The distribution of null subjects in non-native grammars: syntactic
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The distribution of null subjects in non-native grammars: syntactic markedness and interface vulnerability. Juana M. Liceras Anahí Alba de la Fuente Cristina Martínez Sanz University of Ottawa. “Illicit” null subjects. 1. Pragmatically illicit null subjects: Heritage speakers

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The distribution of null subjects in non-native grammars: syntactic markedness and interface vulnerability

Juana M. Liceras

Anahí Alba de la Fuente

Cristina MartínezSanz

University of Ottawa


Illicit null subjects
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

1. Pragmatically illicit null subjects: Heritage speakers

Elicited production: to test spontaneous production of subjects

Entró el abuelito con el perro y pro cortó el estómago del lobo y pro sacó a la abuelita y a el Caperucita Roja. Mientras estaba dormido el lobo *pro le llenaroN el estómago con piedras, y la abuelita estaba lista pa coserle el estómago. […]

“The grandfather came in with the dog and pro cut the wolf’s stomach and took out the grandmother and Little Red riding Hood. While was sleeping the wolf, *pro filled the stomach with stones, and the grandmother was ready to sew him the stomach.” [….]

WHO FILLED THE WOLF’S STOMACH WITH STONES?


Illicit null subjects1
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

… Despertó el lobo cosido, lleno de piedras, y el abuelito, la abuelita y la caperucita roja estaban riendo de él. Al fin todo salió bien y *pro se fue a casa con el abuelito.

“Woke up the wolf sewn, full of stones, and the grandfather, the grandmother and the Little Red Riding Hood were laughing at him. In the end everything went well and *pro went home with the grandfather.”

[HS #205, intermediate (Montrul 2004 (30): 133)]

WHO WENT HOME WITH THE GRANDFATHER?


Illicit null subjects2
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

Entonces la Caperucita roja encontró, pro fue a ver quién estaba en la cama, entonces pro encontró que era el lobo. ?pro estaba corriendo del lobo y entonces pro salió fuera, o *prose la comiÓ, *pro se comiÓ a la abuelita y a la Caperucita.

“So, the Little Red Riding Hood found, pro went to see who was in the bed, so pro found that was the wolf. ? Pro was running away from the wolf and the pro went out, or *pro ate her up, *pro ate up the grandmother and the Red Riding Hood”.

[HS #209, intermediate (Montrul 2004 (32): 133)]

 NO AMBIGUITY BUT CHANGE OF REFERENT MAKES THE PARAGRAPH PRAGMATICALLY INCOHERENT


Illicit null subjects3
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

2. Pragmatically illicit null subjects: Non-native grammars

Elicited production: to test spontaneous production of subjects

Evidence against the unidirectionality of pragmatic deficits (Sorace 2004). [Montrul and Rodríguez-Louro 2006: Table 3]


Illicit null subjects versus agreement errors
“Illicit” null subjects versus syntactic “agreement errors”


Illicit null subjects4
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

Grammaticality judgments: to test choice of topic versus non-topic connected subject

A: Hola John “Hi, John”

B. Hola Ana “Hi, Ann”

A: ¿Te gustaría almorzar conmigo? “Would you like to eat lunch with me?

B: Si, me gustaría. ¿Puede venir Beth también? “Yes, I would. Can Beth come too?

A: Seguro, ¿a qué hora quieres ir? “Sure, when do you want to go?”

B: 1) Bueno, está en clase ahora. ¿Está bien a las 12:30? “Is in class now. Is 12:30 ok?”

2) Bueno, Beth está en clase ahora. ¿Está bien a las 12:30? “Beth is in class now. Is 12:30 ok?”

[Lafond et al. 2001: 126]


Illicit null subjects5
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

• In terms of anaphoric relations, in languages such as Italian and Spanish, null and overt subjects seem to respect Carminati’s (2002) “Position of Antecedent Hypothesis (PAH)”:

  • “The null pronoun prefers an antecedent which is in the Spec IP position, while the overt pronoun prefers an antecedent which is not in the Spec IP position”. [Carminati 2002: 33]

    • Therefore, a null subject whose choice of antecedent violates the PAH is also an “illicit” null subject.


Illicit null subjects6
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

Picture Verification task: to test PAH

• Non-native speakers behave like native speakers when it comes to the choice of antecedent for null subjects: DO NOT produce pragmatically “illicit” null subjects with forward (9) or backward (10) anaphora (they respect the PAH).

