Pro Drop

W. Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Tue Feb 10 08:47:00 UTC 2004

Dear all,

Claude surely is right when stressing the appropriateness of Gideon's
formulation: "'[the] pro-drop' issue in formal linguistics has brought
about a certain amount of confusion". Nevertheless, I guess, nobody in
Typology will infer from the term 'pro drop' that head-marking languages
have 'dropped' an overt pronominal form. Rather, I have the impression
that the term is used for heuristic purposes only: It just describes the
fact that an overt pronoun is lacking in case the pronominal referent is
not in focus etc. There are many such terms in linguistics which must
not be taken literally (just recall 'accusative') or which reflect a
linguistic tradition which goes against the actual scientific paradigm
that has adopted the term. For instance, it should come clear that
'overt Speech Act Participant markers' cannot be 'pro-nouns', although
they are concentionally termed as such. From a functional perspective, a
pro-noun should be something that 'stands for' a noun in a given
construction, but *not* in a paradigm (which by itself is often enough a
heuristic construct of linguists). If ever the term pro-noun is
functionally acceptable, it should be confined to anaphoric 'third
person' markers etc.

The semantics of linguistic terms may be subjected to diachrony,
semantic change and borrowing just as any other ordinary language term.
The only thing is that we always have to make clear what we mean by the
term in an actual framework.



Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze
Institut für Allgemeine und Typologische Sprachwissenschaft
Department 'Kommunikation und Sprachen' (Dep. II) - F 13/14
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
D-80539 München
Tel.: ++49(0)89-2180-2486 (Sekr.) / -5343 (Büro)
Fax: ++49(0)89-2180-5345
Email: W.Schulze at

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