Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 273–313

The representation of third person and its consequences for person-case effects

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11049-006-9017-2

Cite this article as:
Nevins, A. Nat Language Linguistic Theory (2007) 25: 273. doi:10.1007/s11049-006-9017-2


In modeling the effects of the Person-Case Constraint (PCC), a common claim is that 3rd person “is not a person”. However, while this claim does work in the syntax, it creates problems in the morphology. For example, characterizing the well-known “spurious se effect” in Spanish simply cannot be done without reference to 3rd person. Inspired by alternatives to underspecification that have emerged in phonology (e.g., Calabrese, 1995), a revised featural system is proposed, whereby syntactic agreement may be relativized to certain values of a feature, in particular, the contrastive and marked values. The range of variation in PCC effects is shown to emerge as a consequence of the parametric options allowed on a Probing head, whereas the representation of person remains constant across modules of the grammar and across languages.


Third person Spurious se Person case constraint Me lui Clitic clusters Multiple agree Person features Contrastive specification 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsHarvard UniversityCambridgeUK

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