Taking case out of the Person-Case Constraint

  • Adrian StegovecEmail author


The Person-Case Constraint (pcc) is a restriction on co-occurring weak pronominal direct (do) and indirect objects (io) that restricts the person value of the do. This article presents a previously unnoticed variant of the pcc found in Slovenian, where the canonical pcc operates alongside a reverse pcc, where the restriction applies to the io. This pattern is not predicted by standard syntactic approaches to the pcc (which rely on inherent asymmetries between the io and do). It is argued that the pcc (in all its forms) arises with pronouns that are inherently unspecified for a person value and need to receive it externally from a functional head via Agree. The structurally higher pronoun blocks the structurally lower pronoun from receiving a person value, giving rise to the pcc. The reverse pcc then arises due to optional do-over-io clitic movement prior to person valuation. The proposed analysis is shown to capture cross-linguistic variation regarding the pcc including the Strong/Weak pcc split, which is attributed to a variation in the structure of pronouns. The article also establishes a cross-linguistic typology of the reverse pcc, where the reverse pcc exists exclusively as an optional pattern alongside the baseline pcc pattern.


Agree Clitic movement Deficient pronouns Minimal pronouns Person-Case Constraint Slovenian Unvalued interpretable features 



I thank Amy Rose Deal, Jonathan Bobaljik, Željko Bošković, Paula Fenger, Steven Franks, Laura Kalin, Ivona Kučerova, Troy Messick, Andrew Nevins, Jairo Nunes, Roumyana Pancheva, Omer Preminger, Mamoru Saito, Koji Shimamura, Susi Wurmbrand, and Michelle Yuan for their comments, suggestions, and valuable discussion. I would also like to thank for their feedback the audiences at the UConn LingLunch (October 2014), NELS 45 (MIT), WCCFL 33 (SFU), FASL 24 (NYU), ECO-5 (Harvard), Agreement Across Borders (University of Zadar), and the University of Nova Gorica (January 2015). Special thanks go to the speakers who took part in my survey on the pcc in Slovenian. This paper improved greatly thanks to comments from four anonymous NLLT reviewers, as well as the editor Julie Legate. Finally, I would like to again thank Jonathan, Susi, and especially Željko, for reading and commenting on my drafts and for their guidance. The remaining errors are my own.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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