The 'subject' of a sentence is a concept that presents great challenges
to linguists. Most languages have something which looks like a subject, but
subjects differ across languages in their nature and properties, making
them an interesting phenomenon for those seeking linguistic universals.
This pioneering volume addresses ‘subject’ nature from a simultaneously
formal and typological perspective. Dividing the subject into two distinct
grammatical functions, it shows how the nature of these functions explains
their respective properties, and argues that the split in properties shown
in 'ergative' languages (whereby the subject of intransitive verbs is
marked as an object) results from the functions being assigned to different
elements of the clause. Drawing on data from a typologically wide variety
of languages, including English, Hebrew, Tagalog, Inuit and Acehnese, it
explains why, even in the case of very different languages, certain core
properties can be found.