On Some Regularities of Subject and Topic Prominence

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Seong, Sang-Hwan
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서울대학교 교육종합연구원
SNU Journal of Education Research, Vol.7, pp. 79-97
typologysyntaxsemanticsgrammatical relationssubjecttopicGermanEnglishKorean
This paper investigates the prominence-typology of subject and topic in German and Korean, as opposed to those of English within the framework of Semantic Typology. We suggest that the grammatical properties of a given language can be identified along a continuum scalar model of typology of subject and topic parameter. By this typological parameter, we propose that grammatical relations of languages are coded with different motivations at both ends of the polarity. At the left extreme side of our system we find an English type language whose properties such as allegedly looser selectional restrictions for the verbs and greater freedom in the application of

raising (i.e., a broader structural description of the rule) may be noncoincidentally related to the greater "opacity" specific to the system.

These properties are argued to be closely linked to the presence of the structural subject position. Since this configurational system requires grammatical relations to be tndtspenslble to identifying arguments of

the clause, no cross-categorial mismatches are expected. At the opposite end of our system we find a Korean-type language in which a transparency principle motivates a more direct reflection of semantic roles in the morphology. Hence, when the clause is devoid of the most prime topical element such as agent, cross-categortal mismatches are expected to occur (e.g. dat - nom pattern including the word order). The

relative degree of the cross-categortal mismatches is also reflected in this parameter. Furthermore, our system stipulates that this transparency principle encompasses the relative degree of "topic

prominence" across the languages under investigation. Thus, the English subject is analysed as a "grammaticalized topic", whereas Korean retains an independent "topic category" in addition to the notion

of subject. Prima facie evidence for the topic prominence parameter is presented via a historical account involving Germanic languages.
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College of Education (사범대학)Center for Educational Research (교육종합연구원)SNU Journal of Education ResearchSNU Journal of Education Research vol.07 (1997)
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