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Pronouns vs. demonstratives: Feature Economy. Elly van Gelderen LASSO, Las Cruces 9 October 2010 Aims. To examine the distribution of pronouns and demonstratives in Old English (but relevant in other languages too).

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pronouns vs demonstratives feature economy

Pronouns vs. demonstratives:Feature Economy

Elly van Gelderen

LASSO, Las Cruces

9 October 2010


To examine the distribution of pronouns and demonstratives in Old English (but relevant in other languages too).

To explain this in terms of the child interpreting input in a particular way through Feature Economy

To examine internal and external factors of linguistic change and their interaction

why is change interesting
Why is change interesting?

If these are real patterns of change,

then they give insight in the Faculty of Language


1. Genetic endowment

2. Experience

3. Principles not specific to language

three factors e g chomsky 2007
Three factors, e.g. Chomsky 2007

(1) genetic endowment, which sets limits on the attainable languages, thereby making language acquisition possible;

(2) external data, converted to the experience that selects one or another language within a narrow range;

(3) principles not specific to [the Faculty of Language]. Some of the third factor principles have the flavor of the constraints that enter into all facets of growth and evolution, [...] Among these are principles of efficient computation"


Locality = Minimize computational burden (Ross 1967; Chomsky 1973)

Use a head = Minimize Structure (Head Preference Principle, van Gelderen 2004)

Late Merge = Minimize computational burden (van Gelderen 2004, and others)

language change
Language Change =

Cycles are the result of reanalysis by the language learner who apply Economy Principles. I argue that the real sources of change are internal principles.

cues and inertia
Cues and Inertia

This is very different from models such as Lightfoot's and Westergaard’s that examine how much input a child needs to reset a parameter. According to Lightfoot, "children scan their linguistic environment for structural cues" (2006: 32); for these, change comes from the outside.

And from Keenan’s (1996; 2002) Inertia.

if there are economy principles they should be visible in lg change
If there are Economy Principles, they should be visible in Lg Change

Two main patterns (van Gelderen 2004 etc):

a) Phrase to Head

b) Up the tree: both phrases and heads

Principles: acquisition and derivation

what a phrase specifier head
What: (a) Phrase (Specifier) > Head

Full pronoun to agreement

Demonstrative that to complementizer

Demonstrative pronoun to article

Negative adverb phrase to negation marker

Adverb phrase to aspect marker

Adverb phrase to complementizer

and b higher in the tree
and (b) higher in the tree

On, from P to ASP (I am on going)

VP Adverbials > TP/CP Adverbials

Like, from P > C (like I said)

Negative objects to negative markers

Modals: v > ASP > T

Negative verbs to auxiliaries

To: P > ASP > M > C

PP > C (for something to happen)

reanalysis of how
Reanalysis of `how’:

(1) How would you like to go to the game?

`Would you like to go to the game?’

(2) Dwyer told the players how he wanted to win

‘D. told the players that he wanted to win.’

(from the BNC as given by Willis 2007: 434)

how why cognitive economy or ug principles
How/why: Cognitive Economy (or UG) principles

help the learner, e.g:

Phrase > head (minimize structure)

Avoid too much movement

(1) XP

Spec X'


Y …

computational lexical
Computational - Lexical
  • Structural Economy is computational
  • If all variation is in the lexicon, is there also `help’ for the learner there?
  • Yes, Feature Economy: if you have a LI with i-F, use it with u-F as well.
minimalist features
Minimalist features

The interpretable ones are relevant at the Conceptual-Intentional interface.

Uninterpretable ones act as `glue’ so to speak to help out merge.

For instance, person and number features (=phi-features) are interpretable on nouns but not on verbs.

pronouns agreement

English I French je

i-phi u-phi

(=i-ps) (=u-ps)

s/he il/elle

i-phi i-phi

(=i-deictic) (=i-deictic)

what are some of the features
What are some of the features?



T vP

[u-phi] DP v'

[NOM] She v VP

[u-Case] saw [i-phi] [u-phi] DP V’

[ACC] bears V



Semantic, interpretable, and uninterpretable

the subject cycle
The Subject Cycle

(1) demonstrative > third person pron > clitic > agreement

(2) oblique > emphatic > first/second pron > clitic > agreement



demonstrative > personal > agreement

[i-phi] [i-phi] [u-phi]

[i-deixis] [u-Case]

ille il il+V

standard to colloquial french
Standard to Colloquial French

(a) Modification, (b) coordination, (c) position, (d) doubling, (e) loss of V-movement, (f) Code switching

(1) et c'est elle qui a eu la place.

and it was her who has had the place

(2) *Je et tu ...

(3) *je lis et ecris

(4) Moi, j’ai pas vu ça.

(5) Et toi, tu aimes le rap?

