Government and Binding Theory/The pro-drop Parameter
Apart from PRO, which we have seen in the last chapter, there's another type of null subject. For example, in written Finnish, first and second-person subject pronouns are generally omitted (although they are intact in speech):
|hän||he or she|
The dropping of minä, sinä, me and te is not the same as the dropping of PRO:
- The dropping is optional.
- If the resulting null subject were PRO, the PRO theorem would be violated.
- The resulting null subject is not subject to control.
This led to the introduction of another null subject known as little pro. pro-drop does not apply to all languages though. For example, English and French do not allow it:
(2a) *Is the best professor in the field of theoretical linguistics.
(2b) *Est le meilleur professeur dans le domaine de la linguistique théorique.
Properties of pro-drop languages[edit | edit source]
Rizzi's other properties[edit | edit source]
Rizzi listed several properties common to pro-drop languages:
- No pleonastic subjects
- Subject-VP inversion is possible
- wh-elements can be extracted more easily in certain situations
Let's examine these properties one by one. Chinese, which is pro-drop, does not have pleonastic subjects, such as the following example in Mandarin:
(3a) Xia yu-le.
(It has rained.)
[Note: It is controversial in linguistics whether 'xia yu' is a word or a phrase, as it has the properties of both. This is irrelevant to the present discussion.]
(3b) *Has rained.
Although Italian is primarily SVO, it allows subject-VP inversion, as shown in Rizzi's own example below, while French generally doesn't:
(4a) Ha telefonato Gianni.
(has telephoned Gianni)
(Gianni has telephoned)
(4b) *A téléphoné Jean.
(has telephoned Jean)
[Note: French allows subject-verb inversions in certain cases like relative clauses, but this is again irrelevant.]