The research for this paper was part of the project ‘Null subjects and the structure of parametric theory’, funded by the AHRC. The following persons helped me with the data, either relying on their own intuitions or by collecting data from unnamed informants: David Adger, Ricardo Bermudez-Otero, Peter Biskup, Ilhan Cagri, Anna Cardinaletti, Aniko Csirmaz, Girma Awgichew Demeke, Abdelkader Fassi Fehri, Kook-Hee Gill, Mayumi Hosono, Atakan Ince, Patricia Jablonska, Nader Jahangiri, K.A. Jayaseelan, Marit Julien, Katalin É. Kiss, Dimitra Kolliakou, Aniko Liptak, Ove Lorentz, Pascual Masullo, Mohsen Mubaraki, Makiko Mukai, Ur Shlonsky, Michelle Sheehan, K.V. Subbarao, Balasz Suranyi, David Willis, Nianling Yang, Winnie Yiu. Thanks also to Ian Roberts, Theresa Biberauer, Chris Johns, the audiences at NELS 35 and the Cambridge Workshop on Null Subjects October 2004, and especially to two anonymous referees for Studia Linguistica.
Null subjects and polarity focus*
Article first published online: 14 NOV 2007
Volume 61, Issue 3, pages 212–236, December 2007
How to Cite
Holmberg, A. (2007), Null subjects and polarity focus. Studia Linguistica, 61: 212–236. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9582.2007.00135.x
- Issue published online: 14 NOV 2007
- Article first published online: 14 NOV 2007
- Received January 1, 2006 Accepted December 30, 2006
Abstract. Some null-subject languages cannot drop the subject pronoun in the second conjunct in sentences which translate as They say that John doesn’t speak French, but he does, where the pronoun is coreferent with John. Among the null-subject languages which do not allow a null subject in this context are Chinese (various dialects), Finnish and European Portuguese. Among the languages that allow it are Japanese, Persian, and Spanish. An explanation is proposed of this variation, based on the following correlation: The languages which do not allow a null subject standardly reply to yes/no-questions by repeating the finite verb of the question. The languages which allow a null subject standardly reply by using a special affirmation particle ‘yes’. The connection between these two properties is that both involve polarity focus. The proposal is that a null subject in the second conjunct is prohibited in the former class because of a competition of derivations involving ellipsis. This hypothesis is based on the theory of polarity focus in Finnish articulated in Holmberg (2001).