Null subjects and null possessors in Finnish
Anders Holmberg
May 2020
 

The question is why Finnish doesn’t have a null generic possessive pronoun. Standard Finnish has a null possessor which exhibits a similar pattern to null subjects. A possessive suffix on the noun is combined with a prenominal genitive pronoun which can be freely dropped in the first and second person, but can be dropped in the third person only if it has a local enough antecedent. Finite clauses have a null subject which can be freely dropped in the first and second person, but can be dropped in the third person only if it has a local enough antecedent. As a partial subject-drop language Finnish also has a null inclusive generic subject pronoun. Following Holmberg (2010a,b) and Roberts (2010a,b) it is derived by incorporation in T, not effected by movement but by Agree. Consistent subject-drop languages cannot do this, as T in those languages has a referential-definite feature looking for a referentially restricted antecedent, therefore excluding the inclusive generic interpretation. Noun phrases with a possessor pronoun and a possessive suffix in Standard Finnish have the same feature as part of the make-up of the head encoding the formal markers of the relation between the head noun and the possessor argument, the head Poss. This excludes an inclusive generic interpretation of the null possessor in Finnish. This means that the partial vs. consistent pro-drop distinction is not parametric in the sense that a language has one or the other, but is relativized to categories, being dependent on the presence or absence of a feature which may show up in sentences or noun phrases.
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keywords: possessive pronoun, possessive suffix, pro-drop, partial, generic, agreement, syntax
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