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Linguistic Inquiry

Summer 1999, Vol. 30, No. 3, Pages 467-484
(doi: 10.1162/002438999554156)
© 1999 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
English Expletive Constructions Are Not Infected
Article PDF (83.35 KB)
Abstract

Sobin (1997) proposes an analysis of several “prestige” constructions of English under which they result from grammatical viruses. Counter to his claim, I argue that plural agreement in expletive constructions introduced by there results not from a virus but from the grammar of English, because it lacks signature properties of viruses. I show that the flat agreement seen in expletive constructions with conjoined associates can be explained as a processing effect. I then argue that singular agreement with plural associates represents a second alternative allowed within the grammar.