These are my conditions for detecting an expletive position:

  • if spec IP has been assigned non 'null' Case and is not theta marked.

However, after this I struggle to choose between 'it' and 'there'.

I read that 'it' takes a CP associate and 'there' takes an NP associate. I need to implement this in code and don't understand the logic to detect the associate (to clarify, one doesn't need to know code to answer the question, they only need to understand the logic given an x-bar tree).

This is in context of 'The Minimalist Program' by Chomsky, and 'Government and Binding Theory' by Haegeman.

2 Answers 2


As I explained in my answer to another question of yours, the 'association' between 'dummies' and their 'associates' is chain-formation: 'dummy it' a) has no valued Thematic role feature, but b) it has a valued Category feature(= CP), c) a valued Case feature (nominative, when it occurs in subject position, objective, as in I expect it to be clear that I am just a beginner, or oblique, as in You can depend on it that I mean no harm at all), and d) a valued Number feature (always singular), so its associate must be an argument with 1) a valued theta role feature, 2) a valued (and compatible!) Category feature (= CP), 3) a compatible Number feature (= singular), and 4) NO valued Case feature (or the chain {It-CP} vill violate the Case Filter). That automatically excludes any 'associate' except a CP with a valued theta role and NO Case assigned to it, which, in practice, solves your problem in all cases.

As to 'dummy there', it has a) a valued Category feature (= DP/NP), b) a valued Case feature (nominative, when it is a subject, but alternatively objective, as in I expected there to be some sort of celebration, or oblique, when it follows a P, as in I was fed up with there never being anybody to talk to), c) no valued Number feature, and d) no valued Theta Role feature, either, which, in practice, also solves your problem in all cases: the 'associate' can only be a) a DP, b) it must have a valued Number feature (since, otherwise, there will not inherit it and the {there-DP} chain will not be able to 'agree' with the tensed V), c) it must have a valued Theta Role feature (or, again, the argument chain {there-DP} will lack a Theta Role and the Theta Criterion will be violated), and d) it cannot have a valued Case feature (or, in association with 'there', which already has its own valued Case feature - nominative, accusative, or oblique - the chain {there-DP} will have two valued Case features and will violate the 'Case Filter'). Again, such requirements in practice determine the only possible 'associate' of 'dummy' there in all cases: the associate must be a singular or plural DP with a theta role, but cannot be the complement or the specifier of any Case-assigning category (i.e., neither the complement of V or P, nor the specifier of T or D). That leaves you with specifiers of V, P, or A and with complements of non-Case assigning V's or A's, and, as no sentence will contain more than one accessible item of any of such classes, in practice, your problem vanishes.



This seems to answer most of my questions.

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