[Sorace and Filiaci 2006: 352 ]


Illicit null subjects7
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

Story telling: to test spontaneous production of subjects

Picture verification task: to test the interpretation of null and pronominal subjects (PAH)

• Null pronominal subjects were produced at a comparable rate in spontaneous production by both the near native and the control groups. [Belleti et al. 2007: 671]

• There were significant differences between the near-native and the native speakers in the interpretation of pronominal subjects BUT NOT in the interpretation of null subjects.

[Belleti et al. 2007: 674]


Illicit null subjects8
“Illicit” null subjects syntactic

3. Native grammars

Entonces cuando el gigante lo vio a él, David le dijo a él: tú vienes a mí con espada y jabalina, yo vengo contra ti en el nombre de Jehovah y cogió una honda. Puso una piedrecita así. Pero el gigante tenía todas esas cosas puestas y ahí mismo él agarró la honda, le tiró la piedra, y ahí mismo lo mató. Le dio ahí ycuando *pro cayó, cogió la misma espada de él y le mochó la cabeza.

Then, when the giant saw him, David told him: you come to me with sword and javelin, I come against you in the name of Jehovah and (he) took a sling. (He) put a little stone like that. But the giant was wearing all those things and right there he grabbed the sling, (he) threw the stone against him, and right there (he) killed him. (He) hit him there and when *pro fell, (he) took his own sword of him and cut off his head.

[Martínez Sanz (forthcoming): Eliser, 8UW]


Null subjects in romance derived creoles
Null subjects in Romance-derived Creoles syntactic

According to Lipski (1999) some null subjects are possible in Philipinie Chabacano Spanish, Mauritian Creole, Papiamento and Palenquero but they are the exception.

(i) The majority of null subjects are produced in main clauses

(ii) Instances of null subjects in embedded clauses which are coreferential with subject in matrix (double null subject configurations) are rare.

Lipski (1999) argues that these Creole null subjects are “null constants” (Lasnik and Stowell 1991). These Creoles do not exhibit pro null subjects of the Spanish and Italian type because they do not have the resources to license and identify them.


Licensing and identification of null subjects gb
Licensing and identification of null subjects: GB syntactic

  • Null subjects have to be licensed and identified (Rizzi 1986). In languages such as Italian and Spanish, they are licensed via a [+strong] feature in INFL and identified via the phi-features in AGR, as in (2).

    (2)

    [Liceras et al.1998: 264]


Null subjects minimalist accounts
Null subjects: Minimalist accounts syntactic

Alexiadou & Anagnastopoulous (1998). The set of phi-features of I is interpretable. Agr is a referential pronoun, therefore there is no need for pro. Following Rohrbacher (1992) and Speas (1994) these authors propose that strong morphemes (the Spanish agreement markers) have individual lexical entries in the numeration and that in this type of language EPP is checked via merge.

Holmberg (2005), Manzini and Roussou (1999), Platzack (2003, 2004).


Epp checking merge
EPP checking: Merge syntactic

[Liceras et al.: forthcoming]

• The Spanish agreement markers are clitic pronouns

Roberts (2001): a unmarked operation of core grammar because it DOES NOT create a new layer of structure.


Epp checking move
EPP checking: Move syntactic

[Liceras et al.: forthcoming]

Roberts (2001): a marked operation of core grammar because it DOES create another layer of structure.


Spanish overt pronouns
Spanish overt pronouns syntactic

[Liceras et al.: forthcoming]


Where are we
Where are we? syntactic

  • Learners of Spanish have to master two different sets of subject pronouns: (i) strong pronouns, which, by default, have the feature [+topic shift]; and (ii) weak pronouns which do not seem to have such a feature.

  • Merge is the operation which leads to the incorporation of the weak pronouns in the structure. These bound morphemes are interpretable and part of the numeration.

  • The strong pronouns are adjoined and occupy a focus position.


Where are we1
Where are we? syntactic

  • Both sets of pronouns are present in non-native Spanish grammars from the early stages of development.

  • There seems to be a correlation between the pragmatically deviant use of strong pronouns and the production of errors with weak pronouns—agreement errors (Montrul & Rodriguez-Louro 2006). This correlation does not show with respect to null pronouns.

  • Non-native speakers intuitions are not as clear-cut as native speakers intuitions when judging pragmatically deviant null subjects (Lafond et al. 2001), namely when besides the agreement marker an overt subject is needed.

  • Both native and non-native speakers produce and accept some pragmatically deviant null subjects. These null subjects are seldom ambiguous in terms of establishing a discourse referent.


Research questions
Research questions syntactic

  • Will native and non-native speakers written narratives show different patterns in terms of the relationship between the use of overt (strong) and bound (weak) pronouns?

