girls wrote it.’
Thus the order of agreement morphemes in the verbal form is not determined by
the word order in the sentence. Apparently, the order is pre-determined by the
canonical word order of the language. Al-Balushi (2012) argues that SA is essentially
a VSO language and that it resorts to the SVO order to convey the deictic
interpretation with present tense (imperfective form) verbs, as well as for
topicalization purposes. Present tense verbs in the VSO order convey generic
readings, as the contrast between (79) and (80) shows. That VSO is the canonical
word order of SA has been proposed in Bakir (1980), Farghal (1986), and Soltan
(79) SA
ʔal-ʔafāl-u yu-šāhid-ū-n pro t-tilfāz-a.
the-children-NOM IMPF-watch-3.PL.M-IND the-TV-ACC
‘The children are watching TV (now).’
(80) SA
yu-šāhid-u l-ʔafāl-u t-tilfāz-a.
IMPF-watch.3.SG.M-IND the-children-NOM the-TV-ACC
‘The children watch TV (usually).’
44.2 (November 2018)
When the verb realizes one agreement morpheme, it is always the subject
agreement and never the object agreement, as (81) and (82) show. It is noteworthy
that the structure with one agreement morpheme (SA-like) is rare (marked) in OA and
is more likely to be accepted by educated people and younger generations, since SA is
the language of education and media in Oman.
(81) OA
qar-ū l-ʔawlād l-qəṣa. the-boys.NOM the-stories.F.ACC
‘The boys read the stories.’
(82) OA
*qar-in l-ʔawlād l-qəṣa. the-boys.NOM the-stories.F.ACC
The fact that OA verbs carry subject and object agreement in sentences with
transitive verbs might correlate with the fact that in ditransitive structures, subject
agreement may be followed by either the indirect object agreement or the direct object
agreement, as (83)–(84) respectively show, but never with the agreement of both
internal arguments, as (85) shows.
(83) OA
ʕaṭē-nā-hin lə-ktāb.
PST.give-1.PL-3.PL.F the-book.ACC
‘We gave them (F) the book/We gave the book to them (F).’
(84) OA
ʕaṭē-nā-h l-banāt.
PST.give-1.PL-3.SG.M the-girls.ACC
‘We gave it (M) to the girls.’
(85) OA
Thus, unlike its SA counterpart, in (86), which can bear the agreement affix of the
external argument as well as those of both internal arguments, the OA ditransitive
verb ʕaṭā ‘give’ cannot carry the agreement of both internal arguments. When ʕaṭā
‘give’ bears agreement with the indirect object, the direct object is either an overt DP,
as in (83), or an agreement morpheme suffixed to the pronominal element ʔiyyā, as in
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
(87).15 When ʕaṭā carries agreement with the direct object, the indirect object is an
overt DP, as in (84). In at least one OA variety (spoken in southern Oman), the
indirect object may also be an agreement morpheme suffixed to the prepositional
element ħāl, as in (88).
(86) SA
‘We gave it (M) to you (PL.M).’
(87) OA
ʕaṭē-nā-kum ʔiyyā-h/ ʔiyyā-ha/ ʔiyyā-hom/ ʔiyyā-hin.
‘We gave it (M)/it (F)/them (M)/them (F) to you (PL.M).’
(88) OA
ʕaṭē-nā-h ħāl-kum/ ħāl-ha/ ħāl-hom/ ħāl-hin.
PST.give-1.PL-3.SG.M to-2.PL.M/ to-3.SG.F/ to-3.PL.M/ to-3.PL.F
‘We gave it (M) to you (PL.M)/to her/to them (M)/to them (F).’
The only case when ʕaṭā ‘give’ can carry the agreement of both internal
arguments is when the construction is passive, as (89) shows; that is, when it does not
bear subject agreement.
