LINGUIST List 11.929

Sun Apr 23 2000

Sum: Null Subject Languages

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <>


  1. Ronald Sheen, Null Subject Languages

Message 1: Null Subject Languages

Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000 20:17:44 -0400
From: Ronald Sheen <Ronald_SheenUQTR.UQuebec.CA>
Subject: Null Subject Languages

For Query: Linguist 11.821

I recently requested feedback on null argument/subject languages. I wish
to express my appreciation to the following who generously provided me with
much information in addition to specifying the languages listed below as
belonging to this group:

Habibeh Samadi, Mari Siiroinen, Arash Behazin, Javier A. Galvan, Peggy
Speas, Soohee Kim, Dan Moonhawk Alford, Georges Rebuschi, John Koontz,
Richard Cameron, Annie Desnoyers, Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Umit Uturan, James C.
Pennington, Roy Dace, John Lynch, Rob Pensalfini, Young-Key Kim-Renaud, M.
J. Hardman, Cilene Rodrigues, Claire Hiscock, Greg Matheson.

Persian, Finnish, Korean, Algokian and other North American Indian
languages, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, Omaha-Ponca and other
Siouan languages (Dakotan dialects, Crow etc), Winnebago, Sinhala, Irish
Celtic, Breton Celtic, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Yiddish, Catalan, Greek,
Mandarin Chinese, most Bantu languages and some members of the Niger-Congo
group, Jabem, Numambi, the vast majority of Australian aboriginal
languages, Jaqaru, Kawki, Aymara, Lisu, Lahu.

There are probably many more. James Pennington provided the following
information: "Mike Maxwell states that languages that are NOT null subject
languages constitute a small minority of the world's languages. This is
supported by Gary Gilligan USC dissertation on the topic in 1987 ("A
Cross-Linguistic Approach to the Pro-Drop Parameter"), based on a sample of
100 languages. Of these 100 languages, only 7 do not allow null subjects
in finite clauses."

I am pretty sure I have included all those who have provided feedback and
the languages they identified. However, if I have omitted anyone or any
language, would they mail me once again and accept my apologies for the

For anyone interested in my reasons for making the request, it is related
to a recent discussion on SLART-L on access to UG in second language
acquisition. More specifically, it was about the Overt Pronoun Constraint
in null subject languages when learned as a second/foreign language.
Anyone wanting an account of this discussion should contact me off-list.

Ron Sheen U of Quebec in Trois Rivieres, Canada.
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