Thursday 18 June – Sjef Barbiers and Astrid van Alem

Speaker: Sjef Barbiers and Astrid van Alem (Leiden)
Title: Poor weak ‘t (it) and the syntax of pronominal clefts
Date: Thursday 18 June
Venue: Skype (contact us to get access to the meeting)
Time: 15.15 – 16.30 hrs

This paper derives the well-known 1/2 vs. 3 person split in Dutch pronominal clefts (Ackema and Neeleman 2018; cf. (1)) from the feature specification of ‘t ‘it’.

(1) a. * ‘t ben ik/jij die het antwoord weet.
it am I/you who the answer knows

b. ‘t is zij die het antwoord weet.
it is she who the answer knows

Based on a study of pronominal forms in Standard Dutch and Dutch dialects, we argue that free ‘t ‘it’ is not a pronoun but a determiner that has a 3p feature but no case or number feature. This underspecification explains the split in (1) and the fact that this split is neutralized in the plural and the past. In a questionnaire study, we furthermore observe that there are two grammars of Standard Dutch: A grammar Dutch A that allows (1b) with 1p and 2p pivots and a grammar Dutch B that does not. This follows from a restriction on nominative case checking. Nominative case checking in Dutch B is only possible under person agreement.

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