Universal Grammar Case Study

The theory of pro: An Italian perspective

Universal Grammar (UG) is a linguistics theory which supports the idea that all human languages, although different in the surface, share some fundamental principles. These principles are generally true across languages, while parameters, on the other hand, are settings that allow for variation from language to language (White, 2003, p.2). The Extended Projection Principle (EPP) is a principle common to all languages which states that a sentence must always have a subject. According to the EPP and as explained by Carnie (2013), all clauses must have subjects (i.e. the specifier of TP must be filled by a DP or CP) and lexical information must be expressed at all levels. In the UG view,
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Therefore, the type of clause does not influence the absence of the subject, and its absence is also not related to the type of subject in the sentence (D’Alessandro, 2014). The grammatical person, whether it is first, second, or third, and the grammatical number, singular or plural, do not affect the null-subject parameter. For instance, in sentence (2) the unexpressed subject in Italian is the third person plural “loro”, while in sentence (4) the implicit subject is the second person singular “tu”. The grammatical person and number are different; however, the subject remains unexpressed, or covert, independently to the fact that the subject is the second or third person, singular or …show more content…
Pro is a null pronoun which is not pronounced, and has all the features of a full DP subject (it can bear nominative case, or it can be singular or plural, etc.) but it is phonetically empty. According to Rizzi, pro is subject to the following conditions:
1. pro must be licensed (via the [+strong] feature of INFL);
2. pro must be identified (via the agreement markers - the subject bound morphemes).
Pro must be licensed means that the inflection must be present for pro to exist (for instance, English has a [-strong] feature of INFL since English has impoverished agreement inflections). Pro must be identified means that there must be an agreement between a verb and the grammatical person and number of its subject for pro to exist (Holmberg, 2005). The following Italian sentence shows the position of pro:
(10) pro Cucinerò le lasagne per degli amici. will cook.1SG the lasagne for some friends.
“I will cook lasagna for some friends”
In (12) a syntactic representation of (10) is showed. Following the theory of pro, there is a subject in the NP position in order to account for the EPP.

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