  • Will null subjects with switch reference produced by native and non-native speakers in written narratives be different in terms of both overall quantity and use of ambiguous agreement markers?


Hypotheses
Hypotheses syntactic

• Null subjects will not be problematic for non-native speakers because the EPP checking via Merge is an unmarked operation of core grammar. But…

• Native and non-native speakers of Spanish may differ in terms of how they resolve ambiguity. CONSEQUENTLY…

#1 Non-native speakers of Spanish will produce less instances of agreement subjects (bound pronouns) with switch reference than native speakers because they may have more problems with bound morphemes.

# 2 Non-native and native speakers will differ with respect to the patterns of identification of ambiguous bound morphemes.

# 3 Given the findings of previous studies, the number of pragmatically deviant (“illicit”) null subjects—instances of unresolved ambiguity—will be small both in the case of native and non-native speakers.


Hypotheses1
Hypotheses syntactic

• These non-native grammars will not show the pattern of distribution of null subjects which characterizes Romance-based Creoles because bound pronominals (agreement markers) are part of these grammars from the early stages. CONSEQUENTLY…

# 4 Null subjects with switch reference will occur in both main and subordinate clauses.

# 5 Instances of null subjects in embedded clauses which are coreferential with null subjects in the matrix clauses will not be rare.


The study
The study syntactic

• Data

Narratives: (i) Non-native (NN) participants were asked to write freely about the character that would result from choosing from a list of randomized characteristics regarding age, marital status, profession, hobbies, place of residence, etc. Each narrative had an average of 500 words. (ii) Native participants were asked to give their impressions about a short film they were shown.

• Participants

-15 intermediate and 15 advanced (L1 English) non-native speakers of Spanish from two North American universities.

-15 native speakers of peninsular Spanish. University students from various faculties at a Spanish university in Spain.


Codification of data categories
Codification of data: categories syntactic

• Impersonal subjects, quirky subjects and subject relatives were not counted


Codification of data identification ambiguity
Codification of data: identification / ambiguity syntactic

  • Bound morphemes as pronominal subjects: AGR

  • Ambiguity: “Discourse”

    • comiÓ [two or more candidates: he, she, you-formal(s) ate]

    • comieroN [two or more “plural” candidates: they, you-formal(p) ate]

  • Ambiguity: “FLEX”

    • era, sería, fuera [1sts, 3rds, 2nds (usted)]

    I, she, he, you-formal(s) use to be/was, would be, would be / had been



Results null and overt subjects1
Results: Null and overt subjects syntactic

The results of a Two-way ANOVA on the use of null and overt subjects showed a significant effect of Group1 (F(2,42)=8.855, p= 0.001).

A post-hoc analysis, using the Bonferroni Correction, shows that the NN Intermediate group differs significantly from both the NN Advanced and the Native groups, both in the use of null and overt subjects (p .004 in all cases). The Native and NN Advanced groups do not differ significantly in the use of null (p= 1.00) and overt subjects (p= 1.00).

1The variable “Group” includes NN Intermediate, NN Advanced and Native.



Non ambiguous versus ambiguous bound pronominal subjects1
Non-ambiguous versus ambiguous bound pronominal subjects syntactic

In terms of “Identification”1 of null subjects, the results of a Three-way ANOVA showed a significant effect of Group for AGR (p= 0.025), but not for A-Flex (p=.087) and A-DISC (p=.086).

A post-hoc analysis, using the Bonferroni Correction, shows that the Intermediate group differs significantly from the Native group with respect to the use of AGR (p=.027). None of the other comparisons yielded any significant differences (p.08 in all cases).

1The label “Identification” includes the variables AGR, A-FLEX and A-DISC.



Illicit null subjects nn intermediate group
“Illicit” null subjects: syntactic NN Intermediate Group

(1) Si (el) ballet no *estuve [fuera] parte de mi vida no *sabe [sabría] como *estoy[estar]: (el) ballet es mi y *pro (yo) soy (el) ballet [502-W081-BUC]

If ballet were not part of my life I would not know how to be: ballet is me and I am ballet.

(2) Queremos dar a nuestros hijos la vida que mis padres me dieron. Ahora *pro sabe (usted???) un poco acerca de Vicente. [511-W081-HAW]

We want to give our children the life that my parents gave me. Now you (singular-formal???) know a little bit about Vicente.

(3) Pero, si *pro (uno/se) quiere ser una psiquiatra buena, la primera cosa que *pro (uno/se) tiene que aprender es como hablar con muchas personas diferentes y tipos. [512-W081-HOO]

But, if (you) want to be a good psychiatrist, the first thing that (you) have to learn is how to speak with many different people and types (of people).


