Inherent case in Archaic Chinese

Edith Aldridge


This paper proposes an analysis of subject case in Late Archaic Chinese (LAC). By examining the distribution of first person pronominal subjects, I conclude that there were two distinct morphological cases for subjects in LAC. One of these pronouns, 我 , valued structural nominative case, while the other one, 吾 , was marked with a different case. The occurrence of 吾 as the external argument of experiencer and modal predicates clearly suggests that this case was at least sometimes inherent case assigned to the external argument in [Spec, vP]. 吾 also functioned as the subject of relative clauses, embedded subjunctive clauses, and irrealis matrix clauses. Since the case valued in these clause types was not sensitive to predicate types, I propose that the source of the case valued by the subject in these environments was T. Working within Chomsky’s (2008) C-T Inheritance framework, I propose that Inheritance did not take place in indicative clauses, so the subject moved to [Spec, CP] to value nominative case. A first person pronoun with nominative case was spelled out as 我 . But Inheritance was forced if another constituent needed to occupy [Spec, CP]. I propose that relative clauses and irrealis/subjunctive clauses are all derived through operator movement. Because the operator must occupy [Spec, CP], C-T Inheritance must also take place, forcing the subject to move to [Spec, TP] to value its case. The case valued in this position was also the non-nominative form exemplified by the first person pronoun 吾 .


C-T Inheritance; inherent case; nominalization; irrealis mood; subjunctive

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