English object extraposition: A constraint-based approach
According to the Projection Principle (Chomsky 1981), expletives have no semantic content and thus cannot occur in theta-marked positions. However, there are many examples where expletive it appears as a direct object, in violation of the Projection Principle. The various attempts that have been made to account for such cases (e.g. the case-based analysis of Authier (1991), the predication analysis of Rothstein (1995), and the Specifier analysis of Stroik (1991, 1996)) all posit movement of the expletive from a non-theta marked position to direct object position. However, these analyses have so far been unsuccessful in capturing several important contrasts, e.g. variable optionality of the expletive it. This paper argues that such contrasts (and the complex behavior of expletive it more generally) follow straightforwardly from a lexicalist, constraint-based analysis in which lexical information and independently motivated constraints interact in subtle ways.