Atlantis (2020-06-01)

The Syntax of Thetic Statements in English

  • Ana Ojea

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 42, no. 1
pp. 143 – 162


Read online

This article offers a formal approach to thetic statements in English that focuses on the structural mechanisms available in this language to express a reading of this sort. I explain the opposition categorical/thetic as the result of two alternative ways to value discourse intention [DI], a core intentional feature (CIF) which signals the point of departure of the proposition. This feature is standardly accessed at the phonological component in English, but I argue that it may also be valued through syntactic means, in particular through the insertion of a language particular category, LocP, which serves a double purpose: 1) to keep the subject low in the verbal phrase while still complying with the Extended Projection Principle (EPP); and, 2) to allow a locative phrase to value [DI]. This way, the grammar maintains a balance between the interface need to express a nonpredicative assertion and the computational requirement to have a preverbal subject. I also show how presentational there-sentences and so-called locative inversion (LI) structures result from the structural possibilities opened in LocP, thus offering an analysis that accounts for the similarities and differences between the two constructions in a principled way.