Illicit null subjects nn advanced group
“Illicit” null subjects: syntactic NN Advanced Group

(1) Hace poco cumplí 33 años y empecé a tener dudas que había un lugar para mi o que *pro (yo?) podía cambiar el rumbo rápido de mi vida. [602-W071-BLA]

Not too long ago I turned 33 and began to have doubts that there would be a place for me or that (I?/the rapid course of my life?) could change.

(2) Espero que *pro (ustedes?/ellos?) comprendan y que *pro (ustedes?/ellos?) me lo perdonen. [612-W071-GUA]

I hope that (you-plural-formal?/they?) understand and that (you-plural-fromal?/they?) forgive me for that.

(3) Luc y yo vivimos en una mansión con piscina y una cancha de tenis. Me encanta nuestra casa, nuestro vecindario, y nuestra piscina… Aquí *pro (usted/él) tiene mi primer secreto: a veces me siento sola. [613-W071-HIG]

Luc and I live in a mansion with a pool and a tennis court. I love our house, our neighborhood and our pool… Here you (you-singular-formal/he) have my first secret: sometimes I feel lonely.


Illicit null subjects native group
syntactic Illicit” null subjects: Native group

(1) En mi caso particular, la adolescencia se caracterizó por dar una vida excesiva a los papeles. Ante la indiferencia, y los complejos que creaba *pro (yo?/la adolescencia?) construía mundos. [C06-JUF]

In my particular case, adolescence characterized itself by giving an excessive life to papers. Confronted with the indifference, and the complexes that it created (I? / adolescence?) built worlds.

(2) No era un conjunto de batallitas de diario o de conquistas de lo que *pro (yo?/the diary?/the diary’s author?) presumía. El plagio o la mentira no eran sus líneas. [C06-JUF]

It was not about the set of little diary stories or achievements that (I?/it?) was bragging about. Plagiarism or lies were not (its/the diary’s author?) lines.

(3) Me miró sorprendido y me sonrió. En el folio *pro (él/yo) llevaba las respuestas del examen y una nota. Cuando termines rompe el papel. [C10-SOL]

He looked at me surprised and smiled. On the sheet (he/I) was carrying the answers to the exam and a note. When you finish destroy the paper.



Coreferential null subjects in embedded and subordinate clauses
Coreferential null subjects in embedded and subordinate clauses

• Bound morphemes have clear pronominal status



Use of strong subject pronouns1
Use of Strong Subject Pronouns clauses

The results of a One-way ANOVA indicate that there are significant differences among the groups. A post-hoc analysis using the Bonferroni Correction shows no significant differences between the Native and Advanced groups. There are significant differences, however, between the Intermediate group and both the Advanced (p< .001) and the Native groups (p= .009).


Conclusions
Conclusions clauses

 Our first research question was: Will native and non-native speakers written narratives show different patterns in terms of the relationship between the use of overt (strong) and bound (weak) pronouns?

The answer is: Yes, they do with respect to the overall production of overt personal pronouns versus bound pronominals (agreement markers) but only in the case of the Intermediate group.


Conclusions1
Conclusions clauses

  • Our second research question was: Will null subjects with switch reference produced by native and non-native speakers in written narratives be different in terms of both overall quantity and use of ambiguous agreement markers?

    The answer is: the NN Intermediate group is significantly different from the NN Advanced and the native group in terms of the overall quantity of null subjects they produce. The NN Intermediate group is also significantly different from the Native group in terms of the use of ambiguous agreement markers (bound pronouns).


Conclusions2
Conclusions clauses

Our hypotheses were:

• Null subjects will not be problematic for non-native speakers because the EPP checking via Merge is an unmarked operation of core grammar. However, native and non-native speakers of Spanish may differ in terms of how they resolve ambiguity. CONSEQUENTLY…

#1. Non-native speakers of Spanish will produce less instances of agreement subjects (bound pronouns) with switch reference than native speakers because they may have more problems with bound morphemes.

This hypothesis was confirmed but the results were only significant in the case of the NN Intermediate group.


Conclusions3
Conclusions clauses

#2. Non-native and native speakers will differ with respect to the patterns of identification of ambiguous bound morphemes.

This hypothesis was confirmed but again only for the NN Intermediate group who used less discourse and person ambiguous bound pronouns (agreement markers) than the Advanced and the Native groups.

#3. Given the findings of previous studies, the number of pragmatically deviant (“illicit”) null subjects—instances of unresolved ambiguity—will be small both in the case of native and non-native speakers.

