LINGUIST List 14.3292

Sat Nov 29 2003

Diss: Syntax: Pearson: 'The Clause Structure...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. matthew.pearson, The Clause Structure of Malagasy

Message 1: The Clause Structure of Malagasy

Date: Wed, 26 Nov 2003 15:42:37 -0500 (EST)
From: matthew.pearson <>
Subject: The Clause Structure of Malagasy

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2001

Author: Matt Pearson 

Dissertation Title: The Clause Structure of Malagasy: A Minimalist

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: Syntax 

Subject Language: Malagasy (code: MEX)

Dissertation Director 1: Ed L Keenan
Dissertation Director 2: Tim A Stowell

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis explores the clause structure and word order of Malagasy
within the framework of Chomsky's (1995) Minimalist Program and
Kayne's (1994) Antisymmetry Theory. In particular, I focus on the
status of the clause-final external argument (EA), conventionally
analyzed as a nominative case-marked subject. I consider two major
questions about this constituent: What hierarchical position does the
EA occupy in the clause structure, and why does it surface in a
right-peripheral linear position, following the predicate?

With regard to its syntactic status, I argue that the EA is not a
subject, but a topic, similar in its distribution to clause-initial
topics in verb-second languages like Icelandic. I propose that EAs
undergo A'-movement to the specifier of a TopP (topic phrase)
projection, located above tense and below the position of the
complementizer. Concerning word order, I show that the
right-peripheral position of the EA can be derived via leftward
movement of the predicate phrase over the EA in SpecTopP, in a manner
consistent with Kayne's Linear Correspondence Axiom. I suggest that
predicate-fronting is triggered by the same lexical requirements
responsible for T-to-C raising in Icelandic and other languages. The
difference is that in Malagasy, unlike in Icelandic, T0 does not
constitute an independent morphological word, and so it cannot be
moved without causing the derivation to crash at PF. Since T0-movement
is unavailable, TP-movement is employed instead. Malagasy may thus be
regarded as the phrasal-movement analogue of a verb-second language.

The thesis is divided into four chapters. In chapter 1 I summarize my
analysis and discuss my theoretical assumptions. In chapter 2 I give
an overview of Malagasy word order, clause structure, and
morphology. I also offer a tentative treatment of the Malagasy voicing
system, which I equate with wh-agreement in Chamorro and other
languages. In chapter 3 I present evidence from reconstruction and
locality effects to show that the EA position behaves as an
A'-position rather than a case position, strongly suggesting that the
EA is a topic-like element rather than a subject. I also provide an
alternative analysis of the well-known wh-extraction restriction in
Malagasy. Finally in chapter 4 I discuss my XP-movement analysis of
EA-final word order. I cite evidence in favor of this analysis from
two domains, speech-act particle placement and word order in embedded
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