The syntax and semantics of Modern Standard Arabic resumptive tough-constructions

  • 1 Savoirs, Textes, Langage (STL UMR 8163 - CNRS), Université de Lille - Sciences Humaines et Sociales, Rue du Barreau BP 60149, Villeneuve-d’Ascq Cedex, France
Fayssal Tayalati
  • Corresponding author
  • Savoirs, Textes, Langage (STL UMR 8163 - CNRS), Université de Lille - Sciences Humaines et Sociales, Rue du Barreau BP 60149, Villeneuve-d’Ascq Cedex, 59653, France
  • Email
  • Search for other articles:
  • degruyter.comGoogle Scholar
and Lieven DanckaertORCID iD:


This paper is concerned with a hitherto undiscussed type of tough-construction in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). Our starting point is the observation that the tough-adjective in this construction invariably displays nominative masculine singular morphology, a pattern of ‘default’ agreement which does not seem to occur elsewhere in the grammar of MSA. At a semantic level, the relevant adjective is argued to form a complex predicate with a deverbal nominalization that acts as its complement: together, these two elements indirectly modify the subject noun phrase. To explain the default agreement pattern, we propose that MSA tough-constructions involve two distinct subjects, viz. a phonologically null expletive subject which controls agreement on the tough-adjective, and a Broad Subject which acts as the semantic subject of the whole construction. We show that there is independent evidence for the existence of both null expletives and Broad Subjects in MSA.

  • Akatsuka, Noriko. 1979. Why tough-movement is impossible with possible. Chicago Linguistic Society (CLS) 15. 1–8.

  • Al Sharifi, Budour & Louisa Sadler. 2009. The adjectival construct in Arabic. In Miriam Butt & Tracy Holloway King (eds.), Proceedings of LFG09, 26–43. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

  • Alexopoulou, Theodora, Edit Doron & Caroline Heycock. 2004. Broad subjects and Clitic Left Dislocation. In David Adger, Cécile De Cat & George Tsoulas (eds.), Peripheries: Syntactic edges and their effects, 329–358. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  • Alexopoulou, Theodora & Dimitra Kolliakou. 2002. On linkhood, topicalization and Clitic Left Dislocation. Journal of Linguistics 38. 193–245.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Anagnostopoulou, Elena. 1994. Clitic dependencies in Modern Greek. Salzburg: University of Salzburg dissertation.

  • Aoun, Joseph & Elabbas Benmamoun. 1998. Minimality, reconstruction and PF movement. Linguistic Inquiry 29. 569–597.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Aoun, Joseph, Elabbas Benmamoun & Lina Choueiri. 2010. The syntax of Arabic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Authier, Jean-Marc & Lisa Reed. 2009. French tough-movement revisited. Probus 21. 1–21.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Borsley, Robert, Maggie Tallerman & David Willis. 2007. The syntax of Welsh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Bosque, Ignacio & Ángel Gallego. 2011. Spanish double passives and related structures. Linguística 6. 9–50.

  • Bowers, John. 1993. The syntax of predication. Linguistic Inquiry 24. 591–656.

  • Cardinaletti, Anna. 1997. Subjects and clause structure. In Liliane Haegeman (ed.), The new comparative syntax, 33–63. London: Longman.

  • Cardinaletti, Anna. 2004. Towards a cartography of subject positions. In Luigi Rizzi (ed.), The cartography of CP and IP, 115–165. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Cardinaletti, Anna & Michal Starke. 1999. The typology of structural deficiency. In Henk van Riemsdijk (ed.), Clitics in the languages of Europe, 145–233. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Cinque, Guglielmo. 1990. Types of Ā-dependencies. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

  • Comrie, Bernard & Stephen Matthews. 1990. Prolegomena to a typology of tough movement. In William Croft, Suzanne Kemmer & Keith Denning (eds.), Studies in typology and diachrony, 43–58. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

  • Dikken, Marcel den. 2006. Relators and linkers. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

