As is well known, pro-drop or null subject languages (henceforth NSLs) are those in which the subject of a finite clause can generally be omitted, like Spanish, Italian, or Greek, among many others. Although English is not an NSL, examples can be found in which the subject is implicit, especially in colloquial English, as shown in (1): (1) a. Can’t wait to see you. b. Seems that he’s having fun. c. Looking good! From the syntactic point of view, the question that immediately arises regarding sentences like (1a) is whether the Tense head projects a specifier that satisfies the so-called EPP requirement on Tense. It has been claimed (e.g., Rizzi 1994 and Haegeman 2013) that in these examples the phonologically empty category pro satisfies this requirement. In this report I take the pro analysis to be on the right track and note that the feature inheritance hypothesis (see e.g., Chomsky 2008 and Epstein et al. 2015, among others), which claims that the agreement features on a Tense head are inherited from C, readily accounts for why C needs to be absent in these clauses. I also show that in terms of its interpretation, pro in these examples is similar to empty categories in languages like Chinese and Japanese, which have also been argued to involve pro and to lack agreement features (see Holmberg 2005). However, I examine examples in which the Tense head displays agreement features and provide novel evidence that there is person agreement between the Tense head and the null subject. This is problematic for Chomsky's feature inheritance hypothesis but it is predicted by the version of this hypothesis independently argued for by Chou and Fernandez-Salgueiro 2020, under which the person feature is inherent to Tense and only the number feature is inherited from C. In order to account for the agreement phenomena just mentioned, I claim that pro acquires agreement features and values the person feature of the Tense head. I also argue that this analysis provides an explanation, based on Case requirements, for the fact that expletive it can be dropped in colloquial English (see (1b) above) while expletive there cannot, a contrast that has barely been discussed in the literature. Finally, I argue that examples like (1c), in which a larger amount of structure is unpronounced, involve only the vP phase, with pro in its specifier position.
|Effective start/end date||2020/08/01 → 2021/07/31|
- Colloquial English
- empty categories
- null subjects
- feature inheritance
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