A universal property of languages that has been documented in the literature is ‘free inversion’ between the subject and the verb (Kotzoglou 2006). In head-initial languages, e.g., Standard Arabic, the free inversion property is used more than often and the subject can, in several contexts, precede or follow the verb (Fassi Fehri 1993, Ouhalla 1994, Ryding 2005):
However, when other syntactic categories, e.g., negation, appear with the preverbal subject in this language, the latter can surface in two different syntactic positions (Aoun et al. 2010, Fassi Fehri 2012):
Also, the preverbal subject in this language can precede or follow a preverbal adverb:
In addition, this alternative position for the preverbal subject in Standard Arabic is available when the subject appears with auxiliaries:
Moreover, there are constructions in the language in which two surface DPs appear preceding the verb, which independently argue for the availability of two preverbal syntactic positions to host different types of DPs. For example, the subject can appear with a floating quantifier in a preverbal position:
In the same manner, subject DPs can appear side by side with emphatic reflexives:
Again, the preverbal DP and the reflexive are both below CP:
Moreover, preverbal subjects can appear with another emphatic DP or what is termed in Arabic grammar albadal ‘apposition’:
Similarly, the apposition construction can be preceded by a complementiser, indicating that both DPs are below the CP projection:
The linguistic research that has been done on the position of the preverbal subject in Standard Arabic has assumed that this language can have only one fixed preverbal position, i.e., spec-TP (or spec-AgrP in the old configuration) (Fassi Fehri 1993, Ouhalla 1994, Shlonsky 1997, Benmamoun 2000, Aoun et al. 2010, among others). This study has several lines of inquiry into the possible syntactic positions of preverbal subjects in Standard Arabic. This can be achieved through a detailed investigation of the subject interaction with other categories like negation, auxiliaries, adverbs, quantifiers, reflexives, and appositions. I will show that the subject in this language can appear in more than one position when it is preverbal (cf. Belletti 2004, Cardinaletti 2004). This claim will eventually result in a better understanding of the syntactic configuration of the area between the CP and TP heads.
The second section in this paper briefly outlines the proposal developed in Cardinaletti (2004) where she argues for the existence of two preverbal projections for the subject.
The third section looks at the two possible positions of preverbal subjects in Standard Arabic and their interaction with three different syntactic categories. The first subsection examines the relation between preverbal subjects and certain sentential negation particles in this language. The second subsection investigates the interaction between preverbal subjects and adverbs. The third subsection addresses the issue of the interaction between the preverbal subject and auxiliary verbs. In the fourth subsection, I introduce a new analysis in which I argue that there exist two syntactic positions for the preverbal subject in Standard Arabic, along lines discussed in Cardinaletti (2004).
The fourth section examines different contexts in Standard Arabic where the preverbal subject can appear with other XPs. In the first subsection, I examine the occurrence of subjects along with floating quantifiers. In the second subsection, I look at how preverbal subjects can surface with emphatic reflexives. In the third subsection, I investigate the apposition construction in Standard Arabic in which the preverbal subject surfaces with another DP and both refer to the same entity.
The fifth section summarises the main findings and claims argued for in the paper.
Cardinaletti starts her discussion of the cartography of preverbal subject positions by stating that the two main properties of subjects – being the grammatical subject according to morphosyntactic criteria (checking nominative Case and phi-features) and being the semantic subject (the subject of predication) – are attributed to two distinct functional projections: AgrSP and SubjP, respectively. She argues that (2004: 121) “AgrSP is the projection in which phi-features are checked on nominative DPs; this results in nominative Case on the subject DP and verb agreement with the subject DP. SubjP is the projection in which the “subject-of-predication” feature is checked. In this way, the semantic property of subjects is encoded in the syntax through a morphosyntactic feature ... the two projections superficially host different types of subjects: while spec-SubjP typically hosts strong subjects, Spec-AgrSP typically hosts weak subjects”.
These two functional projections that can host the preverbal subject, Cardinaletti points out, are actually below the lowest Comp-projection FinP (Rizzi 1997); thus, both projections occur in the Infl domain. She provides a representational structure of these positions which, she argues, holds for all languages and does not distinguish between null subject languages and non-null subject languages (2004: 121):
She puts forth the claim that if the two properties of subjects, which correspond to two distinct projections, are actually dissociated, we will have XPs that occur in subject position without checking nominative Case. To this end, she examines several constructions in which an XP different from the subject is fronted to the subject position. These constructions include dative fronting, locative fronting, and inverse copular sentences.
