UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 14 (2002)

A morphological approach to the absence of expletive PRO



Whereas finite clauses can have impersonal readings, this possibility appears to be universally excluded for clauses headed by an infinitive. In other words, the understood subject of an infinitival clause must always be interpreted as an argument and can never be expletive. In this paper it is argued that this distinction between the two types of clause is ultimately caused by a  purely morphological factor, namely whether or not the inflection on the verb that heads the clause is part of a paradigm or not. The analysis is based on the hypothesis that inflection can function as the subject argument of the verb. The account of the properties of infinitival clauses is extended to a particular class of languages in which the inflection on finite verbs is not part of a paradigm either.

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