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  • Against the Null Comitative Analysis of Partial Control
  • Idan Landau

1 Two Analyses of Partial Control

In partial control (PC), the null subject of a (typically) nonfinite complement is understood to be a group consisting of the referent of the matrix controller plus some other contextually salient individual(s) (Wilkinson 1971, Landau 2000, 2013).1

  1. (1).

    1. a. (Wei knew that) Harryj preferred [PROi+j to work together on the project].

    2. b. (Elainei told Paulj that) shei would like [PROi+j to meet on Thursday].

On one analysis, PC PRO is syntactically singular but semantically plural at LF, like standard collective nouns (e.g., team, committee). A silent operator, licensed by certain matrix verbs, expands the reference of PRO to obtain the group reference (Pearson 2015, Landau 2016). On an alternative analysis, PC PRO is both syntactically and semantically singular. The PC reading arises indirectly from a null comitative phrase inside the complement (Hornstein 2003, Słodowicz 2008, Boeckx, Hornstein, and Nunes 2010:185, and specifically for Romance languages, Sheehan 2012, 2014). The two analyses are depicted in (2a) and (2b), respectively.2

  1. (2).

    1. a. Elainei preferred [PROi+ to meet on Thursday].

    2. b. Elainei preferred [PROi to meet with him on Thursday].

The two analyses differ on whether or not they take PC PRO to be semantically plural and on whether or not they posit a null comitative phrase. Therefore, grammatical tests that are sensitive to these properties can choose between them. Indeed, in earlier work (Landau 2007) I have pointed out that the null comitative analysis (barring stipulations) overgenerates nonexisting PC readings in simple clauses (3a) and undergenerates existing PC readings in complements containing collective predicates that do not take comitative phrases (3c) (see also the arguments in Sheehan 2014 against the null comitative analysis for English). [End Page 572]

  1. (3).

    1. a. *Elaine met with him on Thursday.

    2. b. *The chair dispersed with the rest of us.

    3. c. The chair decided to disperse until next week.

In fact, simple reciprocal verbs in English resist a comitative phrase but can still appear in a PC complement.

  1. (4).

    1. a. *?Elaine kissed/hugged with Paul.

    2. b. Paul felt that Elaine wanted to kiss/hug.

The question remains, however, whether the null comitative analysis is a viable account of sentences like (2b). Three novel arguments are presented here to show that it is not.

First, genuine collective nouns cannot bind singular personal reflexives, even when the intended referent of the latter is included in the group denoted by the noun (5a). Individual subjects of sentences with comitative phrases, however, may perfectly bind such emphatic reflexives (5b).

  1. (5).

    1. a. The team—that is, Peter’si team—met on Thursday (*himselfi).

    2. b. Peteri met with them on Thursday himselfi.

PC PRO patterns with the former and not with the latter. This is unexpected if PC PRO is semantically singular and the plural reading arises from a null comitative phrase (note that (6) has an irrelevant reading where the emphatic reflexive is construed upstairs).

  1. (6). Peter would like [PRO to meet on Thursday (*himself)].

Second, if PC PRO is semantically singular (as the null comitative analysis has it), it should be able to saturate a secondary predicate whose domain is restricted to nonplural individuals. Consider, for example, predicates like as a free man.

  1. (7).

    1. a. Peter will meet with Elaine as a free man tomorrow.

    2. b. *Peter and Elaine will meet as a free man tomorrow.

    3. c. *This couple will meet as a free man tomorrow.

In fact, PC PRO patterns with (7b–c) in rejecting this secondary predicate, and not with (7a).

  1. (8). *Peter told Elaine that he expected to meet as a free man the following day.

Third, a singular subject with a discontinuous comitative phrase is not semantically equivalent to a group-denoting subject; its interpretation is, in fact, more specific (see Dimitriadis 2004, 2008, Siloni 2008, 2012). Consider the distribution of the adverb separately (not discussed in the works just mentioned).

  1. (9).

    1. a. Mary is meeting separately with the chair and the dean.

    2. b. *Mary’s department is meeting separately. [End Page 573]

    3. c. Mary has been talking...


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