Thursday 11 February – Hossam Ahmed

Speaker: Hossam I. Ahmed (Leiden Institute for Area Studies)

Title: Reconstructing Verbal Complementizers in Arabic

Date: Thursday 11 February

Venue: P.N. van Eyckhof 2/003

Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

Abstract: A class of Modern Standard Arabic complementizers known as ‘ʔinna and its sisters’ demonstrate unique case and word order restrictions. While CPs in Arabic allow both Subject-Verb (SV) and Verb-Subject (VS) word order and their subjects show nominative morphology, CPs introduced by ʔinna ban a verb from directly following the complementizer. Preverbal subjects in ʔinna clauses show accusative case marking, while postverbal subjects show nominative morphology. Previous research explains these restrictions as default case or Multiple Case Assignment, both problematic for Case Theory as they violate the Activation Principle.

I explain word order and case effects of ʔinna within the framework of Phase Theory and Feature Inheritance (FI). Morphological, historical, and usage evidence point out that ʔinna-type complementizers have verbal properties similar to illocutionary verbs. Taking Case to be a reflection of phi features that T heads receive from higher heads (e.g. Complementizers) via Feature Inheritance, the nominative-accusative alternation on preverbal subjects can be attributed to the selection of C heads: phi features on null complementizers and conditionals reflect as NOM, while phi features on Verbal Complementizers (VCs) reflect as ACC. Nominative postverbal subjects in ʔinna clauses are explained as an effect of anti-agreement at Spell-Out. Postverbal subjects and the Case probe on T are PF local, allowing for impoverished case agreement. Preverbal subjects and the Case licenser belong to different Phonological Phrases. To satisfy the Recoverability Condition, full case agreement is required between T and the subject, resulting in accusative morphology on the subject. Finally, the requirement that ʔinna-clauses have an intervener between ʔinna and the verb is explained by associating the full phi features of ʔinna with EPP. As the phi set is inherited from ʔinna to T, the EPP property is satisfied by the preverbal subject or by adverbial intervening between ʔinna and the verb.

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