15 Wilmsen (2013) argues that ʔiyyā performs more than one function in SA and other Arabic dialects.
Besides being a pronominal object marker with demonstrative functions, it expresses contrast and
emphatic reflexivity as well as two degrees of distal deixis. This shows that ʔiyyā is not a typical
pronoun, hence the behavior observed in (87), as well as in (i)–(iv). As (i)–(ii) show, ʔiyyā may
co-occur with the direct object DP, but only preceding it, as a demonstrative would do. As (iii)–(iv)
show, ʔiyyā may not take part in the DP+PP complement frame of ʕaṭā ‘give’. This indicates that it is
not a typical pronoun; -hom suffices for this purpose.
(i) OA
ʕaṭē-nā-hin ʔiyyā-h (lə-ktāb).
PST.give-1.PL-3.PL.F PRON-3.SG.M the-book.ACC
‘We gave them (F) this/that book.’
(ii) OA
*ʕaṭē-nā-hin lə-ktāb ʔiyyā-h.
PST.give-1.PL-3.PL.F the-book.ACC PRON-3.SG.M
(iii) OA
ʕaṭē-nā-h lə-ktāb ħāl-hom.
PST.give-1.PL-3.SG.M the-book.ACC to-3.PL.M
‘We gave the book to them (M).’
(iv) OA
*ʕaṭē-nā-h lə-ktāb ħāl-ʔiyyā-hom.
PST.give-1.PL-3.SG.M the-book.ACC to-PRON-3.PL.M
44.2 (November 2018)
(89) OA
‘It (M) was given to them (F).’
As (90) shows, the direct object agreement in this passive structure may also be
suffixed to the pronominal element ʔiyyā. Similarly, the indirect object agreement in
this passive structure may also be suffixed to the prepositional element ħāl, as in (91).
(90) OA
ʔin-ʕa-in ʔiyyā-h.
PST.PASs-give-3.PL.F PRON-3.SG.M
‘It (M) was given to them (F).’
(91) OA
ʔin-ʕa-it ħāl-hom.
PST.PASS-give-3.SG.F to-3.PL.M
‘It (F) was given to them (M).’
This shows that an OA verb has two slots for agreement markers. It can carry
either subject and object agreement, as in simple transitive structures, (68)–(70), or
subject and either indirect or direct object agreement, as in active ditransitive
structures, (83)–(84) and (87)–(88), or indirect object and direct object agreement, as
in the passive voice ditransitive structure, (89). I leave the theoretical implications of
this fact, as well as its related questions, for another occasion.
Thus the lack of agreement with the direct object in (83) and the indirect object in
(84) despite the absence of m-case may be attributed to a general constraint which
bans the realization of the agreement morphology of more than two arguments in the
verbal complex in OA. As (87)–(88) show, an alternative is available where the
agreement of both internal arguments may be spelled out, albeit on two different
elements, the verb and a pronominal element or the verb and a prepositional element.
Like intransitive verbs, as in (92), passive transitive verbs carry subject (internal
argument) agreement, as (93)–(94) show. The passive morphology indicates that the
root is followed by the agreement morphology of the available argument, the internal
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
(92) OA
sār-ū l-ʔawlād.
PST.leave-3.PL.M the-boys.NOM
‘The boys left.’
(93) OA
t-affʕ-ū l-ʔawlād.
PST.PASS-slap-3.PL.M the-boys.NOM
‘The boys were slapped.’
(94) OA
ʔin-qar-in l-qəṣa.
PST.PASS-read-3.PL.F the-stories.F.NOM
‘The stories were read.’
This interaction between θ-roles and agreement is vividly shown in (95), where
subject agreement immediately follows the verb root, and then comes the agreement
with the internal argument, though the element that is interpreted as receiving the
theme θ-role comes early in the sentence (left-dislocated element).
(95) OA
ʔəl-ʔawlād ð ̣
arbi-t-hum ʔumm-hum.
the-boys.NOM PST.beat-3.SG.F-3.PL.M mother.NOM-their
‘The boys, their mother beat them.’
