To be an oblique subject: Russian vs. Icelandic.

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ABSTRACT. This paper addresses the question of whether ‘main clause infinitival datives’ in Russian should be analyzed as oblique or ‘quirky’ subjects, in contrast to another type of subject-like datives in Russian, ‘I-nominals’. In particular, it examines a claim to this effect made by Moore and Perlmutter in a paper in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory (2000). By comparing the datives in question to Icelandic oblique subjects, above all with respect to agreement, the paper demonstrates that Moore and Perlmutter’s arguments are untenable, i.e. their arguments do not distinguish between the two dative types in the way they claim. However, it does not follow that Russian infinitival datives are best analyzed as ‘non-subjects’. Rather, it is argued, the interesting question raised by subject-like non-nominatives across languages is not whether they should be classified as subjects by some postulated standards, but what they tell us about the interaction of case and other features or properties of language, in particular sentence structure and agreement. In its concluding chapter, the paper presents evidence that Russian I-nominals differ from Icelandic quirky subjects in not entering into a ‘quirky null-agreement’ correlation with the finite complex of the clause. In contrast, it is pointed out, Russian infinitival datives could and probably should be analyzed as sharing this peculiar property with Icelandic ‘quirks’.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • Icelandic, case, subject, Russian
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-724
JournalNatural Language & Linguistic Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Swedish (015011001)

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