Subject Float, Low Subject Trapping, and Case in Icelandic

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This article describes and discusses two peculiar sets of (in)defi niteness
facts applying to subjects in Icelandic, here referred to as Subject Float
and Low Subject Trapping. Indefi nite subjects (commonly quantifi ed) in
presentational sentences and related clause types may either occupy the
complement position within the predicate phrase or “fl oat” into various
positions in the middle fi eld. This is Subject Float, yielding variation such
as “There would (many farmers) then (many farmers) probably (many
farmers) be (?*many farmers) elected (many farmers)”. Conversely, and
unexpectedly, defi nite NP subjects of some adjectival and verbal predicates
must stay in the complement position. This is Low Subject Trapping,
yielding orders such as “there is cold radiator-the” and “there cooled
radiator-the”. It is shown that the licensing of subject NPs in the various
positions in Subject Float and in the complement position in Low Subject
Trapping is unrelated to specifi c grammatical cases, thus refuting the widely
adopted case approach to NP licensing. Although Icelandic case marking
has been widely discussed, Subject Float and Low Subject Trapping have
not previously received a detailed scrutiny; these phenomena provide
additional and partly new knockout arguments against the case approach to
NP licensing and NP movement. While high NP raising to subject (Spec,IP)
is unaffected by case, it seems to involve both Person and Topic matching.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe sign of the V
Subtitle of host publicationPapers in honour of Sten Vikner
EditorsKen Ramshøj Christensen, Henrik Jørgensen, Johanna L. Wood
Place of PublicationAarhus
PublisherAarhus University
ISBN (Electronic)978-87-7507-461-7
ISBN (Print)978-87-91134-05-0
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Specific Languages

Free keywords

  • Definiteness Effect
  • Subject Float
  • Low Subject Trapping
  • Icelandic


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