63 Expletive subject in ‘seem’ constructions

This feature is described more fully in chapter 63.


In this feature, we ask whether there is an expletive subject in a ‘seem’ construction, as in English It seems (that) we have stayed long enough/ It looks like…/ It appears that it is going to rain. An expletive subject is a pronoun-like element in subject position that has no reference and that functions primarily as a placeholder.

A ‘seem’ construction is a construction with a matrix verb denoting a propositional attitude ('seem', 'look like', 'resemble') and a complement clause that is its notional subject, as in Pichi È fiba se Bòyé gɛt mɔ̀ní. [19-115] ‘It seems that Boye has money.’

The experiencer of the attitude may be absent as in this Pichi example, or present as an object or oblique (It seems to me that...), as in Casamancese Creole I parsí-m kumá i na cobé awosi. [34-98] ‘It seems to me that it will rain today.’

Not all languages have a ‘seem’ construction in the narrow sense intended in this feature, this construction apparently being more typical of European (standard) languages. Some APiCS languages only have experiencer-subject propositional attitude constructions like 'I think that...', or they may use adverbs meaning ‘apparently, seemingly’.


Susanne Maria Michaelis and the APiCS Consortium


An expletive subject is used20828
An expletive subject is not used15823
'There is no 'seem' construction26026

Language Value Lexifier Details Source
Id Primary text Analyzed text Gloss Translation Type Language Audio Details