The proposed relation between full agreement and m-case also holds in OA in
default and lexical case contexts. As the contrast between (96) and (97) shows, the
copula must carry full subject agreement with the topic, which surfaces with default
Nom but does not bear m-case. As for the Comp element ʔinn, it should be noted that
it is not used in main clauses in OA. It is only used in embedded clauses, as (98)
shows, and must realize full object agreement with the topic -ṭəllāb ‘the students’
which receives lexical Acc from ʔinn.16
16 In fact, one OA variety allows ʔinn in this context to realize defective agreement, -uh, which marks
3rd person, singular and masculine. I have no explanation for this. It might have to do with the fact that
ʔinn is only licit in embedded clauses in OA. It might also be that -uh is the appropriate agreement
morpheme here if ʔinn establishes agreement with the entire Topic-Predicate structure, a clause that
represents a proposition, rather than with the topic only. Also, (99), where ʔinn appears with no
agreement morphology, might seem acceptable to some speakers of OA, but this is only because of the
influence of SA (through the educational system and the media) on the new generations of OA
44.2 (November 2018)
(96) OA
kān-ū -ṭəllāb məgtihd-īn. the-students.NOM hardworking-PL.ACC
‘The male students were hardworking.’
(97) OA
*kān -ṭəllāb məgtihd-īn. the-students.NOM hardworking-PL.ACC
(98) OA
TP nə-ʕraf [CP ʔinn-hum [
TopP -ṭəllāb məgtihd-īn]]].
PL-know COMP-3.PL.M the-students.ACC hardworking-PL.NOM
‘We know that the male students are hardworking.’
(99) OA
*[TP nə-ʕraf [CP ʔinn [TopP -ṭəllāb məgtihd-īn]]].
1PL-know COMP the-students.ACC hardworking-PL.NOM
To conclude, if m-case is absent, as in the case of OA, the computational system
utilizes agreement on the verb to assign the right θ-roles. Full agreement on the verb
deputizes for m-case on the DP arguments, and so satisfies the Case Filter. The
position of agreement in relation to the verb root determines which argument receives
which θ-role, which satisfies the Visibility Condition. Rejecting this proposal means
that the Case Filter, which Chomsky (1981:49) assumes to be a filter in the
PF-component, may be satisfied in narrow syntax, without a phonetic (m-case)
indication. This would also mean that the Visibility Condition may be satisfied in
narrow syntax; that is, LF does not have to utilize the phonetic (m-case) clues at PF.
This proposal indicates that different languages satisfy the Case Filter, hence the
Visibility Condition, in different ways. Therefore, it seems that satisfaction of the
Case Filter is mainly important for satisfying the Visibility Condition. Indeed,
Chomsky (1981:337–338) states that the Case Filter is LF-motivated in the sense that
it follows from the θ-criterion.
The proposed relationship between agreement and m-case is further shown by
(100), where the CP occupies the topic position. Since the -specification assumed for
CPs is 3.SG.M, the main verb is predicted to realize the default agreement features
(3.SG.M). This prediction is borne out by the facts. If this prediction were wrong, the
main verb, sahhal ‘facilitate’, would have appeared with the non-default agreement
specification, sahhl-ū, (given -ṭəllāb ‘the students’), since OA verbs carry full
agreement in the SVO order, but this is not the case.
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
(100) OA
[kōn (ʔinn) -ṭəllāb qar-ū l-ktāb qabəl
being COMP the-students.ACC the-book.ACC before
l-ħəṣṣah] sahhal/ *sahhl-ū d-dars.
the-class.GEN PST-facilitate.3.SG.M/ PST-facilitate-3.PL.M the-lesson.ACC
‘That the students read the book before the class made the lesson easier.’
It is noteworthy that the full object agreement morpheme (object marker) in SA
may have the status of a clitic because, unlike its OA counterpart, it does not co-occur
with lexical DPs, as (101) shows.
(101) SA
ʕāqaba-t-hum l-muʕallima-t-u (*-ullāb-a).
PST.punish-3.SG.F-3.PL.M the-teacher-F-NOM the-students.M-ACC
‘The female teacher punished them (M).’
