Seeking control in modern standard arabic

Tali Arad Greshler, Nurit Melnik, Shuly Wintner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) has several embedded clause constructions, some of which resemble control in English (and other languages). However, these constructions exhibit some notable differences. Chief among them is the fact that the embedded verb carries agreement features that can indicate both coreference and disjoint reference between a matrix argument and the subject of the complement clause. Through a corpus-based investigation, informed by previous insights regarding the distinction between control and no control, we found no evidence of obligatory control predicates in MSA; these findings contradict accepted generalizations (and predictions) proposed by state-of-the-art theories of control. Nevertheless, although no obligatory control predicates were found, the backward pattern, where the single expressed subject occurs in the embedded clause, revealed morphosyntactic reflexes of the control vs. no control distinction. Coreference between the expressed embedded subject and the unexpressed matrix subject was found to be restricted to a set of predicates. The existence of backward control and its relation to the backward raising construction, also found in MSA, are especially relevant for current debates regarding the theory of control. We propose an analysis that ties together control, raising and restructuring.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA223
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

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  • Agreement
  • Control
  • Corpus
  • Modern Standard Arabic
  • Raising
  • Restructuring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


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