Antonio Tarallo frisella at IOL.IT
Fri May 14 11:29:39 UTC 1999

I believe Modern Irish is a non pro-drop  language, though it behaves
quite differently as against both Breton and Welsh. As a matter of fact,
any Irish dialect would use two words to say both "John sings" (Canann
Sean) and "He sings" (Canann sé). Nevertheless, in certain cases a few
southern dialects  would obligatorily use one word to say , e.g. "I
sang" (Chanas), while in others (most of them) two words would be normal
(Chan mé), and this is the reason why Irish is mostly considered a
pro-drop language in the literature (so e.g. in Mc Closkey & Hale,
Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 1): one cannot even say *chanas
mé, as in Italian (io) cantai, where a subject pronoun is optional,
though normally not used, with an already person-marked (inflected) verb
form .
Of course one would like to know what sort of word are such words as sé
'he' and mé 'I'. In fact  the third person pronoun is exclusively used
as a subject pronoun cliticized to the verb (the object pronoun is é),
and the same holds for si/i 'she/her',  siad/iad 'they/them', and tu/thu
'you' (sg.), while the first person mé can also be used as object, and
enjoys an amount of independence which is fairly typical of words  (it
can stay at the end of the sentence; it can be non-cliticized). As for
other pronouns, sibh 'you' (pl.) behaves like mé, while muid 'we' may be
used like mé or either contrasts with the old 1st pl. pronoun sinn, used
as object. Muid was actually a 1st pl. present verbal ending, not a
pronoun. Thus Irish is actually pro-drop in certain persons of certain
mood/ tenses, and non pro-drop for others. The drift from pro-drop to
non pro-drop in Irish has covered a long span of time and is peculiar in
having generalized third person (both zero and non zero endings) +
pronoun pattern almost without phonological loss of verbal ending (that
is, there was no "need" in this sense for subject pronouns). What is
sure is that Irish has never experienced something similar to a V-2 (as
against maybe Welsh), unless one would want to remember that verb
fronting in the Celtic languages as against the I.E. languages was
probably due to a particular version of Wackernagel's Law. In fact this
may have happened prehistorically; historically speaking, only a few
sentence modifiers (interrogative and negative particles,
complementizers) and clefted  constituents can stay before the verb in
For anybody who is interested in the details of Irish person inflection
and its history, there's a vast literature, though  mostly either
diachronically or generative oriented, on which  I would be glad to give
further information (my own PhD Diss. deals on the subject from a
diachronic point of view).
Elisa Roma
Unoversity of Pavia/ Torino
P.S. I apologize for not being able of properly write Irish fadas
(long-vowel marks) where required: si has a long i and Sean has a long

stassen ha scritto:

> These are two serious questions. I would really like to know whether
> a) there are any Non- ProDrop languages outside Germanic/French, and
> b) there are any Verb-Second languages outside Continental Germanic?
> Help me.
> Leon Stassen.

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