Tag Archives: control

A Question of Alignment XI: Control

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.

All articles in this series: Typological Considerations · ‘Trigger Languages’ · Definition of Terms · Some General Observations · Verb agreement · Syntactic Pivot · Quantifier Float · Relativization · Control of Secondary Predicates · Raising · Control · Conclusion


Control verbs behave basically in the opposite way of raising verbs: the subject of the subordinate verb is also an argument of the verb in the matrix clause—subject or object—and this argument acts as a controller for the subject of the subordinate verb. The main clause predicate thus is thought to assign two thematic roles. In GG it is assumed that the subject of the lower clause is a silent PRO element which is coindexed with the controller (Carnie 2013: 442–445, 451).

    1. Subject control:

      Johni tries [that Johni gets a job]
      = Johni tries [PROi to tPRO get a job]

    2. Object control:

      The officer ordered Maryi [that Maryi turn back]
      = The officer ordered Maryi [PROi to tPRO turn back]

Kroeger (1991) refers to subject control as ‘Equi’ and reports that according to Schachter (1976: 505), it is typically the actor of the subordinate verb that is the target of deletion. At first sight this would be a strong argument in favor of defining the actor NP as the subject, however, he notes that under certain circumstances, “the controllee in a transitive complement clause [is allowed] to be either the Actor (regardless of case marking) or the argument which bears nominative case” (Kroeger 1991: 37). This is the case, for instance, with himukin ‘persuade’ and magpilit ‘insist on’. Subordinate verbs marked for non-volitive mood form an exception as well (36–37, also 96–97). Kroeger (1991) illustrates the main pattern of control in Tagalog with the following set of example sentences in (2).

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 37):

While the nominative argument of the subordinate verb changes between the actor in (2a), the theme in (2b), and the recipient in (2c), it is always the actor which is dropped as the coreferential argument. Why the example sentences in (2) use balak ‘plan, intend’ in its object-voice form is not explained. However, Kroeger (1991) mentions that “alternation in the voice category of the matrix verb and the case marking of the controller does not affect the control relation” (37). In other words: whether the actor in the matrix clause is the subject or not does not matter; for Tagalog’s equivalent of subject-control verbs the control relationship always finds its origin in the actor argument, although there are a few exceptions, as mentioned above. The set in (3) presents an interesting example of (‘obligatory’) control based on the patient/theme argument in Tagalog’s equivalent of object-control verbs.

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 93–94):

Regarding (3ab), Kroeger (1991) explains that “when the complement verb appears in its volitive (unmarked) form, the controllee must be the Actor of the embedded clause” (93). Thus, Maria cannot be the patient subject in (3b), since she is still the controllee. If the verb of the embedded clause is marked for non-volitive mood as in (3c), however, the sentence becomes grammatical: “When the embedded verb is marked for non-volitive mood, the pattern is reversed: the controllee must be the subject, and not the Actor. Actor gaps cannot be controlled in non-volitive complements” (94). The difference between obligatory and non-obligatory control adds a further complication to acceptability, but these details do not need to preoccupy us for the purpose of comparison to Ayeri, which lacks these distinctions.

As previously with raising verbs, it is possible in Ayeri to combine a subordinating verb with a full complement clause (4a), an embedded IP complement (4b), or complete incorporation (4c). In both (4a) and (4b) cases, it is necessarily the actor which is coreferened, as the bottom arrow shows. In (4c), the bottom arrow does not show coreference, but the relation of verb agreement. The arrow on top, as before, shows what the respective verb picks as the clause’s topic for all example sentences.

As with raising verbs, the embedded and incorporated verbs appear in a non-finite form, the participle. For (4b) the reason may be that there is no overt agent in the clause with which to agree, and agreement with the patient does not make sense here because the clause does not express a passive either. In (4c) the reason may be that the main verb already carries person features. If the topic marking on the finite verb is altered as in (5), the meaning of the sentences does not change with regards to grammatical relations and voice, giving us yet more reason to assume that the agent is the grammatical subject, and that topic marking has no influence on these matters. Ayeri thus has actual subject-control verbs in the way English has them.