Cardinaletti argues that with Italian psych verbs either the theme or the experiencer can be preposed to the preverbal subject position (2004: 122):
In the second example above, the fronted dative seems to be in the preverbal subject position, but it does not get its Case checked. This, she argues, makes its movement unmotivated. However, adopting the proposal of having two preverbal subject positions circumvents this problem, since we can argue that the fronted dative moves to the preverbal position in spec-SubjP to check the subject of predication feature, and the nominative Case is checked on the postverbal theme via a chain with the expletive pro. Thus, the dative argument appears preverbally, whereas the grammatical subject, a theme, stays in situ in postverbal position.
In Italian, unaccusative verbs allow their locative argument to be fronted to the subject position (Cardinaletti 2004: 124):
Cardinaletti argues that in inverse copular sentences in Italian, a predicative DP moves to the preverbal position, and the grammatical subject remains postverbally (2004: 125):
The example above can be assigned the following structure:
Cardinaletti points out that the predicative DP moves to spec-SubjP, where it checks the subject-of predication feature. The grammatical subject remains in the postverbal position and gets nominative Case.
Cardinaletti (2004) concludes that dative and locative PPs and predicative DPs are not assigned nominative Case; therefore, their movement to spec-SubjP is not motivated. SubjP must contain some feature that attracts dative and locative PPs, predicative DPs, as well as subject DPs. The subject-of-predication feature represents what all these phrases have in common when they appear preverbally. The head Subj is thus the locus of the subject-of-predication feature.
3. On Two Preverbal Positions
In this section, I examine the possibility of having two different syntactic positions for the preverbal subject in Standard Arabic. Certain syntactic categories interact with the preverbal subject and show asymmetrical behaviour in some cases depending on the position of the subject.
Negation in Standard Arabic can be expressed in the sentence by the occurrence of negation particles such as lam, lan, laa, and maa, among others (Ryding 2005). These particles can be categorised into three types; the first type includes negation particles like lam and lan that must be followed by the verb:
These negation particles cannot be followed by the subject, hence the ungrammaticality of the sentences below:
However, subjects can precede both the negation particle and the verb:
Following the standard analysis of verb movement in this language in which the verb is assumed to have vacated vP and left-adjoined the head T (Fassi Fehri 1993, Ouhalla 1994, Shlonsky 1997, Benmamoun 2000, among others), I assume that the subject DPs in the examples above cannot be positioned in spec-TP and must be based in a position higher than spec-TP.
The second type includes negation particles like maa that can be followed by the verb:
The negation particle maa can also be followed by the subject DP:
It is to be noticed that the Case of the subject is nominative, hence the ungrammaticality of the sentences below when the subject following the negation particle surfaces with an accusative Case marker:
Following the analysis that places negation above TP in Standard Arabic (Benmamoun 2000), I assume that the nominative subject DP that follows the negation particle maa must be in spec-TP.
The third type of negation includes particles like laa which can be followed by the subject2:
If the subject DP following the negation particle laa surfaces with a nominative Case marker, the sentence is rendered ungrammatical:
In addition, the subject DP cannot precede the negation particle laa, hence the ungrammaticality of the sentences below:
It is to be noticed that while the subject DP following the negation particle maa surfaces with a nominative Case marker, the subject following laa appears with an accusative Case marker. Moreover, while the negation particles lan and lam allow the subject to precede them, the particle la cannot be preceded by the subject. This variation in word order indicates that these different negation particles cannot occupy the same position above TP. There must be more than one position that can host negation particles. Also, the subject seems to occupy two different positions in its interaction with these negation particles.
Adverbial phrases can project in several preverbal and postverbal positions in Standard Arabic. In preverbal positions, adverbs can appear in a sentence-initial position:
In this context, the subject is in a postverbal position, presumably in spec-vP. This is the unmarked word order in Standard Arabic where the subject typically follows the verb. It has been argued that the verb in this language must vacate its base-position in the vP shell and left-adjoin a higher head, probably the head T, and this obligatory head movement is motivated by the rich morphology on the verb (Fassi Fehri 1993, Ouhalla 1994, Shlonsky 1997, Benmamoun 2000, among others). Hence, the sentence-initial adverb could be in a position above TP in the example above.
