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Restricted pro drop in Early Modern Dutch

Peter Ackema and Ad Neeleman
The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics
Vol. 10, No. 2 (2007), pp. 81-107
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23737804
Page Count: 27
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Abstract

In this paper, we argue that Early Modern Dutch allowed pro drop, despite the fact that the language has only poor agreement. This provides a direct counterexample to the standard view that Italian-style pro drop is subject to a condition of grammatical recoverability (in that the features of pro must be indexed on the verb). However, pro drop in Early Modern Dutch is subject to very strict pragmatic conditions, and this, we argue, does follow from the lack of rich agreement. Basing ourselves on Mira Ariel's Accessibility Theory, we argue that if fewer features of an omitted subject are grammatically recoverable, its antecedent must be more salient in discourse. Consequently, there is an indirect relation between rich agreement and pro drop: rich agreement facilitates pro drop in more contexts. Since a very limited distribution of pro drop implies that the rule is vulnerable in diachronic development, the familiar cross-linguistic generalization can be derived.

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