Away you to bed: Postverbal imperative subjects from Scotland to Belfast
Andrew Weir
December 2017

I investigate postverbal imperative subjects in dialects of Scottish and Belfast English ('get you to bed'), ungrammatical in standard English. Henry 1995 reports that a wide range of unaccusative verbs allow for postverbal subjects in BelfE, but in the ScotE dialect considered here, only a very restricted subset of verbs allow it. The ScotE data cast doubt on Henry 1995's proposal that the licensor of postverbal subjects is weak agreement. I argue that the subjects in these constructions are actually external arguments of small clauses (of which goal-PPs are taken to be a subset, following e.g. Beck & Snyder 2001). The differences between dialects is located in the structure of resultatives; standard English resultatives are proposed to be interpreted via a rule of semantic composition similar to von Stechow 1995's Principle R, while in BelfE, interpretation is mediated by a [cause] feature, which can assign Case to the small clause's external argument. ScotE is an intermediate case, where only light motion verbs are endowed with Case-assigning [cause]. The paper also discusses a construction in ScotE where 'away' can appear without an overt verb and with a postverbal subject ('away you to bed'), analyzing the structure as containing a null [cause]-marked motion verb.
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Reference: lingbuzz/003784
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keywords: unaccusatives, imperatives, word order, scottish english, belfast english, microvariation, null motion verbs, syntax
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