(6) on voit que lui il n'apprécie pas tellement la politique

one sees that him he not-appreciates not so the politics (LTSN corpus, p. 15-466)

more doubling loss of v movement and code switching
More doubling, loss of V-movement and code switching

(1) une omelette elle est comme ça Swiss

an omelette she is like this

(2) tu vas où Colloquial French

2S go where

(3)nta tu vas travailler Arabic-French

you you go work

(from Bentahila and Davies 1983: 313).

why does person start the cycle
Why does `person’ start the cycle?

Definiteness Hierarchy

1/2 > 3 > definite > indefinite/quantifier

Another instance: Mexican Spanish, overt Subject: 1sg 24.4%

2sg 12.5%

3sg 8.2% (Lopez, 2007)

Poletto (2000): SCL replaces features on a verb; different positions.

feature economy
Feature Economy

Minimize the interpretable features in the derivation, e.g:

(1) Adjunct Specifier Head affix

semantic > [iF] > [uF]

(2) emphatic > full pronoun > head > agreement

[i-phi] [i-phi] [u-1/2] [i-3] [u-phi]

Chomsky (1995: 230; 381) "formal features have semantic correlates and reflect semantic properties (accusative Case and transitivity, for example)." This makes sense if a language learner uses the semantic features in the derivation, these features turning into interpretable ones so to speak.

feature economy select minimum from the lexicon
Feature Economy: select minimum from the lexicon

Locative Specifier Head affix

semantic > [iF] > [uF] > --

Head > (higher) Head > 0

[iF] / [uF] [uF]

uF is a Probe

back to english features of dp
Back to English: features of DP

(1) a. *That the dog loves their the toys.

b. I saw that.

c. *I saw the.

(2) DP DP

that D’ D NP

[i-loc] D NP the 3S

[i-ps] 3S [u-phi]

history dem article
History: Dem > Article

(1) hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon

how those nobles courage did

'how the nobles performed heroic acts' (Beowulf 3)

(2) se wæs Wine haten & se wæs in Gallia rice gehalgod.

he was wine called and he was in Gaul consecrated

(3)Hi habbað mid him awyriedne engel, mancynnes feond, and se hæfð andweald...

They have with them corrupt angel, mankind’s enemy, and he [the angel] has power over... (Ælfric, Homilies ii.488.14)

(1) gife to … þa munecas of þe mynstre

give to … the monks of the abbey (Peterborough Chron 1150)

(2) *the (Wood 2003: 69)

(3) Morret's brother came out of Scoteland for th'acceptacion of the peax

(The Diary of Edward VI, 1550s)

(4) Oh they used to be ever so funny houses you know and in them days … They used to have big windows, but they used to a all be them there little tiny ones like that. (BNC - FYD 72)

oe pronouns and demonstratives
OE pronouns and demonstratives

He, heo, hit, hi - se, seo, etc.

non-deictic deictic

reflexive relative clause

so 1200 a reanalysis
So 1200: a reanalysis

(1) & gaddresst swa þe clene corn All fra þe chaff togeddre

`and so you gather the clear wheat from the chaff.’ (Ormulum 1484-5, Holt edition)

(2) 3ho wass … Elysabæþ 3ehatenn

`She was called Elisabeth.’ (Ormulum 115)

(3) & swa þe33 leddenn heore lif Till þatt te33 wærenn alde

`and so they led their lives until they were old.’ (Ormulum 125-6)

(4) þin forrme win iss swiþe god, þin lattre win iss bettre.

`Your earlier wine is very good, your later wine is better.’ (Ormulum 15409)

internal external
Internal External

se --> the seo --> she

that --> that hi --> they

him/her --> him/herself

(3ps no longer only topic switch)

a. se > the

[i-loc]/[i-phi] [u-T]/[u-ps]

b. he/hi is replaced by he

heo/ha is replaced by she (possibly via seo)

hi/hie is replaced by they

[i-phi] [i-phi]/[i-loc]





article pronoun

[u-phi] [i-phi]


  • If change is in similar directions: window on the Language Faculty
  • Economy Principles = Third factor
  • Children use these to analyze their input + there is language change if accepted.
  • Change is from the inside, now feature Economy, earlier HPP and LMP
  • Two changes looked at: French agreement and English pronouns
some references
Some References

Chomsky, Noam 2007. Approaching UG from below, in Uli Sauerland et al. (eds), Interfaces + Recursion = Language, 1-29. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Gardiner, Alan H. 1904. The word ... Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache undAltertumskunde 41: 130-135.

Gelderen, Elly van 2004. Grammaticalization as Economy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Gelderen, Elly van to appear. The Linguistic Cycle. OUP.

Givón, Talmy 1971. Historical syntax and synchronic morphology. Chicago Linguistic Society Proceedings 7: 394-415.

Hodge, Carleton 1970. The Linguistic Cycle. Linguistic Sciences

Vitral, Lorenso & Jânia Ramos 2006. Gramaticalização: uma abordagem formal. Rio de Janeiro: Tempo Brasileiro.