LINGUIST List 8.1635

Thu Nov 13 1997

Qs: English verb data, Subject Prominence

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  1. Radu Daniliuc, The verb to be in Spoken English
  2. Mark Newson, Nonconfigurational Subject Prominence

Message 1: The verb to be in Spoken English

Date: Thu, 13 Nov 1997 08:16:30 +0200
From: Radu Daniliuc <>
Subject: The verb to be in Spoken English

I am very preocupied of the verb TO BE in varieties of Spoken English.
I am mostly interested in its "odd" forms and uses in all English
Varieties,main pidgins and creoles included.
I mainly hope to receive files and not book titles,as it is very difficult
to find them in my country.
In case anyone wants to help me by sending materials through mail,I'll be
mighty much obliged to that person.
Thank you,
Radu Daniliuc
Mail address:
Ana Ipatescu 10,A,A,9
Suceava 5800,ROMANIA
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Message 2: Nonconfigurational Subject Prominence

Date: Thu, 13 Nov 1997 05:55:54 -0500 (EST)
From: Mark Newson <>
Subject: Nonconfigurational Subject Prominence

I hope this query means something to someone besides me. However, I
am perfectly willing to accept that I'm just not asking the right question.
Your views either way are equally interesting.

I'll ask the question first and then add some explicatory comments.

Is there any such thing as a nonconfigurational subject prominent language?

I assume nonconfigurationality to be indicated by free word order of arguments
inside the VP and also by a lack of asymmetries in the movement possibilities
for these arguments. In other words, I am assuming the kind of
nonconfigurationality ascribed to Hungarian by E. Kiss (1994).

As for subject prominence, I am, of course, thinking of the distinction
between subject and topic prominent languages. Let me characterise this
difference in the following way. A topic prominent language allows any (NP)
argument to enter into a predication relationship with the VP while a
subject prominent language restricts this relationship to some notion of
'external' or 'most prominent' argument. Thus subject prominent languages
have a thematically restricted element of predication, while topic prominent
languages impose no such restriction.

Thus, under these assumptions, English is a configurational subject
prominent language and Hungarian is a nonconfigurational topic prominent
language. I might, tentatively, propose that German is a configurational
topic prominent language and then there is one logical possibility left.
Does such a language exist?


Mark Newson

Department of English Linguistics
Eotvos Lorand University
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