This paper proposes a general analysis of Case alternations and other phenomena associated with nominal hierarchies of the Silverstein type. The analysis is based on the mechanism of defective probes (in the sense of Chomsky 2001), such that a defective head may value a different Case from its nondefective counterpart (cf. Rezac 2004). The resultant 'defective Case forms' are characterized by a range of well-known interpretive restrictions on argument encoding (definiteness-, animacy- and Person-Case-Constraint effects)- examples include Icelandic nominative objects, English expletive-associates, the Russian genitive of negation, and the absolutive in Mohawk. These interpretive restrictions, and their relation to the EPP (optional vs. obligatory), are shown to follow from the variable crosslinguistic association of the syntactic Person feature of a nominal with, for probes, the EPP-feature of Chomsky 2000, and, for goals, different degrees of prominence as defined on a referential scale. In this way, differences in form (Case-marking) have semantic consequences, with the various interpretive restrictions at the interface reducing to a single, common source: namely, formal violations of the Case Filter in the context of defective Agree
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