The alternative marked word order in Standard Arabic is the SV order where the subject precedes the verb and ultimately lands in spec-TP, below the adverbial phrase:
In the example above the adverb precedes both the subject and the verb. However, the subject can surface in a position higher than the adverbial phrase:
It can be seen in the example above that the subject precedes both the adverb and the verb. This position cannot be in the CP domain and the preverbal DP cannot be a topic, for the simple reason that the sentence above can appear with a sentence-initial complementiser (cf. McCloskey 1997, Rizzi 1997):
In addition, the Case marker of the preverbal subject has changed to accusative, suggesting that this DP cannot be a topic since topics moving from a subject position typically leave a pronominal clitic and end up with a nominative Case marker:
Consequently, we can assume that there exist two different positions for the preverbal subject in Standard Arabic. The first position is a specifier position below the adverbial phrase, and the second is a specifier position above the adverbial phrase.
There are two types of auxiliaries in Standard Arabic, positive auxiliaries and negative auxiliaries. I will briefly outline below the distributional properties of the positive auxiliary kaan and the negative auxiliary laysa, as examples. The positive auxiliary has two forms: perfective kaan ‘was’ and imperfective yakuun ‘is’. The imperfective form is not commonly used, except in certain cases. However, the negative auxiliary has only one imperfective form laysa ‘isn’t’. To express the perfective aspect of the negative auxiliary a negation particle is coupled with the positive auxiliary to form conjoined particles like lam yakuun ‘wasn’t’.
These auxiliaries can stand alone as main verbs in copular sentences where they agree with their subject:
When these auxiliaries appear with main verbs, they still inflect for agreement:
Also, while tense is expressed on the auxiliary verb, the main verb appears in the imperfective form, lacking tense and dependent on the auxiliary verb for its tense:
It is clear that the subject in Standard Arabic can precede the verb and surface in a position between the auxiliary and the verb. In this position, the subject agrees in number only with the main verb and agrees in gender with the main verb as well as the auxiliary:
However, the subject can precede both the auxiliary and the main verb and in this position it agrees in number and gender with the auxiliary as well as the main verb:
The preverbal DP in the example above cannot be a topic/CLLD for two reasons. The first is that the DP agrees in number and gender with the auxiliary as well as the main verb, hence the ungrammaticality of the sentence below when the subject agrees only with the main verb:
Under the assumption that the DP in the sentence above is a topic, the ungrammaticality of this sentence is hard to explain. In addition, the sentence above can be preceded by a complementiser, suggesting that the preverbal DP is a subject residing in a position below CP:
It is clear from the examples above that there exist two different positions for the preverbal subject when it appears with auxiliaries. The first position is between the sentence-initial auxiliary and the verb, and the second position is in a specifier position above the auxiliary.
It has been assumed in the literature that preverbal subjects in Standard Arabic are uniformly positioned in spec-TP (or spec-AgrsP in the old configuration). In this paper, I provide an alternative analysis in which I claim that there exist two different positions for the preverbal subject in this language. The lower position is spec-TP which hosts grammatical subjects that have moved from their base-position in spec-vP. The higher position is spec-SubjP which hosts subjects of predication, along lines discussed in Cardinaletti (2004). Crucially, subjects in spec-SubjP are base-positioned and have not undergone movement from spec-vP:
The tree diagram above shows that the SubjP projection is positioned below CP and above TP and can be preceded by a NegP projection that hosts the sentential negation particle in Standard Arabic. I argue that this configuration can account for the instances discussed in this paper where the subject seems to be in a position higher than TP. The new analysis can also account for instances in which the preverbal subject surfaces with an accusative Case marker or a genitive Case marker, indicating that the variation in Case markers is not due to the existence of different Case assigners or the optionality in Case marking. Rather, this analysis offers a new account for Case variation in terms of availability of syntactic positions. When the spec-SubjP position is available, it is filled with a subject of predication where this subject is base-positioned in this location. Crucially, the accusative Case on the preverbal subject in this position is inherent and has not been assigned by the head T.3
However, the tree diagram above shows a simplistic view of the actually more intricate and rich syntactic layer between the CP and TP heads. A syntactic mapping of all the possible categories that can project between these heads will give us a better understanding of the cartography of the CP-TP area (Rizzi 1997, Cinque 1999, Cardinaletti 2004). This will also show that the two proposed positions for the preverbal subject are not adjacent as it may appear.
