Oblique subjects in contact languages and the nature of emergent grammars

Syea, A. 2009. Oblique subjects in contact languages and the nature of emergent grammars. Linguistics. 47 (1), pp. 65-101.

TitleOblique subjects in contact languages and the nature of emergent grammars
AuthorsSyea, A.
Abstract

This article extends the empirical base of the discussion of oblique subjects in English and French child grammars by examining such subjects in English and French-based contact languages (i.e., pidgins and creoles), particularly in the early stages of their development. It thus provides us with an opportunity to reassess the hypotheses put forward on how and why subjects of main clauses have the oblique form, clearly an intriguing departure. The occurrence of oblique subjects in contact languages is particularly interesting because it shows adults, like children in L1 acquisition, rejecting the correct nominative form in favor of a deviant form. This paper argues that the choice of oblique subjects is determined by the nature of the emerging system. More specifically, it argues that emerging grammars are discourse-bound and subjects, as suggested in Gruber (1967), are in topic position. However, it also extends Gruber's analysis by arguing that the distribution of subjects is driven by their features (namely, [+definite], [+referential] and [+specific]), features that can only be checked in Topic position. The paper thus offers an explanation not only for why subjects surface in the oblique form but also why they tend not to be indefinite or expletive.

JournalLinguistics
Journal citation47 (1), pp. 65-101
ISSN0024-3949
YearJan 2009
PublisherMouton de Gruyter
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1515/LING.2009.003
Publication dates
PublishedJan 2009

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