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On so-called transitive expletives in Belfast English

Borsley, RD (2009) 'On so-called transitive expletives in Belfast English.' English Language and Linguistics, 13 (3). 409 - 431. ISSN 1360-6743

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Henry & Cottell (2007) argue that Belfast English (BE) sentences such as There shouldn't anybody say that and There've lots of people passed the test are transitive expletive constructions (TECs) similar to those that are a feature of Icelandic. They propose that the difference between BE and Standard English (SE) is that whereas expletive there is introduced in Spec vP in the latter it is introduced in Spec TP in the former. On the assumption that transitive subjects originate in Spec vP, this entails that expletive there cannot co-occur with a transitive verb. While it is clear that BE is different from SE in this area, it is not clear that BE has TECs while SE does not. There are a variety of examples which are acceptable in BE but not SE which do not seem to be TECs. SE also has certain examples which might be called TECs. The result of this is that Henry & Cottell's analysis is not very successful. It seems that what distinguishes BE from SE is not what verbs may follow the associate of the expletive but what elements may precede it. SE allows an associate immediately after be, but BE also allows an associate immediately after modals and have, and for some speakers seem and likely as well. The facts can be captured in Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar by assuming that be has an extra lexical description with expletive there as its subject and the associate as an extra complement in both varieties of English, and that modals and have, and for some speakers seem and likely as well, have an extra lexical description of this form in BE. Generalizations can be captured if the pairs of lexical descriptions are analysed as alternative ways of fleshing out basic underspecified lexical descriptions. © 2009 Cambridge University Press.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2011 09:16
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2021 11:15

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