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LINGUIST List 22.3670

Wed Sep 21 2011

Diss: Pragmatics/Syntax: Filiaci: 'Anaphoric Preferences of Null ...'

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        1.     Francesca Filiaci , Anaphoric Preferences of Null and Overt Subjects in Italian and Spanish: a cross-linguistic comparison

Message 1: Anaphoric Preferences of Null and Overt Subjects in Italian and Spanish: a cross-linguistic comparison
Date: 14-Sep-2011
From: Francesca Filiaci <francescling.ed.ac.uk>
Subject: Anaphoric Preferences of Null and Overt Subjects in Italian and Spanish: a cross-linguistic comparison
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Institution: University of Edinburgh
Program: Linguistics and English Language
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Francesca Filiaci

Dissertation Title: Anaphoric Preferences of Null and Overt Subjects in Italian
and Spanish: a cross-linguistic comparison

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Italian (ita)
Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director(s):
Antonella Sorace
Caroline Heycock

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis focuses on the cross-linguistic differences between Italian and
Spanish regarding the pragmatic restrictions on the resolution of null and
overt subject pronouns (NS and OSP). It also tries to identify possible
links between such cross-linguistic differences and morpho-syntactic
differences at the level of the verbal morphology of the two languages.

Spanish and Italian are typologically related and morpho-syntactically
similar and have been assumed to instantiate the same setting of the NS
parameter with respect to not only its syntactic licensing conditions, but
also the pragmatic constraints determining the distribution of null and
overt subject pronouns, and this assumption has had important implications
for cross-linguistic research.

The first aim of this study was to test directly for the first time the
assumption about the equivalence of Italian and Spanish; in order to do so, I
run a series of self-paced reading experiments using the same materials
translated in each language, so that the results were directly comparable. The
experiments were based on Carminati's (2002) study on antecedent preferences for
Italian NSs and OSPs in intra-sentential anaphora, testing the 'Position of
Antecedent Strategy'.

The results suggest that while in Italian there is a strict division of labour
between NS and OSP (confirming Carminati's findings), this division is not as
clear-cut in Spanish. More precisely, while Italian personal pronouns
unambiguously signal a switch in subject reference, the association between OSPs
and switch reference seems to be much weaker in Spanish. These results, which
are interpreted in terms of Cardinaletti and Starke's (1999) cross-linguistic
typology of deficient pronouns, highlight an asymmetry between the strength of
NS and OSP biases in Spanish that could not have emerged through the traditional
methodology used by the numerous variationist studies on the subject, based on
corpus analysis.

A subsequent pair of experiments tested the hypothesis that the
cross-linguistic differences attested might be related to the relative
syncretism of the Spanish verbal morphology compared to the Italian one
with regard to the unambiguous expression of person features on the verbal

The results only provided weak support for the hypothesis, although they
did confirm the presence of the cross-linguistic differences in the
processing and resolution of anaphoric NS and OSP dependencies revealed by
the previous experiments.

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