The fact that the full object agreement on the verb in OA co-occurs with lexical
objects, as in (68)–(70), suggests that it is not a clitic. This supports the present claim
that it is agreement, realized for the sake of reflecting and deputizing for m-case, thus
marking the DP which should receive the theme θ-role. Despite (101), I will assume
that the object markers in SA can be analyzed as agreement rather than clitics. This is
because, like subject agreement markers, they seem to be in complementary
distribution with m-case. Even if it turns out that the object markers in SA are clitics,
they still carry out the same function of making arguments visible at LF. Either way,
they are phonetic realizations of the -features ([Person], [Number], and [Gender]) of
the internal argument. Crosslinguistically, object markers/clitics have been analyzed
as agreement in Franco (1993), Sportiche (1995), Roberts (2000), Yamada (2006),
Franks (2009), and Ormazabal & Romero (2013).
Finally, it should be noted that while all the modern (colloquial) dialects of Arabic
do not mark m-case (Benmamoun 2000:164, Watson 2002:4, Ryding 2005:166), they
all mark full subject agreement in the presence of the DP subject, in both orders. The
following data are from Palestinian Arabic (PA).
(102) PA
le-wlād gar-u ktāb.
the-boys.NOM book.ACC
‘The boys read a book.’
(Mohammad 2000:110)
44.2 (November 2018)
(103) PA
gar-u le-wlād ktāb. the-boys.NOM book.ACC
‘The boys read a book.’
(Mohammad 2000:110)
(104) PA
*gara le-wlād ktāb. the-boys.NOM book.ACC
(Mohammad 2000:111)
(105) PA
*le-wlād gara ktāb.
the-boys.NOM book.ACC
(Mohammad 2000:111)
Despite the absence of object agreement on the verb in this and other Arabic
dialects, I think the proposal advanced in this paper for OA is still extendable to them.
Basically, the availability of full subject agreement on the verb is sufficient indication
for the computational system that this is the element that should receive the agent
θ-role, even in the VOS order. The theme θ-role is thus assigned to the other
argument, with which there is no agreement on the verb. Therefore, Arabic has no
dialect that marks m-case and full subject agreement as well as full object agreement;
SA marks m-case and has defective subject and object agreement, and OA (as well as
the other modern dialects of Arabic) lack m-case but mark full subject agreement; OA
seems to be the only Arabic variety that marks full object agreement in the presence
of the object. However, there is one “standard” Arabic dialect that marked full subject
agreement together with m-case. This is discussed in the next section.
5. An apparent counterargument
One of the claims of this paper is that full (subject and object) agreement on verbs
and m-case on DPs carry out the same function, namely satisfaction of the Visibility
Condition, at least in Arabic. This means that there should be no language or Arabic
variety with both elements, m-case and full agreement in the VSO order, by economy.
Nonetheless, assuming that UG can avail itself of all the possible options, there can be
a language that has both m-case and full agreement.17 Speaking for Arabic, there
17 This also implies that there should be no languages with poor m-case and poor agreement, but there
are such languages, like English. Not claiming a principled account, LF visibility in English may be
argued to be satisfied by sticking to a rigid word order. Nonetheless, languages like Dutch, which
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
actually used to be such a dialect; examples (106)–(111) are among the remaining
examples of this extinct variety of Arabic; examples (106)–(107) are from the Holy
Qurʔān; example (108) is a ħadīθ (Prophet Muhammad’s speech); examples
(109)–(111) are from poetry. In (106)–(108), the verb carries plural masculine
agreement with the plural masculine post-verbal subject. In (109), the verb carries
dual inflection with the dual subject (coordinate of two), as well as singular masculine
inflection with the object. In (110), the verb bears plural feminine agreement with the
DP l-ɣawānī ‘the ladies’ in the post-verbal position. l-ɣawānī does not bear Nom
m-case for phonological reasons (-u, Nom m-case, not being able to follow -ī). The
same applies to ʔahlī ‘my family’ in (111) where the verb carries both subject and
object agreement.18
(106) SA
wa ʔasarr-ū n-najwā l-laðīna ð̣
and PST.conceal-3.PL.M the-talk.ACC the-who.PL.M.NOM
‘Those who wrong-do (the wrong-doers) conceal their private counsels …’
(The Holy Qurʔān, 21:3)19
(107) SA
θumma ʕam-ū wa amm-ū
then PST.lose.sight-3.PL.M and PST.lose.hearing-3.PL.M
kaθīr-un min-hum.
