Simonenko, Crabbé & Prévost (2017) – Agreement syncretisation and the loss of null subjects: quantificational models for Medieval French

Agreement syncretisation and the loss of null subjects: quantificational models for Medieval French
Alexandra Simonenko, Benoît Crabbé, Sophie Prévost
direct link: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/003491
June 2017
This paper examines the nature of the dependency between the availability of null subjects and the “richness” of verbal subject agreement, known as Taraldsen’s Generalisation (Taraldsen 1980, Rizzi 1986, Adams:1987), from the point of view of grammar change in Medieval French based on corpus data. We present a corpus-based quantitative model of the syncretisation of verbal subject agreement spanning the whole Medieval French period and evaluate two hypotheses relating agreement and null subjects: one relating the two as reflexes of the same grammatical property and a variational learning-based hypothesis whereby syncretic endings create a learning bias against the null subject grammar. We show that only the latter approach has the potential to reconcile the intuition behind Taraldsen’s Generalisation with the fact that it has proven non-trivial to formulate the notion of agreement richness in a way which would unequivocally predict whether a language has null subjects.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003491
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: manuscript under review
keywords: language change, null subjects, pro-drop, rich agreement, morphological syncretism, historical french, constant rate hypothesis, variational learning, morphology, syntax, phonology
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