Starting with the question (by Caboclo) about the thematic role of "it" in the sentence:
It was proven almost three centuries ago that light was made up of waves.
Patrícia wanted to know if "it" in the sentence had been assigned a thematic role.
In order to explain to her that "it" in the sentence above does not have a thematic role alone (but only in "coindexation" with "that light was made up of waves"), I resorted to the theory of Principles and Parameters (PPT) to explain that in languages like English which are marked negatively for the Null Subject Parameter (NSP), the semantically empty (nonreferential) subject "it" is just a filler making sure that a position that cannot be left empty is properly filled.
Concepts that we elaborated on during this class:
- Principles and Parameters
- the notion of "subject" (person, number, reference)
- filler, expletive, nonreferential subject
- reference: the connection between language (the sign) and an "object" in the real world.
- Null Subject Parameter: English (-); Portuguese (+)
- There is a relationship between the subject and the verb inflection. This relationship is extremely important in language acquisition.
For next class (28/09/09):
- revise everything we've seen so far
- Work on the exercises about phrase structure