In object-control constructions, the object of the matrix clause’s verb is an actual argument of it, as shown in (6). This argument becomes the subject of the embedded clause, and there is no change in the meaning of the verb between both versions of sentences. We have seen above that Ayeri does not allow to-object raising, since it is not possible to assign patient case to an external agent because Ayeri’s case marking is not purely based on grammatical functions, but there is still also some semantic motivation. Ayeri does, however, allow object control, so it seems to be possible at least to implicitly convert the matrix clause’s patient or theme to the agent of the embedded clause, while the opposite is apparently not possible. Whether syntactic precedence or some kind of accessibility hierarchy is involved here still needs to be investigated.

    1. John asked [Mary to give Peter the book]
      = John asked Mary
    2. The teacher instructs [the students to calculate parables]
      = The teacher instructs the students
    3. I persuaded [my friend to come along]
      = I persuaded my friend

The example sentences in (7) follow the format of those above. Again, it is generally possible to use a complement clause as in (7a) or (7b), as well as complementing the verb in the matrix clause with a non-finite clause with object control (7c). However, the incorporation strategy is not possible here because this would cause a doubling of case roles (7d). As we will see below, however, this is not an issue for intransitive complement clauses.

Strictly speaking, it does not matter in (7a) and (7b) whether the coreferenced argument is the topic in both clauses or not; it is simply not unlikely that it is. Again, topicalization does not have an effect on grammatical relations—although it was shown above that Tagalog, in the canonical case, deviates from its normal behavior as well with regards to control verbs to the point where this construction has been used as an argument in favor of the actor argument being the subject. As for Ayeri, unlike in coordinated main clauses, topicalization is not a strategy for disambiguation of several possible controllers for the pronominal agent of the complement/embedded clause here. Due to the semantics of the verb in the matrix clause, it is clear that the patient argument is to be understood as the agent of the subordinate verb. Thus, there is no ambiguity in anaphoric reference in the complement clause.

  • Carnie, Andrew. Syntax: A Generative Introduction. 3rd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. Print. Introducing Linguistics 4.
  • Kroeger, Paul R. Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. Diss. Stanford University, 1991. Web. 17 Dec. 2016. ‹http://www.gial.edu/wp-content/uploads/paul_kroeger/PK-thesis-revised-all-chapters-readonly.pdf›.
  • Schachter, Paul. “The Subject in Philippine Languages: Topic, Actor, Actor-Topic, or None of the Above?” Subject and Topic. Ed. Charles N. Li. New York: Academic P, 1976. 493–518. Print.

A Question of Alignment IX: Control of Secondary Predicates

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.

All articles in this series: Typological Considerations · ‘Trigger Languages’ · Definition of Terms · Some General Observations · Verb agreement · Syntactic Pivot · Quantifier Float · Relativization · Control of Secondary Predicates · Raising · Control · Conclusion


Secondary predicates in Tagalog are interesting insofar as depictive adjectives which occur after the verb always modify the nominative argument:

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 29–30):

Kroeger (1991: 30) explains that (1c) is anomalous, since the subject is indicated as ang isda ‘the fish’, however, lasing ‘drunk’ is not a property usually associated with fish—it would fit better with ‘Maria’. However, this interpretation would be ungrammatical since ‘Maria’ is not the subject of the clause.

Secondary predicates in Ayeri also follow the finite verb, and they refer to the agent. If what was identified as the topic would be the subject like in Tagalog, thus, the reference of the adjective should change in the way shown in (1). However, as we will see below, this is not the case.

In (2a), the topic NP, Migray, happens to be the same NP that is modified by the secondary predicate, gino ‘drunk’: Migray is drunk. However, (2b) generates the same reading even though this time, sangal ‘the room’ is marked as the topic of the clause. A reading in which the room is drunk cannot be forced by morphological means, although it needs to be pointed out that predicative adjectives relating to the object inhabit the same postverbal position. Considering structure alone, the sentence in (2b) is ambiguous, though context certainly favors the reading provided in the translation of (2b), since ‘drunk’ is not typically a property of rooms.

Different than in (2), the adjective in (3), sati ‘cold’, refers to the object of the clause, kangaley ‘milk’, even though kangaley is not the topic of the clause. By structure alone, Niyas could also be the one who is cold, rather than the milk, however, this would be unlikely considering context and extralinguistic experience. Equally unlikely is the possible interpretation of the milk becoming cold by Niyas’ drinking it.

