On Formal Feature Licensing in Minimalism: Aspects of Standard Arabic Morphosyntax

Usama Soltan

This dissertation investigates a set of phenomena in Standard Arabic at the syntax-morphology interface, providing an analysis for each within the assumptions of the minimalist program, particularly those related to mechanisms of formal feature licensing. Among the issues discussed are the subject-verb agreement asymmetry, case-assignment, default agreement, nominative Themes, as well as interactions between tense, negation, and modality heads. In this regard, I provide an analysis for word order alternation in the language in terms of left dislocation rather than via movement, showing that the language does not show A-movement effects in SVO orders, passives, raising constructions, or object shift. The same is also shown to hold in what is usually referred to as raising-to-object constructions. The proposed analysis shows that formal features such as case and agreement can be licensed in absence of movement, a conclusion more compatible with the Agree-based approach to formal feature licensing in minimalism than with the Spec-head approach. Finally, I propose to extend Agree to head-head relations in the functional domain, accounting for the interesting, though rather intricate, paradigm of inflecting negatives as well as person-less imperatives in Standard Arabic and languages that exhibit similar behavior.