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Müller, Stefan & Ørsnes, Bjarne: Positional Expletives in Danish, German, and Yiddish

This paper deals with expletives that are inserted into clauses for structural reasons. We will focus on the Germanic languages Danish, German, and Yiddish. In Danish and Yiddish expletives are inserted in preverbal position in certain wh-clauses: In Danish such an insertion is observed when the subject is locally extracted from an SVO configuration in non-assertive clauses. In Yiddish wh-clauses are formed from a wh-phrase and a V2 clause. If no element would be fronted in the embedded V2 clause, an expletive is inserted in non-assertive clauses in order to meet the V3 requirement for embedded clauses. In addition to embedded wh-clauses, declarative V2 clauses also allow the insertion of an expletive. In Danish the expletive fills the subject position and is not necessarily fronted. In German and Yiddish the expletive has to occur in fronted position. In contrast to Danish and Yiddish, German does not insert expletives into embedded wh-clauses. They are inserted only into declarative V2 clauses in order to fulfill the V2 requirement without having to front another constituent. In this paper we try to provide an account that captures the commonalities between the three languages while being able to account for the differences.


Maintained by Stefan Müller

Created: November 4, 2011
Last modified: January 09, 2019

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