many-NOM from-them
‘Then many of them became blind and deaf.’
(The Holy Qurʔān, 5:71)
exhibit little agreement and m-case marking but allow scrambling, and ones like Icelandic, which have
m-case and a rigid word order, would have to be thoroughly examined before determining how they
satisfy visibility at LF. These issues are left for other occasions.
18 The name of this dialect is “ʔakal-ū-ni l-barāɣīθ”, glossed as ‘ate-3.PL.M-1.SG.M the-fleas’ (meaning
‘the fleas devoured me’), and its first documentation appeared in Sībawayhi (1990:39). It acquired this
name probably because this was among the most peculiar examples of this pattern (full subject
agreement in the VSO order). Already in use in pre-Islamic times, this was the dialect of the tribes of
ayʔ (Wright 1898:294) as well as ʔuzd Šanūʔah (from which many Omani tribes are descended) and
bal-Ħāriθ. Like SA but not OA, object agreement does not co-exist with lexical DP objects in this
19 Regarding “21:3”, ‘21’ refers to the number of the sūra (chapter) in the Holy Qurʔān, and ‘3’ refers to
the number of the verse in that sūra.
44.2 (November 2018)
(108) SA
ya-taʕāqab-ū-na fī-kum malāʔikat-un
IMPF-rotate-3.PL.M-IND in-you angels-NOM
bi-l-layl-i wa malāʔikat-un bi-n-nahār-i …
at-the-night-GEN and angels-NOM at-the-day-GEN
‘Angels come to you in succession by night and day …’
(Al-Buxāri 2001:264–265)
(109) SA
wa qad ʔaslam-ā-hu mubʕad-un wa ħamīm-u.
MOD PST.abandon-3.DL-3.SG.M foreign-NOM and friend-NOM
‘And he was already let down by strangers and friends.’
(110) SA
raʔay-na l-ɣawānī š-šayb-a lāħa
PST.see-3.PL.F the-ladies.NOM the-hoariness-ACC PST.appear.3.SG.M
‘The ladies saw hoariness appear on my cheeks (saw me getting old).’
(111) SA
ya-lūm-ū-na-nī fī ištirāʔ-i
IMPF-blame-3.PL.M-IND-1.SG in purchase-GEN
n-naxīl-i ʔahl-ī.
the-palm.trees-GEN family.NOM-my
‘My family blame me for buying palm-tree gardens.’
Though very few, these examples represent a standard variety of Arabic that
exhibited full agreement with subjects in the VSO order (seen in the colloquial Arabic
varieties, which do not exhibit m-case) and m-case (seen in SA, which does not
exhibit full agreement with canonical subjects).
I refer to this variety as ‘standard’ because, like the mainstream one, SA, it is used
in the Holy Qurʔān and the Prophet’s speech, as well as in poetry. Also, it is a
standard variety because the DPs appear with m-case (in various morphosyntactic
positions), and the imperfective verbs appear with the relevant indicative suffixes, as
in (108) and (111). Furthermore, it is not a colloquial dialect because its verbal system
includes the dual verbal form, as in (109), which has disappeared in the
modern/colloquial varieties of Arabic. In other words, although this variety is like OA
in showing full subject agreement in the VSO order, it is not a colloquial one since the
DPs exhibit m-case, a property unattested in any of the colloquial varieties of Arabic.
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
Also, if -agreement were the licensor of structural Case, it is this variety that one
would expect to prevail and become the standard one, but this is not the case.
