LINGUIST List 4.227

Tue 30 Mar 1993

Disc: Pro-drop, adjectives

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  1. , Thrasher's Thesis Redux
  2. , Re: 4.212 Sum: Adjectives as Heads
  3. Spencer A J, Re: 4.215 Adjectives

Message 1: Thrasher's Thesis Redux

Date: Tue, 23 Mar 93 09:29:20 ESThrasher's Thesis Redux
From: <>
Subject: Thrasher's Thesis Redux

Once again, since the discussion on "PRO-Drop" has apparently moved on
to more fertile pastures, I remind participants that there has already
been some grazing on them. Watch where you step, please.

To repeat some of the posting (LINGUIST 4-121) about Thrasher's thesis
(Thrasher, Randolph H. Jr. 1974. "Shouldn't Ignore These Strings: A
Study of Conversational Deletion", Ph.D. Diss, Univ of Michigan, Ann
Arbor) that I sent out a month ago:

 > (1.16) Gotta go now.
 > (1.17) See you next Tuesday.
 > (1.18) Too bad about old Charlie.
 > (1.19) No need to get upset about it.
 > (1.20) Been in Ann Arbor long?
 > (1.21) Ever get a chance to use your Dogrib?
 > (1.22) Ever get to Japan, look me up.
 > (1.23) Good thing we didn't run into anybody we know.
 > (1.24) Last person I expected to meet was John.
 > (1.25) Wife wants to go to the mountains this year.
 > [all from Thrasher 1974 p.5]
 > The phenomenon can be viewed as erosion of the beginning of sentences,
 > deleting (some, but not all) articles, dummies, auxiliaries, posses-
 > sives, conditional 'if', and - most relevantly for this discussion -
 > subject pronouns. But it only erodes up to a point, and only in
 > some cases.
 > "Whatever is exposed (in sentence initial position) can be swept
 > away. If erosion of the first element exposes another vulnerable
 > element, this too may be eroded. The process continues until a
 > hard (non-vulnerable) element is encountered." [p.9]
 > In general, exposed first-person subjects are vulnerable in statements,
 > and second-person in questions, and any exposed pronoun is vulnerable
 > if it is recoverable from later in the sentence.
 > (3.2) Can't do it, can {I/you/he/she/they/we}? [p.59]

To suggest that these are somehow merely "performance" phenomena, and
thus not appropriate for linguistic examination, is ludicrous. They
*are* termed "conversational" by Thrasher, which is to say that they
don't appear often in print; however, they *do* appear very frequently
in speech. Clearly, literary models cannot be our guide here. Further-
more, native speakers have definite intuitions about them, in fact much
clearer ones than they do about many other syntactic phenomena.

To suggest that they are "phonological" is equally ludicrous, unless
what is meant is that anything subject to fast speech rules is ipso
facto phonological. In which case there is no such thing as syntax.

The suggestion recently made that one should search for inaudible
reflexes of "deleted" material is an interesting one, and has great
potential for syntactic research in general. I am reminded of several
papers by Brutus Force, including one on the first actual sighting of
an NP trace under the electron microscope.

-John Lawler (
 Linguistics Program University of Michigan
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Message 2: Re: 4.212 Sum: Adjectives as Heads

Date: 24 Mar 1993 11:00:50 -0700Re: 4.212 Sum: Adjectives as Heads
Subject: Re: 4.212 Sum: Adjectives as Heads

Ivan Derzhanski writes:
Bulgarian is actually the only Slavic language (South, West or East)
which has a definite article, though in Serbo-Croatian (I'm not sure
about Slovenian) the long form of the adjective denotes definiteness.

Actually, Macedonian also has a definite article. Also, I did not mean
to claim that Serbo-Croatian (or, perhaps, Serbian and Croatian) had definite
articles, but that definiteness can be distinguished in the adjective (although
this distinction is actually a three-way distinction, at least in Croatian,
between the short, long, and long-long adjectival forms).

RE: the use of krasnija rather than chervenija - mea culpa - that was, unfor-
tunately, interference from Russian.
Grace Fielder
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Message 3: Re: 4.215 Adjectives

Date: Fri, 26 Mar 93 11:04:06 GMRe: 4.215 Adjectives
From: Spencer A J <>
Subject: Re: 4.215 Adjectives

As a footnote to Ivan Derzhanski's posting about Bulgarian and the
indefinite null head, it is not entirely accurate to say that Bulgarian
is the only Slav language with a definite article. Macedonian has one
too. Given the politically and culturally sensitive position of the
Macedonians and their language, it would be a pity to allow people in
certain quarters to run away with the idea that Macedonian is merely
a 'dialect' of Bulgarian.

Andrew Spencer
Dept. of Language and Linguistics
University of Essex
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