Linguistics and English Language

Meaning and grammar seminar

Speaker: Coppe van Urk (QMUL)

Title: Pronoun copying in Dinka

Abstract: A fundamental question in contemporary minimalist approaches to movement is why copies left by phrasal movement are not realized. Particularly puzzling from this perspective is the observation that pronouns, in a range of environments, appear to function as spell-outs of gaps (e.g. Zaenen et al. 1981; Koopman 1982, 1984; Engdahl 1985; Harizanov 2014; Sichel 2014). This talk investigates a novel pronoun copying pattern in the Nilotic language Dinka Bor, in which a 3rd person plural pronoun spells out intermediate copies at the verb phrase edge. I then show that Dinka pronoun copying displays two unusual number asymmetries that provide a unique insight into the link between pronoun copying and copy deletion: (i) the pronoun matches only in number, not person, and (ii) only plural DPs initiate copying. Importantly, this number sensitivity mirrors a general asymmetry in the expression of singular and plural. I argue that this parallel reveals that pronoun copying in Dinka reflects partial deletion in a DP copy, deleting everything but the structure that hosts number information. The availability of partial deletion in multiple copy spell-out is shown to follow from an approach to copy deletion based on economy, as developed by Landau (2006). In support of this, I demonstrate that Dinka’s asymmetries in fact have their counterparts across pronoun copying constructions and develop a unified account of pronoun copying crosslinguistically.


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Feb 22 2018 -

Meaning and grammar seminar

2018-02-22: Pronoun copying in Dinka

Room 2.02, 17-25 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9LN