One question that arises in the context of this extinct variety is what full
agreement was doing if m-case satisfied the Case Filter and the Visibility Condition.
Unfortunately, I do not have a good answer to this question. One problem is that there
is not enough data from this variety to judge on the function that full agreement
carried out. Nonetheless, as (108) and (111) show, there is a PP-complement that
separates between the verbs and their subjects. This could mean that unconventionally
free word order prevailed in this variety, which called for an additional mechanism for
interpretation, hence full agreement. Readers of the Holy Qurʔān can see that
common word orders include DP-objects preceding subjects, as in (106),
PP-complements preceding subjects, as in (108), PP-complements preceding
DP-complements, as in (112), and adjuncts preceding DP-complements, as in (113).
(114), from the Prophet’s speech, shows that a direct object may precede an indirect
object in the DP+DP complement frame of a double object verb.
(112) SA
ʔya-tanāzaʕ-ū-na bayna-hum ʔamr-a-hum …
when IMPF-dispute-3.PL.M-IND among-them affair-ACC-their
‘When they disputed among themselves about their affair …’
(The Holy Qurʔān, 18:21)
(113) SA
la-na-ttaxið-anna ʕalay-him masjid-ā
EMPH-1.PL-make-ENER on-them mosque-ACC
‘We verily, shall build a place of worship over them …’
(The Holy Qurʔān, 18:21)
(114) SA
la-ʔu-ʕṭiy-anna r-rāyat-a rajul-an ya-ftaħ-u
EMPH-1.SG-give-ENER the-flag-ACC man-ACC IMPF-open.3.SG.M-IND
Allāh-u ʔalā yad-ay-hi
God-NOM on hand-DL.GEN-his
‘I shall give the flag to a man by whose hands God will achieve victory …’
(Al-Buxāri 2001:1301)
In this regard, Holes states the following:
Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), or Modern Literary Arabic (MLA) [which are
other labels for SA], is the modern descendant of Classical Arabic, unchanged
44.2 (November 2018)
in the essentials of its syntax but very much changed, and still changing, in its
vocabulary and phraseology (Holes 2004:5).
Thus, it seems that full agreement was also needed for visibility/interpretation
purposes. I leave this here. The facts presented in this section show that although there
could be an Arabic variety with both m-case and full agreement, such a variety is
declared redundant (given the presentd-day common word orders of SA), hence
6. Concluding remarks
In this paper, I have shown that agreement is not related to the licensing of
structural Case, but rather to the realization of m-case, in the sense that agreement
reflects and deputizes for the m-case that a given DP, argument or non-argument,
would realize if overt, as shown by the data in Sections 3 and 4. Thus agreement is not
related to structural Case, but rather to m-case, hence inert in narrow syntax.
One implication of this relationship is the satisfaction of the Visibility Condition
in the absence of m-case. In OA, where lexical DPs do not carry m-case, the verb
carries full agreement with both the subject and the object, in a specific order in the
verbal complex. If the argument is a CP or a PP, which, by assumption, encodes the
default -specification (3.SG.M), the verb carries similar (default) agreement as the
morphological reflex that structural Case checking on the relevant XP has taken place.
If the DP argument is pronominal, whether overt or null, the verb carries full
agreement with it as a sign that Case was licensed, since even overt pronouns do not
bear m-case in SA.
Thus agreement represents m-case, both being morphological operations
(phenomena), relevant for PF, and therefore LF interpretation. In other words, the
verb realizing full agreement is equal to the DP realizing m-case. This is further
shown by the fact that the Arabic variety that realized both full agreement and m-case
is no longer spoken. The situation in OA also contrasts with that in Niuean, which has
no -agreement morphology (Haji-Abdolhosseini, Massam & Oda 2002) but has a
robust Case system (Seiter 1980), thus somewhat similar to SA.
