Mobility as a feature: Evidence from Zulu

  • Jochen Zeller University of Kwa-Zulu Natal


This paper provides evidence for the view that syntactic movement of an element Y to a position X is not driven by features of the target X, but by features of the moving element Y. The data that constitute evidence for this type of analysis come from A-bar movement constructions (object left and right dislocation; object relativisation) in the Bantu language Zulu. As I show, only object-DPs that move out of the VP in Zulu are active Goals for Agree-relations and can trigger object agreement with the verb. The fact that the functional head responsible for object agreement must be able to identify a DP in its c-command domain as an active Goal entails that the “mobility” of this DP must be encoded as a property of the DP. Based on this conclusion, I also discuss two proposals about the nature of the feature that activates a DP for movement in Zulu and examine the conditions that determine how this feature is checked and deleted through movement.