Uniformity and diversity in the syntax of evaluative vocatives

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Original article

DOI: 10.1007/s10828-008-9017-1

Cite this article as:
Corver, N. J Comp German Linguistics (2008) 11: 43. doi:10.1007/s10828-008-9017-1


This article investigates the internal syntax of evaluative vocative expressions (e.g., You idiot!). This construction superficially consists of a second person pronoun and an epithet noun. It turns out that this construction type has different morphosyntactic manifestations across languages/dialects (abstractly: youNOM idiot!; youACC/OBL idiot!; your idiot!). The paper aims at giving a uniform account for the ‘underlying’ syntax of this construction type. It is argued that this construction has the ‘underlying’ syntax of a possessive noun phrase. More particularly, the second person pronoun starts out as (part of) a PP-predicate and undergoes leftward predicate displacement within the vocative noun phrase. The major dimensions of (morpho)syntactic diversity are related to the following properties: (1) the nature of the predicate displacement operation involved (i.e., predicate inversion and/or predicate fronting); (2) the overtness versus covertness of the small clause head X, which is part of the vocative expression; (3) the case form of the second person pronoun. According to the structural analysis proposed in this article, evaluative vocative expressions form a further illustration of the structural uniformity that is hidden behind superficial diversity.


Epithet Evaluative vocative Morphosyntactic variation Nominal copula Possessive noun phrase Predication Predicate displacement Spurious indefinite article 
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© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Utrecht Institute of Linguistics-OTSUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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