Exceptional Case Marking

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Exceptional Case Marking is non-canonical structural case assignment to an embedded subject by a certain class of verbs, such as believe, which have the (exceptional) capacity to govern the embedded subject position of their infinitival complement.

In Chomskyan syntax, the term refers to a biclausal construction in which the subject of the embedded clause receives the Case marking from the matrix clause.


English Masha believes [Jorge to be innocent]. Here the embedded-clause subject Jorge is analyzed as Case-marked by the matrix verb believes.

The fact that the complement clause is transparent for government is exceptional, and has been accounted for in terms of CP-reduction (S-bar-deletion). As a result the complement does not constitute a barrier to government.


There are a number of terms for the same construction, but they tend to imply a different analysis:


The term was introduced by Chomsky 1981.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Chomsky, N. 1986a. Knowledge of language: its nature, origin and use, Praeger, New York.
  • Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding, Foris, Dordrecht.