The change that never happened: The story of oblique subjects

Thórhallur Eythórsson, Jóhanna Barðdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


This paper contributes to an ongoing debate on the syntactic status of oblique subject-like NPs in the ‘impersonal’ construction (of the type me-thinks) in Old Germanic. The debate is caused by the lack of canonical subject case marking in such NPs. It has been argued that these NPs are syntactic objects, but we provide evidence for their subject status, as in Modern Icelandic and Faroese. Thus, we argue that the syntactic status of the oblique subject-like NPs has not changed at all from object status to subject status, contra standard claims in the literature. Our evidence stems from Old Icelandic, but the analysis has implications for the other old Germanic languages as well. However, a change from non-canonical to canonical subject case marking (‘Nominative Sickness’) has affected all the Germanic languages to a varying degree.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-472
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Linguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


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