The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Lunch 5/12 - Alexandru Nicolae

Speaker: Alexandru Nicolae (Romanian Academy – University of Bucharest)
Title: The syntactic configurations of Romanian modal verbs: modals and phases
Time: Thursday, May 12th, 12:30-1:50 pm
Place: 32-D461

The distributional and interpretative properties of the Romanian modal verbs `putea’ (‘can, be able to’) and `trebui’ (‘must, have to’) indicate that the modal verbs have a uniform syntactic behavior, in spite of superficially different syntactic configurations (the monoclausal configuration / the biclausal configuration) in which they appear: (i) they are subject raising verbs, which (ii) select a phasal complement. With respect to the biclausal configuration, in contrast to previous literature, which claims that the embedded subjunctive is a “reduced” / “truncated” / “defective” CP in order to derive the subject raising effect, we show that the subjunctive CP is a fully articulated domain from a structural point of view; hence, the subject raising effect has to be derived in a different manner. As for monoclausal configuration (in which the modal verb selects a non-finite complement), we show (i) that, in spite of the different morphosyntactic realization of the complements of the modal verb (bare short infinitive, participle, supine), they are structurally isomorphic, in the sense that the non-finite complement projects up to v-Voice, and (ii) that the [modal verb + nonfinite complement] is a restructuring configuration. Furthermore, the Romanian data suggest that the restructuring effect might actually fall out of minimality (verb movement considerations).