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Accepted. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. PDF: contact me

The control dependency in grammar is conventionally distinguished into two classes: exhaustive (i → i) and non-exhaustive (i → i + ( j)). In this paper, we use primary data from German and Italian to show that natural languages seem to allow another kind of control, “proxy control”, which is neither exhaustive nor non-exhaustive in the sense given above. Proxy control involves a mapping between one set of individuals i and another proxy(i) that is discourse-pragmatically related to it. For any three sets of individuals i, j and k, where i and j are core participants in an eventuality e1 and k is a core participant in e2, an eventuality related to e1, k = proxy(i) iff (i) k is a suitable representative or “stand-in” for i in e2, according to i and j; and (ii) i and k are directly associated through some discourse-salient group or activity. We first show that proxy control is irreducible to other, more familiar referential dependencies. We then present standard empirical diagnostics to illustrate that proxy control can be instantiated both as a species of obligatory control (OC) and non-obligatory control (NOC). Differences in perspectival opacity- and discourse sensitivity effects further show that proxy OC and proxy NOC correspond to distinct underlying structures, a conclusion that is bolstered by Floating Quantifier agreement in Italian and Condition B obviation effects in German, which pattern differently across proxy OC and NOC. We investigate the syntax and semantics of proxy OC and NOC in detail and also present a detailed proposal for the factors conditioning the choice between the two, and between different degrees of exhaustiveness (exhaustive vs. partial vs. proxy) in control. We conclude by presenting initial case-studies for proxy control in Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu and gerundivals in English, and by presenting preliminary evidence for proxy control from Indonesian, Romanian, and French.


The Linguistic Review 35 (3, GLOW Issue): 463-518. https://doi.org/10.1515/tlr-2018-0003. 


The goal of this paper is to provide novel theoretical and empirical evidence that the null subjects traditionally labelled as pro and PRO , rather than being inherently distinct, are manifestations, differentiated in the course of the derivation, of what is underlyingly a single underspecified nominal pro-form, which we will call UPro. Included under this UPro are pro, OC PRO and also the various types of ‘non-obligatory control’ ( NOC ) PRO , including arbitrary PRO ( PRO arb ). The interpretive and distributional distinctions lurking behind these labels result 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). Crucial evidence motivating the approach proposed here will be adduced from Sundaresan’s (2014) “Finiteness pro-drop Generalisation”, which reveals an otherwise unexpected complementarity of OC PRO and pro.

2014. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 32:59-85 (pre-final draft)

The paper (a commentary on Kissock's paper in the volume) discusses the status of OC PRO and pro relative to one another and asks what empirical diagnostics may be brought to bear to distinguish one from the other. I argue that they both happen to be silent on the surface but what crucially distinguishes these elements is that OC PRO is always a bound-variable anaphor whereas pro can refer deictically. Thus, a claim that a language lacks OC PRO reduces to one about whether obligatorily bound variables are capable of being silent.  The final part of the paper examines non-finite clauses in a range of subject pro-drop languages (e.g. Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Japanese, Hindi, Tamil) that allow alternating overt and covert subjects. Independent tests of sloppy readings under ellipsis, de se readings and obligatory coreference are adduced to show that the null subject variant in the non-finite clause in all these languages, bears the fingerprint of OC PRO and not of pro. This in turn suggests that subject pro-drop is restricted in non-finite clauses for independent reasons (a restriction I term the "Finiteness-pro/drop Generalisation). 

2011. Unpublished Ms., University of Tromsø/Universität Stuttgart. 

The main proposal made here is that control and anaphora are not separate grammatical phenomena but involve different interface manifestations of a single underlying anaphoric DP. Specifically, it is hypothesized that obligatory-controlled PRO and overt, “SELF”- anaphors are syntactically-conditioned allomorphs. Given a Y-modular grammar and radical Late Insertion, this entails that obligatorily-controlled PRO and SELF-anaphors are born with identical features and categorial structure and are thus indistinguishable in the narrow syntac- tic module. Nevertheless, I propose, these elements end up in systematically distinct syntac- tic positions pre-SpellOut – they are thus distinguishable purely by means of their immediate syntactic context and, in this manner, are contextual allomorphs in the narrow Syntax. The DP that ends up being “PRO” is in canonical subject ([Spec, TP]) position pre-SpellOut; fur- thermore, the cartographic C-domain that directly embeds this TP is featurally-deficient in a manner that, I propose, characterizes C-layers that embed control complements more gener- ally. The anaphoric DP that becomes a “SELF”-anaphor is in canonical object position and its antecedent is in the same minimal domain as itself. All LF and PF distinctions between OC PRO and SELF-anaphors, I argue, are directly motivated by these contextual distinctions in the narrow syntax. 

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