Thursday 10 December – Olaf Koeneman & Hedde Zijlstra

Speaker: Olaf Koeneman (Radboud University) & Hedde Zijlstra (Georg-August-University Göttingen)
Title: Deriving pro drop in a non-paradigmatic way
Date: Thursday 10 December
Venue: Skype (contact us to get access to the meeting)
Time: 15.15 – 16.30 hrs


Apart from incidental contexts in which Germanic varieties allow partial pro drop (cf. Fuss 2005, Rosenkvist 2007), a categorical difference between Germanic and Romance languages is that none of former allows full pro-drop, whereas many of the latter do. This is standardly explained by reference to the whole paradigm (cf. Taraldsen 1978, Rizzi 1982, Jaeggli & Safir 1989): A language like Italian is rich overall, so it has pro drop across the board, whereas English is poor overall, so it lacks pro drop overall. Such a paradigmatic approach accounts for the fact that English does not even have pro drop in the 3rd person singular, despite the unique -s form, but it faces several problems. One of them is the existence of partial pro drop languages, which suggest that null subjects can in principle be contextually licensed, for instance in the 2nd person singular. However, a contextual approach to understanding pro drop massively overgenerates. It for instance expects English to have pro drop in the 3rd person singular. To conclude, there are two ways of expressing a link between pro drop and rich inflection (paradigmatically or contextually) and both fail. In this talk, we will sketch a way out of this conundrum and show how paradigmatic effects can be derived within a contextual approach.

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