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The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 4/22: Shigeru Miyagawa

Speaker: Shigeru Miyagawa
Title: Primacy of Person Agreement: Revisiting Jaeggli and Safir’s Morphological Uniformity for Pro-drop
Time: Thurs 4/22, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Pro-drop is typically correlated with rich agreement (Jespersen 1924, Perlmutter 1971, Rizzi 1978, Taraldsen 1978). However, languages such as Chinese evidence pro-drop without any overt agreement (Huang 1984). To account for both types, Jaeggli and Safir (1989) propose that languages that are morphologically uniformly complex (e.g., Romance) or uniformly simple (Chinese) allow pro-drop, calling it “Morphological Uniformity” (MU). In this talk, I will flush out some of the empirical issues associated with pro-drop to try to understand what is behind MU. An important observation made in the 1990s is that not all instances of pro-drop are associated with a pronominal element (Huang 1991, Otani and Whitman 1991). Oku (1998) shows that in some cases the empty element is the site of noun-phrase ellipsis (NPE). His work shows that the distribution of pro and NPE can be predicted by and large from the presence or absence of agreement: only pro is allowed in the presence of agreement; NPE is only allowed in the absence of agreement (see also Saito 2007). Based on recent studies by Miyagawa (2010), ?ener and Takahashi (to appear), and Takahashi (2008, 2010), I will show that when there is no morphological indication of agreement whatsoever at finite T, the default is to interpret person agreement at T, leading to the possibility of pro but not NPE. This is the morphologically uniformly simple phenomenon in MU and it characterizes Chinese, which shows person agreement at T without any morphology. Data from Basque and Japanese provide further evidence for this new version of MU.
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