LINGUIST List 4.186

Sun 14 Mar 1993

Disc: Pro-drop

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. David Gil, subject pro-drop in Tagalog
  2. , Re: 4.179 Pro-drop
  3. "Larry G. Hutchinson", Re: 4.179 Pro-drop
  4. Patrick Farrell, Pro-drop

Message 1: subject pro-drop in Tagalog

Date: Mon, 15 Mar 93 13:09:28 SSsubject pro-drop in Tagalog
From: David Gil <ELLGILDNUSVM.bitnet>
Subject: subject pro-drop in Tagalog

Matthew Dryer cites Gilligan as claiming that Tagalog has
subject pro-drop and (very appropriately) solicits comments
on this.

I would argue that Tagalog has no subjects (cf. Paul Schachter
and others on this issue); I would further argue that Tagalog
has no pronouns, if what is meant by pronoun is a coherent
syntactic category or subcategory.

However, if we adopt a naive Anglocentric approach and analyze
a sentence such as

(1) Umalis na siya
 "He/she has left"

as consisting of verb, aspectual enclitic, and "subject pronoun"
"siya", then indeed the latter *CAN* be omitted, yielding the
grammatical "subject" "pro-drop" sentence

(2) Umalis na
 "(He/she) has left"

So it would seem that on Tagalog, at least, Gilligan is wrong
in about as many ways as it is possible to be wrong: a great
pity, since the field is crying out for exactly his kind of
typological work.

David Gil
National University of Singapore
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Message 2: Re: 4.179 Pro-drop

Date: 13 Mar 1993 15:40:06 -0500Re: 4.179 Pro-drop
From: <>
Subject: Re: 4.179 Pro-drop

Patrick Farrell asks if there is any reason why
English should not be considered a pro-drop
language, just because omission of subject
pronouns is restricted to main clauses and
is less frequent than in other languages which
are considered pro-drop. I'm sure someone
must already have noted this (I haven't been
following all the discussion on pro-drop), but
I believe the main reason for not considering
English to be pro-drop is that what looks
superficially like pro-drop may in fact be
something else. The fact that auxiliaries are
sometimes dropped along with the subject pronoun
and, most importantly, the fact that a
pronoun cannot be dropped if an auxiliary
(or something else) precedes it -unless
whatever precedes it is dropped too is pretty
strong evidence, it seems to me, that what
is going on here isn't pro-drop but omission
of unstressed, pragmatically recoverable
material in sentence initial position. If
we adopt this analysis, then the fact
that omission of subjects is restricted
to main clauses would follow automatically,
as would the restriction to casual speech.
So, my answer to the question -is there
any reason not to consider English a
pro-drop language is: yes, the reason
is that there is another, more general
and more satisfying explanation of the
facts here.

Jeanette Gundel
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Message 3: Re: 4.179 Pro-drop

Date: Sun, 14 Mar 93 00:03:35 CSRe: 4.179 Pro-drop
From: "Larry G. Hutchinson" <>
Subject: Re: 4.179 Pro-drop

I should like to suggest that the term "pro-DROP" is a misnomer. In what I
should call "classical" pro-drop languages, what is marked is the PRESENCE of
a pronoun. Ellipsis of sentence-initial stuff (such as subjects and auxiliaries)
is an unrelated phenomenon.

I am surprised that in all this discussion of "pro-drop" there are no
references to "cross-reference." This is an old concept. Bloomfield was
writing about it back in 1916.
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Message 4: Pro-drop

Date: Sun, 14 Mar 93 20:58:49 -0Pro-drop
From: Patrick Farrell <>
Subject: Pro-drop

In an earlier posting I asked if anyone knew of any arguments
against recognizing null subject pronouns in colloquial English.
Here is a line of argumentation FOR recognizing them.
It parallels that found for a certain variety of null object pronouns in
Italian (see Rizzi, L. 1986. "Null Objects in Italian and the Theory of pro,"
Linguistic Inquiry 17, 507-557).
1. Some languages have null pronouns, i.e. syntactically present
 pronouns with no phonological realization ("pro" in GB).
2. Reflexives must have a local c-commanding antecedent.
3. Predicate adjectives need to have a local c-commanding
 NP to be predicated of.

Consider the following examples, which I take it are fine in the kind of speech
contexts in which "eroded" subjects are possible.

a. My brother seems to be losing it. Went and got himself arrested
 the other day.
b. Slept naked again, I see. Better get up and get dressed.

Now given assumptions 2 & 3, there must be a c-commanding subject
pronoun at some level of syntactic representation in
the positions of the missing pronouns in (a) and (b).
For essentially the same reasons, Rizzi adopted an analysis according to
which Italian has null object pronouns (under certain conditions).
It seems equally reasonable to
assume that English allows null subject pronouns (under certain conditions).

Actually, however, we have two choices that should be made explicit:
A. (a) and (b) have null subject pronouns at all levels of representation
B. They have subject pronouns underlyingly which get deleted
Now, the argument can be completed:
Given assumption 1, choice A is preferable, all else being equal,
since it allows a stronger theory, i.e. one
in which there is only one theoretical mechanism
for "missing" pronouns that can be shown to be syntactically visible.
If a theory allows choice B in addition to choice A, say in order to maintain
some claim about null pronouns that appears to be counterexemplified
by colloquial English, it is considerably weakened, since allowing
choice B essentially makes it possible in principle to maintain ANY claim
about null pronouns. Potential counterexamples can always be considered to be
pronoun deletions.

Patrick Farrell (
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