The optional subject of an imperative is usually the second person pronoun. I've found something quite peculiar in Malay, where the utterance is an imperative and is passive but the subject is not the second person.

Benda yang pelik jangan di-tegur     (*[oleh kamu])

Thing COMP weird NEG    PASS-mention (*[by 2.SG]) 

Don't mention things that are weird 

The context of this utterance is one where 2 persons notice something weird, thinking that it's a ghostly entity or something paranormal and one person mentions what s/he sees, smells or hears. It's something like the 'knock on wood' gesture. The active counterpart of this utterance is the following:

(Kamu) jangan tegur   benda yang pelik   

(2.SG) NEG    mention thing COMP weird   

(You) don't mention things that are weird

One can also focus-move the arguments:

Benda yang pelik jangan ditegur.

Jangan ditegur, benda yang pelik.

Benda yang pelik, jangan tegur.

Jangan tegur benda yang pelik.

In transformational grammar, it is said that the internal argument is raised and the thematic subject is turned into an optional adjunct by-phrase. Using the by-phrase in the utterance above is anomalous. However, an imperative necessarily needs a second person subject in English and Malay, but the utterance above demonstrates that there is a mix up somehow.

The negator "jangan" is a direct order which means "do not". This means that the subject absolutely has to be the second person. In English, it would be very strange to use "do not" with a 3rd person subject.

How is this utterance possibly an imperative when the grammatical subject is not the second person?

How can one register this utterance as an imperative when SpecIP has been occupied by the moved internal argument, not the second person?

  • 1
    Example 1 "Nothing is to be said about this outside these four walls." 3rd person passive optative. – Hugh Jul 13 '15 at 23:46
  • Example 2 "None of you are to be seen by the judges before the competition." 3rd/ ?2nd person passive optative/ ?imperative. – Hugh Jul 13 '15 at 23:59
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    @Hugh - Good examples, but what makes your examples different from the utterance at hand is that the negator "jangan" is a direct order, which means "do not", and necessarily requires the second person. Maybe I should add that to the question, for clarity's sake. – Morphosyntax Jul 14 '15 at 8:48
  • But from your analysis, it is clearly not true that jangan necessarily requires the second person. – Colin Fine Jul 14 '15 at 9:50
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    That's what makes it peculiar. "Jangan" semantically selects (I don't know whether this is the right term to use) a 2nd person subject, but on the surface, the subject is the moved internal argument. It's barely an analysis - more like an observation. – Morphosyntax Jul 14 '15 at 9:57

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