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English Overt and Null Complementizers

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Shim Ji Young, Ihsane Tabea,
Project Selection at the interfaces
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Studies in Generative Grammar
Volume (Issue) 27.3
Page(s) 515 - 534
Title of proceedings Studies in Generative Grammar


Most studies on the distribution of the null complementizers in English assume that overt that clauses and null that clauses have the identical underlying structure, where the overt/null COMP represents a C head (Stowell 1981, a.o.). This predicts that both overt and null that clauses show (nearly) the same syntactic distribution, contrary to fact. This paper explores a new outlook of overt and null complementizers in clausal complements of both non-factive and factive predicates in English, building on the assumptions that (i) feature specification on C differs from language to language and (ii) languages also differ as to lexicalizing a subset of these features on C. Adopting Rizzi’s (1997) split CP structure with two C heads, Force and Finiteness, we suggest that null that clauses are FinPs, whereas overt that clauses have an extra functional layer above FinP, lexicalizing either the Force head under non-factive predicates or the light demonstrative head d under factive predicates. These three different underlying structures also successfully account for different syntactic patterns found between overt and null that clauses in various contexts.