Poster: Distinguishing Clause-Typing and Subject Positions in Imperatives

March 22–24, 2013
Penn Linguistics Colloquium 37, Philadelphia, PA


The concept of clause typing, first introduced in Cheng (1991), has been applied to imperatives in several different ways. Han (2000) attributes imperative clause typing to the C head, while Zanuttini et al. (2012) attribute imperativity to a Jussive Operator, and require agreement between C0 and the subject of the clause. Another approach requires all of TP to raise into the CP field to be typed (Koopman 2007).

I present evidence that English imperatives have a fixed structural hierarchy that distinguishes the clause-typing and subject positions, with an intervening layer for focal information structure. These data also preclude a movement-driven method of clause typing.

Left-Peripheral Functions: There are several basic clausal functions encoded in the left periphery: matrix vs. subordinate status, clause typing, information structure, and (in some languages) subject licensing. Following Haegeman’s (2004) argument that English lacks low topics, these functions form three layers in English (1).

The highest head, i.e. C0, bears features [±Sub, Force{dec/int/imp}, ±Topic] for the three categories it subsumes. Because these features are encoded together, they are not in free variation. For example, there is no [–Sub, imp, +Topic] complementizer in English. As a result, non-contrastive topics are barred from imperatives (2–3).

Focus > Subject > Verb: However, contrastive topics are available in English imperatives (4), and appear in a fronted position. They cannot raise to Spec CP, because they are incompatible with C0 [–Sub, imp, –Top]. Their order relative to the subject and imperative verb (4–7) indicates that they occupy the only available information-structural position, Spec FocusP.

Method of clause typing: The above word order facts preclude a clause-typing method that requires movement. The imperative verb cannot raise head-to-head into the clause-typing position C0 (cf. Han 2000), as that generates the unacceptable order in (7). Even in the absence of a topic this is impossible: *Read you the book!

Nor can a phrasal constituent headed by V be moved into Spec CP, as is required in Koopman’s (2007) model of clause typing. Doing so would either require FinP to be moved over a filled Spec FocusP position—a minimality violation—or require V to first raise to Focus, yielding the order in (5).

Locus of clause typing: There is direct evidence that Spec CP is filled with an operator in imperative clauses. Embedded imperatives (Crnic and Trinh 2009) do not permit extraction of a Wh-element (8), which would have to pass through Spec CP. However, infinitival embedded commands lack a CP layer and allow extraction (9).

Zanuttini et al. (2012) places the Jussive projection below the CP layer in a combined T-Jussive Phrase. An additional mechanism disallowing extraction would be necessary to maintain clause typing in that position. The simplest way to account for all clause types is to perform typing in ForceP.

Imperative subjects: Imperatives can have second person or quantificational subjects (10); other DPs are not permissible (11). Proper names and definite descriptions may be acceptable if presented in a pair/list fashion (12). The requirement is that imperative subjects must be capable of being domain-restricted by the set of addressees. Since this requirement does not hold for declarative subjects in Spec TP, I propose that imperative subjects raise to Spec FinP, where it is enforced. This also matches the word order patterns found in imperatives (4–7). I leave the details of the syntax/semantics interface of subjects in FinP to future research.

Thus English imperatives exhibit a three-level structure:
clause typing in CP > contrastive topicalization in FocusP > subject licensing in FinP. Examples
(1) Subordination/Force/Topic > Focus > Finiteness

(2) *The book, buy ___!
(3) The book, John bought ___.

(4) These stocks everyone buy ___ immediately! (Those avoid at all costs!)     ✔ Focus > Subject > Verb
(5) *These stocks buy everyone immediately!    * Focus > Verb > Subject
(6) *Everyone these stocks buy immediately!    * Subject > Focus > Verb
(7) **Buy these stocks everyone immediately!    * Verb > Focus > Subject

(8) *Where did Johni say [Op ØIMP send hisi mother ___]?
(9) Where did John say [to send his mother ___]?

(10) Everybody / Somebody / Nobody / You / Ø sit down!
(11) *A man / *People / *My friend sit down!
(12) OK: Mary sit down! The man in the blue shirt come to the front!