A closer examination and representation of the sentences below where several syntactic categories can surface in preverbal positions in Standard Arabic show that the area between the CP and TP projections can host many functional heads.4 Let us examine the position of the preverbal subject alawlaad ‘the boys’ in the following sentences. Each sentence is followed by a representation of the possible hierarchy of its syntactic categories:
A collapsed hierarchical representation of all the sentences above will give us the following tree diagram:
It should be noted that the tree diagram above is not exhaustive. However, it maps the major syntactic categories that can project in the layer between the CP and TP. It is to be noticed that negation particles occupy two different positions. Additionally, adverbs are shown to occupy two positions as well; however, the hierarchy of all types of adverbs in this language is beyond the scope of this paper (cf. Cinque 1999).
4. On Two Preverbal DPs
In this section, I provide further evidence to support my assumption that there exist two preverbal subject positions in Standard Arabic through investigating certain contexts in this language in which two preverbal DPs can surface at the same time, suggesting that there are two different positions that can host preverbal subjects.
The concurrence of the subject and a floating quantifier in a preverbal position needs further investigation on the possible positions of both DPs. In standard Arabic, quantifiers like kullu and jameeu typically precede the quantified DP which surfaces with a genitive Case marker (Aoun et al. 2010, Fassi Fehri 2012):
Any alternative order between the quantifier and the DP renders the sentences ungrammatical:
However, the preverbal DP that follows the quantifier can be left-dislocated to a topic position, provided that it leaves a pronominal clitic attached to the quantifier:
On the other hand, floating quantifiers like ajmauun and kaafatan cannot precede DPs, hence the ungrammaticality of the sentences below:
Floating quantifiers like ajmauun and kaafatan must follow the quantified DP (yding 2005):
The preverbal DPs above cannot be assumed to be an instance of left-dislocated structures. In this language, left-dislocated or topicalised DPs usually leave behind a resumptive pronoun. If one assumes that the preverbal DP in the sentences above is a topic, the ungrammaticality of the sentences below is hard to explain where a resumptive pronoun appears attached to the quantifier:
However, the preverbal DP in the sentences above can be topicalised and moved to a position above C. In this context, it must leave a resumptive pronoun in its base-position in spec-SubjP:
Contrary to the assumption that the two preverbal XPs following the head C are both competing for the same position, i.e., spec-TP, I argue that the preverbal resumptive pronoun and the floating quantifier in the sentences above occupy two different syntactic positions. These positions are spec-SubjP for the resumptive pronoun and spec-TP for the quantifier.
In Standard Arabic, the preverbal subject can surface with an emphatic reflexive:
In addition, the preverbal DP and the reflexive can be both preceded by a complementiser:
Moreover, the preverbal DP can be topicalised and moved to a position above the complementiser. In this context, it must leave a resumptive pronoun in its base-position, giving us two preverbal pronominals, a resumptive pronoun and a reflexive pronoun:
It is clear from the examples above that the two preverbal pronominals occupy two different syntactic positions between C and T, assuming that the verb in Standard Arabic uniformly left-adjoins the head T. Our assumption that a SubjP projection above T can host subjects of predication accounts for this context where two XPs seem to be competing for the subject position.
In Standard Arabic, two different DPs which refer to the same entity/person can surface side by side:
In addition, a subject DP in this language can be mentioned twice for emphasis:
Moreover, a DP and a pronoun can refer to the same person and surface together:
Apparently, Standard Arabic can have several contexts in which two XPs appear side by side in a preverbal position. Different accounts have been proposed in the literature to accommodate these two adjacent DPs in terms of topicalisation or focalization of the higher DP. I contribute to this ongoing investigation by introducing a new analysis in which I assume that there exist two different preverbal subject positions that can host different preverbal DPs. The two positions are spec-TP, for the grammatical subject which moves from spec-vP, and spec-SubjP, which hosts base-positioned XPs.
In this paper, I introduce a new analysis of preverbal subject positions in Standard Arabic based on the recent literature on the cartography of syntax (Belletti 2004, Cardinaletti 2004, Rizzi 2004, among others). I argue that preverbal Subjects in this language can surface in two different syntactic positions. The first position is spec-TP where a grammatical subject that has moved from spec-vP can be hosted. The second position is the specifier position of a new projection SubjP which can host base-positioned subjects of predication, along lines discussed in Caredinaletti (2004). A clear picture of this assumption is attained when we conduct a detailed investigation of the hierarchical relation of the subject with other syntactic categories that can project between CP and TP. These categories include negation, auxiliaries, adverbs, quantifiers, reflexives, and appositions. The aim of this investigation is to determine the inventory and hierarchies of these syntactic categories and to contribute to the current debate on the cartography of clause structure.