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Abstract

In consistent null subject languages (= NSL; including Arabic, Italian, or Irish), silent subject pronouns are interpreted as exclusively referential, while a third person singular pro is exclusively generic in non-consistent NSL (e.g. Finnish or Hebrew). A third person singular generic is available in consistent NSL, but only with a specific voice, e.g. Passive. The article provides a minimalist treatment of the referential/generic correlations and distributions in these two classes of languages. It is proposed that referential pro in consistent NSL merges as a topic specifier of T, and generic pro as specifier of Voice. Pronominal deficiency is argued to be the core property of the 'impersonal' Passive. The subject status of expletives in Arabic is questioned, and they are rather construed as 'backgrounding' topics.

Arabic Silent Pronouns, Person, and Voice

in Brill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics

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