Extended projection principle

The extended projection principle (EPP) is a linguistic hypothesis about subjects. It was proposed by Noam Chomsky as an addendum to the projection principle.[1] The basic idea of the EPP is that clauses must contain a noun phrase or determiner phrase in the subject position (i.e. in the specifier of a tense phrase or inflectional phrase or in the specifier of a verb phrase in languages in which subjects don't raise to TP/IP, e.g. Welsh).


Most verbs require meaningful subjects—for example, "kick" in "Tom kicked the ball" takes the subject "Tom". However, other verbs do not require (and in fact, do not permit) meaningful subjects—for example, one can say "it rains" but not "the sky rains". The EPP states that regardless of whether the main predicate assigns a meaningful theta role to a subject, a subject must be present syntactically. As a result, verbs which do not assign external theta roles will appear with subjects that are either dummy pronouns (e.g. expletive "it," "there"), or ones which have been moved into subject position from a lower position (e.g. subject of an embedded clause which comes after the verbs like seem, appear etc. ).

Examples which have been proposed to be the result of expletive subject insertion in accordance with the EPP:

  1. It seemed that John would never calm down.
  2. It ( rains / snows / hails / etc. ) frequently in Quebec.
  3. There seems to be a problem with the radiator.

Notice that in all of these the overt subject has no referential reading.

In languages that allow pro-drop (such as Spanish or Italian), the empty category pro (not to be confused with Big PRO) can fulfill the requirement of the EPP.

McCloskey (1996) proposed that there is one group of languages that lacks the EPP: the VSO languages (like Irish), which appear not only to lack expletives, but also to lack movement operations triggered by the EPP.[2]


  1. ^ Chomsky, Noam (1982). Some concepts and consequences of the theory of government and binding. MIT Press. p. 10.
  2. ^ McCloskey, James (1996). "Subjects and subject positions in Irish." In Robert D. Borsley and Ian G. Roberts (eds.), The syntax of the Celtic languages: a comparative perspective, pp. 241-283. Cambridge University Press.