Irish pro-drop and how we categorize things

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Fri May 14 22:24:24 UTC 1999

A few statements that have appeared in recent discussion:

> In response to Elisa Roma, on the basis of her information I am left
> whether modern Irish really qualifies as pro-drop.

> In fact my idea was to suggest that Irish is not a pro-drop language,
using > Dahl's test, though it is mostly classified as pro-drop.

I find it rather suprising that we are still trying to force languages
into black-and-white categories like "pro-drop" given the overwhelming
evidence to the effect that so much is actually gray:  separate words
blend into clitics which then shade into affixes; the distribution of
would-be pronouns varies as a function of their number, gender and
person, and the tense and aspect of the verb; and above all the
acceptability of "dropping" varies in accordance with a myriad of
discrete and continuous contextual factors.

Is *English* pro-drop?

David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Inselstrasse 22, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-9952310
Fax: 49-341-9952119
Email: gil at

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