The current proposal also shows that verbs can satisfy requirements usually
satisfied by DPs, at least in pro-drop languages. Like the Case Filter and the Visibility
Condition in the present account, the EPP requirement (which is claimed to be
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argue that “assuming that verbal agreement has the categorial status of a pronoun in
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
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[Received November 26, 2017; revised May 7, 2018; accepted May 28, 2018]
Department of English Language and Literature
Sultan Qaboos University
Muscat, OMAN
Rashid Al-Balushi:
Al-Balushi: Agreement and Case: Evidence from Arabic
Following Alshamari (2017) and Jarrah (2019), this paper offers evidence in favor of systematic interactions of morphological case, ɸ-agreement and overt movement in Arabic grammar. It argues that these three aspects of grammar serve one specific purpose, i.e., to record (i.e., express) Agree dependencies (of the Agree operation; cf. Chomsky, 2001) at the interface level of Phonetic Form (PF). To this end, constructions that include subject-verb agreement, (non-)agreeing discourse markers, and complementizer agreement in Standard Arabic and Arabic dialects (Jordanian Arabic and Najdi Arabic) are examined. The study proposes that Agree dependencies, which occur in the narrow syntax (before spellout), are recorded at PF through morphological case (assigned by the probe on the goal), and if not, thenby ɸ-inflections (of the goal on the probe) or, if not, by overt movement of the goal to (Spec of XP headed by) the probe. Such an interaction implies that morphological case bleeds ɸ-agreement which in turn is found to bleed overt movement. Exceptions to this rule are discussed and independently motivated.
This paper shows that wh-formation in Jordanian Arabic (JA) is prosodically ruled. Wh-words should move either to the left or to the right periphery of the phonological phrase that contains the relevant wh-word. What appears as an in-situ instance of a wh-question in JA, as reported by several studies, is in fact a true instance of a moved wh-word but to the right periphery of the phonological phrase that contains the wh-word. Movement to either peripheral position is forced by prosodic facts of JA where elements that express or stand for the most prominent information of the question should bear prosodic prominence which falls on either peripheral positions of the phonological phrase containing the wh-word. A grammaticality judgment task was carried out to check the frequency of left and right peripheral questions in JA. Fifteen participants (all native speakers of JA) were asked to respond to nine contexts. The results show that the left peripheral option is far more frequent than its right peripheral counterpart (93.8% and 6.2%, respectively). The findings of this study make available empirical evidence in favor of Mathieu's (2016) theory of wh-formation where prosody is the main factor for wh-patterns in natural languages.
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This paper surveys several linguistic aspects of the varieties of the Omani Arabic dialect (OA). It starts with a discussion of the sociolinguistic situation in Oman and the factors that shaped it, as well as discussing the OA varieties and the languages spoken in the country. This is followed by a presentation of the OA consonant and vowel phonemes and their allophones. The paper also presents phonological aspects such as syllable structure and word stress as well as examples of processes like assimilation and emphasis spreading. Then, it presents the OA personal, demonstrative, possessive, and interrogative pronouns, as well as morphological issues such as subject agreement affixes, verbal forms, passive formation, and pluralization patterns. Next, it presents syntactic patterns including word order, negation, question formation, and relative clauses. Besides the survey, the paper provides examples that reveal similarity between some OA dialects and those of the pre-Islamic era, as evidenced by some of the documented and approved readings of the Holy Qurʔān. There is also discussion of some cases of grammaticalization and pronominal copulas.
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This paper investigates the licensing of subjects in Standard Arabic participial clauses. Unlike verbal clauses, whose subject may appear post-verbally, the subject of participial clauses must precede the participle, having properties of topics of verbal clauses. I claim that this is because the canonical subject position, [Spec, vP], is not available for subjects of participles, due to lack of Nom Case. It is shown that neither tense nor a copula is sufficient to license structural Nom Case on a subject in [Spec, vP]. I conclude that the licensing of Nom Case on post-verbal subjects is dependent on V-to-T raising; that is, Nom Case is licensed by the T-V complex. The present account has implications for the nature of pre-verbal subjects in Arabic as well as for the categorial status of copular elements like kāna .
