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Carnie, Andrew (1995) Non-Verbal Predication and Head movement. Ph.D Dissertation. Massachusetts Institute of Technology



This thesis surveys the interaction between non-verbal predication in matrix clauses and processes of head-movement. Focusing mainly on the syntax of Modern Irish nominal predicates, it is claimed that matrix non-verbal predication can occur without any verbal support. When this happens, non-verbal predicates bear inflectional features directly and behave just like verbs with respect to processes of head-movement. In particular, it is claimed that non-verbal predicates raise through the inflectional complex to the highest inflectional head, just like verbal predicates in matrix VSO clauses.

It is also claimed that complex phrasal predicates are allowed to undergo head-movement, contra many standard assumptions. A new theory of phrase structure is proposed, where phrasal status (i.e. X-bar status) is determined by behavior of the phrase-marker involved, rather than the status determining the behavior. This derived notion of X-bar status is shown to account for a variety of phenomena from a variety of languages (such as construct state nominals in Celtic and Tagalog clitic placement).

The thesis also argues that the distribution of word order types from Irish copular clauses argues against a unified or single be analysis. It is claimed that at least two types of copular construction: a one placed predicative construction, and a two placed equative contstruction are present in the grammar. Structural assymetries between the two arguments in equative constructions are shown to follow from their behavior with respect to theta marking.

Finally, a new analysis of Verb-Subject-Object (VSO) order is presented which accounts for a wide variety of phenomena, including non-verbal predicates, in the syntax of Modern Irish. This analysis makes use of verb raising, a split VP structure, and a new view of clausal architecture.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Ken Hale (chair)

  • Morris Halle 

  • Alec Marantz

  • David Pesetsky


  • Review by Peter Svenonius (1998) Glot International 3.8. pg 11-15 (review follows dissertation summary) download

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Table of Contents


Title Page, Acknowledgments, Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Problem and Initial Assumptions

Chapter 2. A Short history of VSO

Chapter 3. Modern Irish VSO order

Chapter 4. The Verb to be in Irish

Chapter 5. Accounting for the Word Order Alternations

Chapter 6. What's a phrase like you doing in a head like this?

Chapter 7. Other theories of be word order alternations

Chapter 8. Other theories of be-less copular sentences

Chapter 9. Concluding Remarks

Appendix. The morphology of to be in Irish


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