IP internal movement and topicalization

Date of Completion

January 2009


Language, Linguistics|Language, Modern




In this dissertation, I investigate the phenomenon of internal topicalization cross-linguistically, using Chinese as a starting point. Internal topicalization refers to constructions in which a topic phrase is placed between the subject and the verb (in contrast to external topicalization, which involves a topic in the CP domain). I argue that internal topics do not occupy a fixed position (such as the specifier of a topic phrase, which is the case with external topic), but can occur in any projection of the IP domain—the location of internal topics can range from Spec ModalP to Spec νP. This proposal explains, among others, why multiple Left Dislocation internal topics are not possible, why only DP internal topics are allowed, and why animate nominals cannot be internal topics. I also show that an animate internal topic is only possible when it is accompanied by a differential object marker, which, I argue, can be realized by various prepositional and verbal forms in Chinese. ^ Furthermore, I propose that certain seemingly independent and unrelated optional movement constructions to the IP domain in Chinese can be subsumed under the premise of internal topicalization. These optional movements include object preposing, the Chinese BA construction, possessor raising, light verb constructions and the descriptive V-de construction. A detailed investigation of the syntactic and information structure properties of these constructions shows important similarities, which receive an explanation if these constructions involve the same kind of operation—internal topicalization. I show that internal topicalization offers a new approach to several long-standing puzzles of the syntactic behavior of these constructions. ^ Finally, I extend my proposals based on Chinese to similar constructions in other languages, in particular, possessor raising in Korean and Japanese, and light verb constructions in Japanese. Although there are also different proposals regarding these constructions, I pursue the idea of a unified explanation of all these constructions by resorting to internal topicalization, which promotes the idea that topicalization is a pervasive phenomenon cross-linguistically. ^