Comparing what isn’t there

Posted on February 22, 2014 by



Tuesday 25th February sees a talk by Patricia Cabredo Hofherr (CNRS/Paris-8) with the title Comparing what isn’t there: varieties of partial pro-drop. It will be in the usual venue – Ellen Wilkinson A2.16 – at 4.15pm. Here’s the abstract:

Already early studies of null subjects (NSs) observe that certain languages only allow a subset of subjects to be null. Rizzi (1986) distinguishes pro-drop systems according to the range of theta-roles possible for the null subjects (full theta-role vs. quasi-theta-role vs. no theta-role). In other systems, such as Finnish and Modern Hebrew (MH), 1st and 2nd person but not anaphoric 3rd person null subjects are licensed in main clauses (Vainikka & Levi 1999, a.o.). Borer (1989) points out an additional complication in the licensing of null subjects: in MH, definite 3rd person subjects in certain embedded clauses can be null if they are co-referent with a DP in the matrix clause. Costa & Pratas (2013) show that this type of antecedent licensing may further depend on the type of DP. In Capverdean Creole licensing by a DP-antecedent is independent of licensing by a quantified antecedent: the former is barred while the latter is obligatory for the bound reading.

I will adduce new Modern Hebrew data showing that there is no implication between licensing by DP-antecedents and licensing by QP-antecedents as in Modern Hebrew the embedded subject needs to be lexical with a QP antecedent. Evidence that antecedent-licensed subjects of both types are independent from partial pro-drop comes from Mauritian Creole where expletives, quasi-arguments and arbitrary pronouns are null but no null subjects are licensed by DP-binding (Syea 1993); the Mauritian examples with QP-antecedents do not allow a null subject either. Differential licensing by different subject types is a challenge for existing analyses of partial pro-drop that rely on pronominal anaphoric properties of verbal agreement (anaphoric AGR in Borer 1989, uD in T as proposed by Holmberg 2010).

Featured image: an artist’s impression of a null subject.

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Posted in: local events, syntax