Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 381–457 | Cite as

The Malagasy Subject/Topic as an A′-Element

  • Matthew PearsonEmail author


As in other Philippine-type languages, clauses in Malagasy contain a structurally and referentially prominent DP constituent, the trigger, whose grammatical function is indicated by voice morphology on the verb. The trigger shares functional properties with both subjects and topics in other languages. In the Principles and Parameters literature, most researchers identify the trigger as a structural subject, located in the position where nominative case is checked. In this paper, I present evidence that the trigger occupies an A′-position comparable to that of topics in verb-second languages such as Icelandic. I also consider some of the consequences of this analysis– I suggest that voice morphology in Malagasy, rather than marking relation-changing operations like passive, (indirectly) encodes the abstract case features of the A′-chain linked to the trigger, making it akin to wh-agreement in Chamorro. In addition, I argue for a non-traditional treatment of the well-known A′-extraction restrictions in Malagasy, usually captured by means of a language-specific constraint prohibiting extraction of non-subjects. Treating the trigger as a topic rather than a subject, I propose that wh-movement competes with topicalization for the same A′-position (as in verb-second languages), rendering the two operations mutually exclusive within a clause.


Artificial Intelligence Functional Property Abstract Case Case Feature Nominative Case 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsReed CollegePortlandUSA

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