Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 115–135 | Cite as

On subject reference and the cartography of clause types

A commentary on the paper by Biswas
  • Thomas McFaddenEmail author


In this commentary, I will critically discuss Priyanka Biswas’ contribution to this volume (2013), in which she examines the properties of five types of clauses headed by participial verb forms in Bangla and proposes an account of their sometimes novel properties in terms of Landau (2004)’s theory of control. I will take Biswas’ empirical analysis as a starting point for a broader discussion of finiteness and the relationship between different types of embedded clauses and the kinds of subjects they allow. I will argue that the theoretical treatment Biswas herself adopts does not allow a proper explanation of the connection, and will propose a distinct approach in terms of differential clause sizes. While this approach will remain highly speculative, I will argue that it at least allows us to formulate falsifiable hypotheses with testable predictions, and thus could serve as the foundation for a truly insightful theory of the distribution of subject types.


Finiteness Cartography Subjects Case Control Embedding Clause-size Bangla 



I would like to thank Priyanka Biswas, Gillian Ramchand, Sandhya Sundaresan and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper, as well as Rajesh Bhatt, Janne Bondi Johannessen, Per Erik Solberg, Tarald Taraldsen, Susi Wurmbrand and the audience of a recent talk given at UMass Amherst for discussion of related work presented in other forms. Special thanks are also due to the participants of the FiSAL conference in Tromsø for stimulating papers and discussion, and especially to Priyanka Biswas for the careful and thought-provoking paper that led to this commentary.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)BerlinGermany

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