This hypothesis was confirmed. The total number of “illicit” null subjects was very low and was similar for all three groups.

In terms of the [+topic shift] feature, our data shows (contra Sorace 2000) that, at least in written narratives, native and non-native Spanish bound pronominals can bear a [+topic shift] feature.


Conclusions4
Conclusions clauses

We did not expect to find similarities between non-native grammars and Romance-based Creoles with respect to the pattern of distribution of null subjects because bound pronominals (agreement markers) are part of non-native Spanish grammars from the early stages. CONSEQUENTLY…

# 4 Null subjects with switch reference will occur in both main and subordinate clauses.

In fact, our data showed that null subjects with switch reference occur in both main and subordinate clauses.

# 5 Instances of null subjects in embedded clauses which are coreferential with null subjects in the matrix clauses will not be rare.

This is in fact the case with our data, since our subjets systematically produced sequences of “double null subjects” as the ones listed in slide 35.


Further research
Further research clauses

•We would like to suggest that:

(1) The referential status of bound pronominals –agreement markers- has to be taken into consideration when investigating so-called null subjects.

(2) Bound pronominals—as suggested by Lozano (2008)—be analzyed in relation to the specific person (first, second, third) and number (singular or plural) they encode. Lozano (2008) has shown that vulnerability —mainly with respect to overproduction of overt pronouns—affects pronouns which carry [3rd person] and [+animate] features but not those which carry [1st person] [-animate] features.

(3) A distinction should be made between “illicit” null subjects which create ambiguity that cannot be resolved via an overt pronoun but requires an overt DP subject from “illicit” null subjects which bear contrastive focus or violate Carminati’s Position of Antecent Hypothesis.


Acknowledgments
Acknowledgments clauses

• Institutions

University of Ottawa

University of Barcelona [Data from Research project “El desarrollo del repertorio lingüístico en hablantes no nativos de castellano y catalán" (MEC-SEJ2006-11083), 2006-2009; Principal Investigator: Joan Perera].

University of Alabama [Prof. Diana Carter]

• Graduate students

G. Boudreau, J. LaMontagne, P. López-Morelos, L. Walsh


Selected references
Selected References clauses

• Alexiadou, A. and E. Anagnostopoulou, E. 1998. Parametrizing AGR: word order, V-movement and EPP-checking. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 16: 491-539.

• Belletti, A., Bennati, E. and A. Sorace. 2007. Theoretical and developmental issues in the syntax of subjects: Evidence from near-native Italian. Natural Language and Linguist Theory 25: 657–689.

• Hulk, A. and N. Müller. 2000. Bilingual first language acquisition at the interface between syntax and pragmatics. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 3(3): 227-244.

• Lafond, L., R. Hayes and R. Bahatt. 2001. Constraint demotion and null subjects in Spanish L2 acquisition. In J. Camps and C. Wiltshire (eds.), Romance Syntax, Semantics and L2 Acquisition (pp. 121-135). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lasnik, H. and T. Stowell. 1991. Weakest crossover. Linguistic Inquiry 22: 687-720.


Selected references1
Selected References clauses

• Lipski, J. 1999. Null subjects in (Romance-derived) creoles: routes of evolution. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, Los Angeles, January 8, 1999.

• Maranz, A. 1995. The minimalist program. In G. Webelhuth (ed.). Government and binding theory and the Minimalist Program (pp. 351-382). Oxford: Blackwell.

• Montrul, S. 2004. Subject and object expression in Spanish heritage speakers: a case of morpho-syntactic convergence. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 7 (2): 125-142.

• Montrul, S. & C. Rodríguez Louro. 2006. Beyond the syntax of the null subject parameter. A look at the discourse-pragmatic distribution of null and overt subjects by L2 learners of Spanish (pp.401-418). In L. Escobar & V. Torrens (eds.), The Acquisition of Syntax in Romance Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


Selected references2
Selected References clauses

• Rizzi, L. 1994. Early null subjects and root null subjects. In T. Hoekstra and B. D. Schwartz (eds.). Language acquisition studies in generative grammar (pp. 151-176). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

• Rohrbacher, B. (1992) English AUX-NEG, Mainland Scandinavian NEG-AUX and the theory of V-to-I raising. Proceedings of the 22nd Western Conference on Linguistics (WECOL 92).

• Sorace, A. 2004. Native language attrition and developmental instability at the syntax-discourse interface: data interpretations and methods. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 7 (2): 143-145.

• Sorace, A. and F. Filiaci. 2006. Anaphora resolution in near-native speakers of Italian. Second Language Research 22(3): 339-368.


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