Thursday 29 October – Mark de Vries

Speaker: Mark de Vries (University of Groningen)
Title: The Proleptic accusative as an exceptional Exceptional Case Marking construction
Date: Thursday 29 October
Venue: Van Wijkplaats 3/006
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

This talk (representing joint work with Marjo van Koppen and Lucas Seuren) is about the so-called proleptic accusative. This construction type is relatively rare, but attested in a number of different languages (e.g., Latin, German, Nahuatl). I will discuss data from Middle Dutch in particular, which enables us to shed new light on the matter. An example is the following:

Maer  die         serjanten       sijn     kenden          den     coninc            van         Israël,

but   the         sergeants         his      knew             theacc    king              of        Israel

dat        hi        niet     was   harde   fel.

that       henom   not      was   very    fierce

lit. ‘But his sergeants knew the king of Israel, that he wasn’t very fierce.’ (Rijmbijbel,      v.12643, translation ours)

What is interesting is that there appear to be too many arguments in the main clause, one of which is thematically related to the subordinate predicate. It can be shown that the proleptic accusative is crucially different from complex cases of raising. Instead, we explore two novel and competing hypotheses about its structural properties. We first suggest that an analysis in terms of clausal coordination and ellipsis straightforwardly solves a number of syntactic complications, but this leads to problems with semantic interpretation in various cases. We then propose that the seemingly additional accusative argument in the matrix can be base-generated as an embedded hanging topic of the complement clause involved. This requires exceptional accusative case marking across a clause boundary by the matrix verb. The necessary combination of various prerequisites explains why the proleptic accusative is only sporadically found across languages. Importantly, however, it is now clear how this complex construction type can be decomposed into more basic syntactic ingredients without additional stipulations.


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