The paper deals with the non-typical structure and coding properties of ‘existential-like’ constructions in Colloquial Modern Hebrew (CMH), with reference to parallels in some major Indo-European languages. The construction explored consists of an invariable (neuter) predicate incorporating an empty referential subject (S) morpheme, plus an explicit postverbal NP representing the logic-semantic subject (S′) that is deficient in topicality and behaves like an O (though it is not a Patient argument). This construction exhibits inconsistency and instability in several aspects of its encoding.
Taking the structure-based approach as its starting point, the paper’s main argument is that the construction under investigation is a special impersonal construction displaying a split between the grammatical S and semantic S′. Typologically, it proposes a unified account of the construction in both synthetic inflectional languages like Hebrew, which do not require an expletive/dummy-subject, and in analytic inflectional languages like Germanic languages and French that do require it. The paper disputes the assumption that the postverbal NP in this construction is an O or an S that became an O.
The underlying assumption of the paper is that a construction is a form-meaning-function unit; accordingly, the construction at hand is examined not only from the structural and semantic viewpoint but also from the viewpoint of functional sentence perspective and the speaker’s perspectival choice with respect to the construal of the event.
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