External argument

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External argument is the argument of a predicate X, which is not contained in the maximal projection of X. In general, this is the subject of a predicate.


in (i), John is the external argument of the verb buy, and is not part of its maximal projection VP.

(i) John [VP buys books]

An argument of a predicate X which is contained in its maximal projection is called the internal argument. In (i) the NP books is the internal argument of the verb buy.


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.
  • Williams, E. 1980. Predication, Linguistic Inquiry 11, pp.203-238