English Language and Linguistics

Special issue on English dialect syntax

A new approach to transitive expletives: evidence from Belfast English

a1 School of Communication, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Shore Road, Newtownabbey BT37 0QB, N. Ireland am.henry@ulster.ac.uk, cottell@eircom.net

Article author query
henry a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
cottell s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This article discusses the existence of transitive expletives in a variety of English. Belfast English has none of the features previously proposed as licensing transitive expletives, but nevertheless allows these, calling into question previous analyses of the licensing of this structure. This article considers the properties of transitive expletives in this variety, showing that they are restricted to sentences where the associate is quantified, and that the associate can appear in a range of positions, similar but not identical to those available to ‘floated’ quantifiers. It is argued that Belfast English has a higher merge position for the expletive than does Standard English, and that the general availability in English of quantifier positions between T and vP – perhaps because auxiliaries in English head phases, and phases can be closed by a quantification – means that, even though Belfast English is not a Verb Second language, a position is available for both the expletive and the associate.

(Published Online July 12 2007)
(Received November 26 2006)
(Revised March 8 2007)