Case in Standard Arabic: The Untraveled Paths

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis proposes a novel theory to account for the structural Case facts in Standard Arabic (SA). It argues that structural Nom and Acc Cases are licensed by Verbal Case (VC). Thus it argues against the proposal that structural Case in SA is licensed as a reflex of phi-agreement (Schütze 1997 and Chomsky 2001 crosslinguistically, and Soltan 2007 for SA), and also against the view that structural Case is a [uT] feature on the DP (Pesetsky & Torrego 2001, 2004). After arguing against these two approaches, it is shown that verbless sentences, where the verb is not licensed (by VC), do not witness the licensing of structural Case. Thus verbless sentences provide a context where verbs are not licensed, similar to the embedded subject position of control verbs like ‘try’ (where lexical DPs are not licensed). Investigation of the SA verbal system reveals that SA verbs are licensed through Case checking/assignment by verbal particles. Thus, like DPs, verbs receive a form of Case, which I call VC, represented as unvalued [VC] features on I0 and v*0. Since the VC-assigning particles are Comp elements, I propose that [VC] is valued on I0 and v*0 by a valued [VC] feature on Fin0 (via Agree), which enables I0 and v*0 to value the [Case] features on the subject and object as Nom and Acc, respectively. Thus the DP is licensed by the same feature that licenses the verb, which is VC. Given the observation that [T], [phi], and [Mood] do not license Case in SA, I argue for two types of finiteness, Infl-finiteness, related to [T], [Mood], and [phi], and Comp-finiteness, related to [VC]. To account for the Case facts in various SA sentence types, I propose that Fin0 has a [VC] feature iff it selects an XP that has (at least) one I-finiteness feature ([T], [Mood], [phi]) and a categorial [V] feature.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Toronto
  • Massam, Diane, Advisor, External person
  • Cowper, Elizabeth, Advisor, External person
  • Johns, Alana, Advisor, External person
  • Lasnik, Howard, Supervisor, External person
Award dateMar 20 2010
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


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