LINGUIST List 4.154

Thu 04 Mar 1993

Disc: Pro-drop

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , 4.152 Pro-Drop
  2. a goofy newfie, Re: 4.152 Pro-drop
  3. Jon Aske, subject ellipsis (was pro-drop)

Message 1: 4.152 Pro-Drop

Date: Thu, 4 Mar 93 11:29:52 EST4.152 Pro-Drop
From: <>
Subject: 4.152 Pro-Drop

(1) Is there a precise definition of pro-drop and are there
any claims available about this phenomenon which could be

(2) There is a style of English in which 'I' can be dropped
without the dropping of any following AUX, e.g., when we
write something like 'Am waiting in the cafeteria'.
But not in subordinate clauses or in inversion constructions.
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Message 2: Re: 4.152 Pro-drop

Date: Thu, 04 Mar 93 11:43:34 ESRe: 4.152 Pro-drop
From: a goofy newfie <hharleyAthena.MIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: 4.152 Pro-drop

I haven't been following all of the discussion on this topic, but
thought i'd leap in anyway. The other day while
talking about a prospective research topic with a friend
we came up with what at least superficially looks like a correlation:
languages that allow dative-marked subjects are also pro-drop (as usually
conceived). Thus, e.g., English, French and German are not pro-drop
and don't allow dative subjects, while Italian, Japanese, Telugu,
Irish ... are pro-drop and do allow dative subjects. It's not a
two-way correlation - there are some languages that are pro drop
and don't allow dative subjects. (Dative subjects typically show
up with "experiencer" verbs). If anybody can think of a counterexample to
this trend, or has any thoughts on the correlation itself, i'd love to
hear them.
 Speculatively yours,
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Message 3: subject ellipsis (was pro-drop)

Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1993 11:05:55 -subject ellipsis (was pro-drop)
From: Jon Aske <>
Subject: subject ellipsis (was pro-drop)

Leo Connolly says:
>Anyway, German isn't prodrop, and English doesn't seem to be either.

Alan Munn adds:
>To those who think that English is pro-drop: can you cite any example
>of pro drop in English embedded clauses? If not, why not? Secondly,
>languages with pro drop generally *require* pro drop in bound variable
>contexts (e.g. bound by a quantifier). Again, this is impossible in
>English. How come?

I think these people are missing the point, for the simple
reason that their theoretical assumptions do not permit them to think
beyond the terms of [+pro-drop] vs. [-pro-drop] and in terms of core
grammar vs. periphery.

I agree with Tom Cravens and others who have argued that what we have
in English is a functionally related phenomenon to "standard" pro-drop (or
subject-ellipsis if you will). The only difference is that in English
it is an incipient (or "emergent", in Hopper's sense), somewhat idiosyncratic
and "lexicalized," phenomenon that in other languages is more fully
grammaticalized. Why is that so hard to accept as a possibility?
Doesn't it make sense?

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