This paper is concerned with the empirical properties and the theoretical analysis of a particular type of inversion construction, attested in the Bantu language Zulu (S42), in which the grammatical subject refers to an instrument with which the action expressed by the verb is performed. While the instrument subject NP agrees with and precedes the verb, all thematic arguments, including the logical subject, remain in the VP. The analysis proposed in the paper argues that the syntax of instrument inversion includes the functional category Pr (for "predication"; Bowers 1993), which also projects in non-verbal predicate constructions in Zulu. In instrument inversion constructions, Pr selects the VP as its complement, and the instrument NP is introduced in [Spec, Pr] as the "external" argument of the VP. Based on Chomsky's (2000, 2001) theory of phases, the paper argues that the projection of PrP renders VP-internal arguments "invisible" for higher functional heads. This explains why post-verbal NPs in instrument inversion constructions cannot participate in agreement relations and, consequently, can neither be passivized nor object-marked.
Selected Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages in Context
edited by Michael R. Marlo, Nikki B. Adams, Christopher R. Green, Michelle Morrison, and Tristan M. Purvis
Table of contents