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This thesis proposes a novel theory to account for the structural Case facts in Standard Arabic (SA). It argues that structural Nom and Acc Cases are licensed by Verbal Case (VC). Thus it argues against the proposal that structural Case in SA is licensed as a reflex ofphi-agreement (Schütze 1997 and Chomsky 2001 crosslinguistically, and Soltan 2007 for SA), and also against the view that structural Case is a [uT] feature on the DP (Pesetsky & Torrego 2001, 2004). After arguing against these two approaches, it is shown that verbless sentences, where the verb is not licensed (by VC), do not witness the licensing of structural Case. Thus verbless sentences provide a context where verbs are not licensed, similar to the embedded subject position of control verbs like ‘try’ (where lexical DPs are not licensed). Investigation of the SA verbal system reveals that SA verbs are licensed through Case checking/assignment by verbal particles. Thus, like DPs, verbs receive a form of Case, which I call VC, represented as unvalued [VC] features on I0 and v*0. Since the VC-assigning particles are Comp elements, I propose that [VC] is valued on I0 and v*0 by a valued [VC] feature on Fin0 (via Agree), which enables I0 and v*0 to value the [Case] features on the subject and object as Nom and Acc, respectively. Thus the DP is licensed by the same feature that licenses the verb, which is VC. Given the observation that [T], [phi], and [Mood] do not license Case in SA, I argue for two types of finiteness, Infl-finiteness, related to [T], [Mood], and [phi], and Comp-finiteness, related to [VC]. To account for the Case facts in various SA sentence types, I propose that Fin0 has a [VC] feature iff it selects an XP that has (at least) one I-finiteness feature ([T], [Mood], [phi]) and a categorial [V] feature.
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This paper presents an analysis for the ‘believe’-construction in Standard Arabic (SA). The analysis proposed here assumes the Visibility Condition, whereby structural Case is necessary to render arguments visible at LF for θ-role assignment (Aoun 1979, Chomsky 1981). The earlier approaches are untenable because they do not make proper provision for the Case-visibility requirements of the complement clause of ‘believe’. Thus, they are not extendable to SA since they ignore the Case-visibility requirements of the CP complement of ð̣anna ‘believe’, assuming that CPs require Case for visibility (Uriagereka 2006, 2008). These requirements can be satisfied if we assume the distinction between structural Case and lexical case established in Al-Balushi (2011: 126-157) based on SA data, where structural Case is licensed on arguments and lexical case is assigned to non-arguments, nominals merged in A-bar positions. I thus propose that the Acc-marked DP (embedded subject/matrix object) does not receive structural Acc Case from the matrix v*0, but rather lexical Acc case from the matrix predicate ð̣anna, as a lexical element, reserving the structural Acc Case for the CP argument. I also argue that this DP is an A-bar element, co-indexed with an empty category argument pro in the embedded clause.
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This article aims to account for why verbless sentences in Standard Arabic lack a copular verb. In contrast to previous accounts which attribute the absence of the copula to some defect of present tense, I claim that a verbless sentence does not take a copula because its nominais do not need structural Case. The proposed analysis argues that structural Case is licensed by a “Verbal Case” feature on the relevant Case-checking heads, and assumes the Visibility Condition. The present analysis is based on a unique interaction between tense and word order, and on the observation that verbless sentences are finite clauses composed of a topic and a predicate, as well as on the observation that they do not involve licensing of structural Case.
Work on the movement of phrasal categories has been a central element of syntactic theorising almost since the earliest work on generative grammar. However, work on the movement of lexical elements, heads, has flourished only in recent years, stimulated originally by Chomsky's Empty Category Principle, and later by the work of Travis, Baker and Pollock. Parallel to these theoretical concerns, much attention has been focused on the description of verb-second languages and on the movement operations which place the verb in its 'second' position. This volume represents the latest work in an important field, from some of its leading researchers, and puts forward many ideas about relevant principles and parameters of Universal Grammar. It will have a significant impact on its field.