On the Syntax of Unusual Subjects: Exceptional Case Marking Constructions

Sun-Woong Kim 1 ,
Author Information & Copyright
1Kwangwoon University
Corresponding Author: Professor Department of English and Industry Kwangwoon University 20 Kwangwoon-ro, Nowon-gu, Seoul 01897, Korea E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2023 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Mar 06, 2023 ; Revised: May 18, 2023 ; Accepted: Jun 08, 2023

Published Online: Aug 31, 2023


This study aims to explain the mixed properties of the ECM subject in Korean and Mongolian in terms of the Relator Phrase (RP) analysis proposed by den Dikken (2007, 2017a, 2017b). The embedded subject in the Korean ECM is known to exhibit both higher/lower and A/A' properties. How can an XP have several locus properties at the same time? To address this question, the present study proposes the following insights: Predication relations constitute an inherent RP phase (den Dikken 2007, 2017a, 2017b; Wurmbrand, 2021); The ECM subject is base-generated in the Spec-RP position in Korean, which is an A-position by definition; R assumes a null state or becomes C+R if C is elevated to R; A null operator (O) binds the overt/covert pronoun in the embedded TP; The ECM subject is related to the embedded CP in terms of predication, akin to Browning's (1991) perspective. The proposed analysis explains the Korean ECM and its difference from Mongolian. The proposal resolves the ongoing discourse on whether the ECM subject moves or stays in situ. Additionally, significant similarities between ECM construction and the multiple nominative constructions (MNC) in Korean are also explained in terms of RP, a correlation previously understudied in previous studies.

Keywords: ECM; relator phrase (RP); phase; null operator; predication



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