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Subject as a Constituent, TOPIC as a Feature and Their Respective Typologies

Jie XU, Department of Chinese Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore 119260  
The status of "Topic", especially its relationship with "Subject", is fundamental and controversial in various theories of grammar. Three distinctive approaches are identified in the litera- ture. We have briefly discussed problems with above theorizations and proposed a new analysis of the relevant phenomena. We argue that "topic" may have originated from a pragmatic or a discourse con- cept, but it could also be characterized as a purely formal syntactic feature [+TOPIC], which gets as- signed to or associated with certain syntactic constituents such as subject NPs, and the feature[+ TOPIC], once assigned, could trigger one or both of two syntactic operation: Topic-Marking and Topic-Fronting. As a grammatical feature, [+TOPIC] patterns with [+FOCUS]. As a grammati- cal constituent, "subject" is on a par with "predicate", "object" and so on. Language typologies are by-products of linguistic theories. On the basis of our reformulation, three distinctive language ty- pologies are established, two of which are about subject as a constituent, one about [+TOPIC] as a feature.
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