PRO and Phi-feature Mismatch in Imposter Constructions

  • Kaori Furuya University of North Texas


This paper examines control constructions that involve the imposter phenomenon studied by Collins and Postal (2012), and investigates the interaction of the syntax and semantics of control, using Minimalist syntax. Imposter DPs which refer to the speaker may have distinct person agreement from 1st person pronouns. The [person] mismatch between the controller and PRO in imposter constructions cannot be accounted for by Hornstein’s (1999) movement or by Landau’s (2000, 2003) Agree operation. I introduce Harley and Ritter’s (2002) feature geometry for pronouns and apply the geometry to imposter DPs. I argue that the Speaker node of the feature geometry is not automatically tied to its morphology for imposter DPs, unlike in the case of personal pronouns. This lack of a one-to-one relation between full DPs in imposter use and morphology results in a mismatch in [person] between syntax and semantics for imposter DPs. It also leads to binding alternations. I offer a syntactic account which would validate such alternations and show evidence for infinitival PRO subject in imposter constructions. The main claim is that control is determined by the combination of the feature geometry and the syntactic operation Agree for control in imposter constructions. I demonstrate that PRO possesses the same feature geometry as its controller via Agree. Yet, at the same time this PRO can still have its own person specification semantically in proper syntax, distinct from that of the controller, when PRO is coreferential with the controller. It is because the Speaker node of the feature geometry is not automatically tied to its morphology for imposter DPs. Furthermore, I compare PRO and pro in imposter constructions, and I argue that the failure of sharing feature values between the controller and PRO does not result in the ungrammaticality whereas the failure of Agree leads to the ungrammaticality. The current analysis offers a systematic picture of morphosyntactic variation in binding relations of imposter constructions.