Reducing pro and PRO to a single source
Thomas McFadden, Sandhya Sundaresan
April 2018

Whenever two otherwise similar grammatical elements display distinct properties and appear in distinct environments, we have in principle two analytic possibilities. One is to posit that they are indeed two underlying elements with inherently distinct properties, which then lead to them having different distributions (Inherent view). The other is to posit a single underlying element with a broad distribution, with the grammatical distinctions arising from the different contexts in which that element appears (Derived view). The goal of this paper is to provide novel theoretical and empirical evidence supporting a version of the Derived view for pro vs. PRO. In particular, we will argue that OC PRO and pro are just labels for different manifestations of what is underlyingly a single underspecified nominal pro-form, which we will call UPro. Included under this UPro will also be the various types of ‘non-obligatory control’ (NOC) PRO, including arbitrary pro (pro_arb). The interpretive and distributional distinctions lurking behind these labels will be seen to derive from how UPro interacts with its structural environment and language-specific rules of morpho-phonological realization. Specifically, OC PRO labels a rather specific interpretation that arises in embedding contexts where a syntactic OC relationship with an antecedent can be established. Different types of pro and NOC PRO, on the other hand, involve ‘control’ by (typically) silent representations of discourse-contextual elements in the clausal left periphery. Finally, pro_arb arguably involves the failure to establish a referential dependence, which we will formalize in terms of a failure to Agree in the sense of Preminger (2014). The crucial evidence that motivates the Derived approach proposed here will be adduced from the “Finiteness pro-drop Generalisation” from Sundaresan (2014): "For (at least a non-trivial set of) pro-drop languages with subject-verb agreement, pro-drop is disallowed in the subject position of a prototypically non-finite clause."
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003560
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To appear in The Linguistic Review
keywords: pro(-drop), oc pro, (non-)obligatory control, agree, locality, finiteness, semantics, morphology, syntax
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