Syntactic constancy of the subject complement. Part 1: A comparison between Czech and English

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This paper is part of a long term project addressing syntactic constancy between Czech and English. As compared with the other clause elements treated so far (subject, object and adverbial) the subject complement displays two distinctive features: its FSP function is almost exclusively rhematic and its conception in Czech and in English considerably differs. The paper analyses a hundred syntactically divergent instances drawn from two samples of Czech fiction and their translations into English. The best represented group displays the Czech subject complement + the copula reflected in a lexical verb in English, a noncorrespondence which is usually expected in the opposite direction. Similarly the next most frequent counterpart, the object, involves replacement of the Czech copula by a transitive verb in English. In both these cases the FSP does not play a role, but the syntactic divergence does not affect it, the rheme remaining at the end in either language. FSP as a factor appears in the next type of divergence, where the counterpart of the Czech CS is the English subject: here the syntactic change conduces to final position of rhematic and initial position of thematic subjects, with a few exceptions of rhematic subjects in initial position, showing the force of the grammatical word order principle in English. The other types of syntactic divergence occur either only in one sample (the object complement) or have a frequency of occurrence below ten (noun modifier, adverbial, modal verb + lexical verb, and apposition). On the whole, in the case of subject complement FSP appears to play a minor role. Somewhat surprisingly, in a considerable number of instances English appears to favour verbal structure of the predicate against verbonominal in Czech, and expectedly, condensed nonfinite predicate structure against finite in Czech.


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