Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 651–697 | Cite as

The optionality of movement and EPP in Dholuo

  • Seth CableEmail author


This paper argues that the relatively free position of subjects in Dholuo (Nilo-Saharan; Kenya, Tanzania) provides remarkably clear evidence that the specifier positions of preverbal functional projections in the language need not be filled. In this sense, the language provides direct evidence for a strong parameterization of the classic EPP (or equivalent conditions), one that allows the existence of languages where no DP need occupy the specifier position of any verbal functional projection at any level of representation. Furthermore, it is shown that the optionality seen in subject raising extends to other movement types of the language, including wh-movement. This suggests a picture where the presence of an ‘EPP-feature’ Chomsky (2000) on a given functional head is systematically optional in the language. Finally, it is argued that the existence of a limited set of environments where subject raising is obligatory provides support for the theory of Agreement locality put forth by Bobaljik and Wurmbrand (2005).


EPP Dholuo Post-verbal subjects Subject positions Optional wh-movement Agreement locality 



Deepest thanks are owed to Milton Joshua Obote and Martina Achieng’, the principal language consultants for this project. Their generosity and patience are tremendous, and I am deeply grateful for the time they have given in helping me to learn their language. Erokamano ahinya kuom puonja! Special thanks are also owed to Mark Baker, Rajesh Bhatt, Viviane Déprez, Jane Grimshaw, Kyle Johnson, Angelika Kratzer, Caitlin Light, Ken Safir, Joel Wallenberg, Jim Wood, Ellen Woolford, and three anonymous reviewers for NLLT, for helpful comments and input upon earlier versions of this work. I’d also like to thank audiences at the University of Pennsylvania (NELS 41) and Rutgers University. Finally, I would like to thank the graduate students in Structure of a Non-Indo-European Language (UMass Amherst, Fall 2009): Noah Constant, Chloe Gu, Clint Hartzell, Suzi Lima, Kevin Mullin, Anisa Schardl, Pasha Siraj and Brian Smith.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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