  • Doron, Edit & Caroline Heycock. 1999. Filling and licensing multiple specifiers. In David Adger, Susan Pintzuk, Bernadette Plunkett & George Tsoulas (eds.), Specifiers: Minimalist approaches, 69–89. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Engelhardt, Miriam. 2002. Nominal tough-constructions. In Jamal Ouhalla & Ur Shlonsky (eds.), Themes in Arabic and Hebrew syntax, 189–215. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  • Fassi Fehri, Abdelkader. 1993. Issues in the structure of Arabic clauses and words. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  • Giurgea, Ion. 2016. Romanian tough-constructions and multi-headed constituents. In Christina Tortora, Marcel den Dikken, Ignacio Montoya & Teresa O’Neill (eds.), Romance linguistics 2013, 119–138. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

  • Giurgea, Ion & Elena Soare. 2010. Predication and the nature of non-finite relatives in Romance. In Ana Maria Di Sciullo & Virginia Hill (eds.), Edges, heads, and projections, 191–214. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

  • Grimshaw, Jane. 1990. Argument structure. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

  • Guérin, Valérie. 2006. On tough constructions in French. University of Hawaï at Manoa Working Papers in Linguistics 37. 1–21.

  • Hartman, Jeremy. 2011. (Non-)intervention in A-movement. Linguistic Variation 11. 121–148.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Hazout, Ilan. 2000. Adjectival genitive constructions in Modern Hebrew. The Linguistic Review 17. 29–52.

  • Hicks, Glyn. 2017. Tough-movement. In Martin Everaert & Henk van Riemsdijk (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell companion to syntax, 2nd edn. doi:.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Kayne, Richard. 1994. The antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

  • Keine, Stefan & Ethan Poole. 2017. Intervention in tough-constructions revisited. The Linguistic Review 34. 295–329.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Kim, Boomee. 1995. Predication in tough constructions. West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL) 14. 271–285.

  • Koster, Jan. 1984. On binding and control. Linguistic Inquiry 15. 417–459.

  • Kratzer, Angelika. 1996. Severing the external argument from its verb. In Johan Rooryck & Laurie Zaring (eds.), Phrase structure and the lexicon, 109–137. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  • Kremers, Joost 2003. The noun phrase in Arabic: A minimalist approach. Nijmegen: University of Nijmegen dissertation.

  • Kremers, Joost. 2005. Adjectival constructs in Arabic. Linguistische Berichte 203. 331–348.

  • Kremers, Joost. 2007. Masdar formation. In Harald Motzki & Everhard Ditters (eds.), Approaches to Arabic linguistics, 475–499. Leiden: Brill.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Lees, Robert. 1960. A multiply ambiguous adjectival construction in English. Language 36. 207–221.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Longobardi, Giuseppe. 1994. Reference and proper names: A theory of N-movement in syntax and LF. Linguistic Inquiry 25. 609–665.

  • McCloskey, James. 1997. Subjecthood and subject positions. In Liliane Haegeman (ed.), Elements of grammar, 197–235. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Mohammad, Mohammad. 1990. The problem of subject-verb agreement in Arabic. In Mushira Eid (ed.), Perspectives on Arabic linguistics I, 95–125. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

  • Mohammad, Mohammad. 2000. Word order, agreement and pronominalization in Standard and Palestinian Arabic. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

  • Polotsky, Hans Jacob. 1978. A point of Arabic syntax: The indirect attribute. Israel Oriental Studies 8. 159–174.

  • Rizzi, Luigi. 1997. The fine structure of the left periphery. In Liliane Haegeman (ed.), Elements of grammar, 281–337. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Rothstein, Susan. 1995. Pleonastics and the interpretation of pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 26. 499–529.

  • Ryding, Karin. 2005. A reference grammar of Modern Standard Arabic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Siloni, Tal. 2002. Adjectival constructs and inalienable constructions. In Jamal Ouhalla & Ur Shlonsky (eds.), Themes in Arabic and Hebrew syntax, 161–187. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  • Tayalati, Fayssal. 2014. Nominalisations événementielles et alternance causative/non-causative en arabe standard. Langue et Linguistique 33/34. 21–57.

  • Van de Velde, Danièle. 2017. Tough-adjectives. Unpublished manuscript, University of Lille.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Log in with your institution

Journal + Issues

The official journal of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE), Folia Linguistica covers all non-historical areas in the traditional disciplines of general linguistics, and also sociological, discoursal, computational and psychological aspects of language and linguistic theory. Folia Linguistica Historica is exclusively devoted to diachronic linguistics (both historical and comparative) and to the history of linguistics.