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German Impersonal Passives

Betts, Andrew John; (1990) German Impersonal Passives. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis is an attempt to account for various passive constructions in German within the theory of Government and Binding. The initial area of interest is the intransitive Impersonal Passive. However, this area of interest is broadened to include bi-clausal passive-like structures involving the verb lassen, verbs of perception, and the Copula. It is shown that all of these intransitive constructions share similar restrictions on their distribution, that they may be formed only with verbs which have a human external argument. The restriction on the distribution of these verbs is accounted for by assuming an empty, arbitrary reference pro in the subject position. The further, non-standard, assumption is made that the passive morpheme is not an argument. The non-argument passive morpheme has a set of arbitrary reference features which assist in identifying the subject pro. This analysis is generalized to the bi-clausal passive structures with the additional assumption that the passive morpheme may be without phonetic content and that this "empty" passive morpheme attaches to the tenseless verbs in the lower clause of these constructions. This provides a unified analysis for all of the structures considered at the outset. The innovations proposed here are then examined in more detail and it is shown that by selecting the correct values for the features proposed for the passive morpheme in German, along with the facts about the existence and licensing of pro in the various languages, we are able to make correct predictions about the distribution of Impersonal and Bi-clausal Passives in French, Italian and English. Finally, we are able to suggest that expletive pro may not exist in German, which is regarded as a "semi-pro-drop" language. This is a desirable consequence given that it is claimed not to exist in full pro-drop languages such as Italian.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: German Impersonal Passives
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10121066
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