Coding and behaviour of Estonian subjects

  • Helena Metslang University of Tartu and Tallinn University
Keywords: subject, subject-like arguments, grammatical relations, coding, syntactic behaviour, construction grammar


This study is a construction-specific approach to subjecthood in Estonian. It has grown out of Croft’s (2001) view that due to the diversity of the syntactic roles’ distribution across constructions, there is a need for a shift in grammars to construction- specific syntactic roles. However, in order to compare different arguments, it is also necessary to employ a global cross-constructional subject category. This study treats subjecthood as a set of properties that is represented on arguments to a different degree. The study provides a comprehensive analysis of Estonian prototypical subjects and subject-like arguments (10 in total) from the viewpoint of a large number of morphosyntactic criteria (16). The study is an attempt to apply multivariate analysis on the arguments’ syntactic behaviour research. The paper claims that most Estonian subject-like arguments only show subjecthood properties to a limited degree. Supportive data is provided for the Hierarchy of Grammatical Relations Constructions.


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