Workshop "Overt subject pronouns in null–subject languages: comparing natives and near-natives"

Giovedì, 13 Settembre 2018
Università per Stranieri di Perugia

Organized by Elisa Di Domenico and Simona Matteini

Keynote speaker: Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, University of Cambridge


One of the characteristic features of various populations of near-natives of a null–subject language, as brought to light by a number of studies, is their overuse of overt subject pronouns, as well as their interpretation of overt pronouns also in co-reference with a topical antecedent, while these speakers appear to have correctly set the null-subject parameter (Tsimpli et al. 2004, Sorace and Filiaci 2006, Belletti et al. 2007 a. o.).

Some studies have highlighted the role of cross-linguistic influence in this process, in particular (but not only, see e.g. Filiaci et al. 2014) when the other language of near-natives is a non-null subject language, while other studies (e.g. Sorace et al. 2009) have suggested that overt pronouns could represent an acquisitional strategy. This has been related, in turn, to a less specified representation of pronouns in near-natives or to processing differences between natives and near-natives (see e.g. Sorace 2011 for a discussion).

Despite the fact that the relevant literature on the topic is robust, several issues remain unsolved, including the issue of the exact nature of the division of labor between overt and null subject pronouns in null-subject languages (Calabrese 1986; Cardinaletti 2004a, 2004b; Carminati 2002; Frascarelli 2007 a. o.).

The workshop aims at bringing together researchers from various sub-fields of linguistics, psycholinguistics and language acquisition research, and to this end it welcomes novel contributions on the topic, which may relate (but not exclusively) to any of the following questions:

Research questions

  • Are there differences among different populations of near-natives in the production and interpretation of overt pronouns?
  • Are there differences among different null subject languages (in natives and near- natives) in the production and interpretation of overt and null subject pronouns?
  • How exactly can the over-production / over-interpretation of overt pronouns in near-natives be related to the representational versus processing issue?
  • How can the representational approach be reconciled with the over-production/ over-interpretation of overt pronouns by attrited speakers?
  • What are exactly the syntactic and discourse environments in which overt pronouns are produced by near-natives, and/or interpreted in co-reference with a topical antecedent?
  • In which sense can overt pronouns be thought of as ‘simpler’ than null pronouns?
  • What are the prosodic characteristics of the overt pronouns produced by near-natives?
  • Are these prosodic features comparable to those of the overt pronouns produced by native speakers of a null subject language and/or by native speakers of a non-null subject language?


Piazza Fortebraccio 4- 06123 Perugia, Italy
Aula V

Relevant dates

  • WORKSHOP: September 13th, 2018


Elisa Di Domenico

_Belletti, A., Bennati, E. & A. Sorace (2007). Theoretical and developmental issues in the syntax of subjects: evidence from near- native Italian. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 25: 657- 689.
_Calabrese, A. (1986). Pronomina. In N. Fukui, T. R. Rapoport & E. Sagey (eds.) Papers in Theoretical Linguistics,1-46. Cambridge, MA: MITWPL.
_Cardinaletti, A. (2004a) La traduzione dei pronomi: interferenza sintattica e cambiamento linguistico. In G. Garzone & A. Cardinaletti (eds.) Lingua, mediazione linguistica e interferenza. Milano, Franco Angeli, 129-150.
_Cardinaletti, A. (2004b). Towards a cartography of subject positions. In L. Rizzi (ed.) The structure of CP and IP, 115-165.Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.
_Carminati, M. N. (2002) The processing of Italian subject pronouns. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
_Filiaci, F., Sorace, A. & M. Carreiras (2014). Anaphoric biases of null and overt subjects in Italian and Spanish. A cross-linguistic comparison. Language, Cognition and Neurosciences, 29/7: 825-843.
_Frascarelli, M. (2007). Subjects, Topics and the Interpretation of Referential pro. An interface approach to the linking of (null) pronouns. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 25: 691- 734.
_Sorace, A. 2011. Pinning down the concept of “interface” in bilingualism. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1: 1–33.
_Sorace, A. & F. Filiaci (2006) Anaphora resolution in near-native speakers of Italian. Second Language Research, 22: 339–368.
_Sorace, A., Serratrice, L. Filiaci, F. & M. Baldo (2009). Discourse conditions on subject pronoun realization: testing the linguistic intuitions of older bilingual children. Lingua, 119: 460– 477.
_Tsimpli, I., Sorace, A., Heycock, C. & F. Filiaci (2004). First language attrition and syntactic subjects: a study of Greek and Italian near- native speakers of English. International Journal of Bilingualism, 8: 257- 277.