Different than in Tagalog, thus, it is not morphology but the meaning of the verb which determines whether the postverbal predicative adjective refers to the agent or the patient.1 However, since in Ayeri, the predicative adjective following the verb can refer to either the agent or the patient depending on context, this test does not have a very clear outcome. At least we could establish here that alternations in the morphological marking of the privileged NP—tentatively, the topic—has no impact on the relation between adjective and noun. The marking on the verb is thus not used for manipulating grammatical relations in this context, unlike in Tagalog.

  1. Unfortunately, Kroeger (1991) does not provide any examples of object predicatives in Tagalog, and neither does Schachter and Otanes (1972) readily contain information on these.

Subordinating Verbs: A Small Blast from the Past

I was recently thinking about this with regards to writing my New and Improved (tee-em) grammar of Ayeri and my previous post on subordinating verbs. I saw subordinating verbs as posing the problem of putting too much stuff in the constituent that holds the verb. As a solution, I described moving the complement of the main verb into a finite complement clause if it’s more than intransitive. However, when I did some analysis of verbs yesterday to maybe shed some light on the alternation between -isa and -isu in deverbal adjectives, I came across the following example sentence in the entry for pinya ‘ask’, entered October 24, 2008:

  1. Sa
    Sa
    PT
    pinyayāng
    pinya=yāng
    ask=3SG.M.A
    ye
    ye
    3SG.F.TOP
    rimayam
    rima-yam
    close-PTCP
    silvenoley.
    silveno-ley
    window-P.INAN

    ‘Her he asks to close the window.’

Material from 2008 is not quite fresh anymore, but going through my example texts, I also found the following sentence fragment in the 2010/11 Conlang Holiday Card Exchange (interlinear glossing updated to current standards):

  1. nārya
    nārya
    but
    le
    le
    PT.INAN
    tavisayang
    tavisa=yang
    receive=1S.A
    takan
    takan-Ø
    chance-TOP
    incam
    int-yam
    buy-PTCP
    dagangyeley
    dangang-ye-ley
    card-PL-P.INAN

    ‘but I got the chance to buy cards’

In both cases, the subordinating verb is transitive: (1) ‘he asks her’, (2) ‘I got the chance’; pinya- ‘ask’ in (1) is a raising an object-control verb (the logical subject of the subordinate verb is the object of the verb in the matrix clause), while int- ‘buy’ in (2) should simply be an infinite clausal complement. However, in both cases we do neither get the complement awkwardly placed in the middle, nor are the sentences rephrased so as to result in a finite complement clause or a nominalized complement to avoid the infinite verb form:

    1. ??
      Sa
      Sa
      PT
      pinyayāng
      pinya=yāng
      ask=3SG.M.A
      rimayam
      rima-yam
      close-PTCP
      silvenoley
      silveno-ley
      window-P.INAN
      ye.
      ye
      3SG.F.TOP

      ‘Her he asks to close the window.’
    2. Pinyayāng,
      pinya=yāng,
      ask=3SG.M.A,
      ang
      ang
      AT
      rimaye
      rima=ye.Ø
      close=3SG.F.TOP
      silvenoley.
      silveno-ley
      window-P.INAN

      ‘He asks that she closes the window.’

    1. nārya
      nārya
      but
      le
      le
      PT.INAN
      tavisayang
      tavisa=yang
      receive=1S.A
      takan
      takan-Ø
      chance-TOP
      intanena
      intan-ena
      purchase-GEN
      dagangyena
      dangang-ye-na
      card-PL-GEN

      ‘but I got the chance of a purchase of cards’
    2. nārya
      nārya
      but
      le
      le
      PT.INAN
      tavisayang
      tavisa=yang
      receive=1S.A
      takan,
      takan-Ø,
      chance-TOP,
      ang
      ang
      AT
      incay
      int=ay.Ø
      buy=1SG.TOP
      dagangyeley
      dangang-ye-ley
      card-PL-P.INAN

      ‘but I got the chance that I buy cards’

Both constructions, (1) and (2) are not widely attested in my materials, and the new grammar doc as it currently is does not rule out cases like (2), insofar I only need to make up my mind about constructions like in (1): continue allowing them as a variant, declare them ungrammatical, or simply ignore them? In the first case I might be required to keep a VP or a functional equivalent of it, after all, since there would be a post-subject position associated with verbs, then. In any case, raising and control should be interesting topics to come to terms with in my conlang.