Active Existential in Lithuanian: Remarks on Burzio’s Generalization

Milena Šereikaitė
Event time: 
Monday, October 19, 2020 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
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In this talk, Milena discusses how a thematic Voice, a projection that introduces an external argument theta-role, interacts with the assignment of structural accusative case. In the various theories about case, we find different versions of Burzio’s (1986)  generalization. For some, the assignment of accusative case is interpreted as dependent on the assignment of structural nominative (Marantz 1991, Woolford 2003, McFadden 2004, Preminger 2014). For others, φ-features, i.e., the weak implicit argument, in SpecVoiceP is sufficient for accusative to be assigned (Legate 2014). What all these theories have in common is that the structural accusative case is dependent on the presence of a syntactically projected external argument. Evidence from the Lithuanian active existential construction demonstrates that Lithuanian has a type of VoiceP that assigns structural accusative case in the absence of a syntactically projected external argument in SpecVoiceP. This construction is a violation of Burzio’s (1986) Generalization and its later versions suggesting that Burzio’s Generalization is not a linguistic universal, but rather a typological tendency. Milena offers a revised version of this generalization by proposing that while accusative case must be assigned by a thematic Voice, the assignment of accusative case by Voice may vary independently from the selection of a specifier.

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