Pronouns, Inflection, and Irish Prepositions


Many languages allow a pronoun to go unpronounced in the presence of inflectional marking for person and number. This paper explores the hypothesis that inflection may itself be ‘pronominal’ using data from Irish which exhibits a well-known complementary distribution between person/number inflection and pronouns. Such complementarity follows if inflection forms a syntactic chain with a pronoun in argument position. Particular attention given to the distribution of inflection on Irish prepositions which provide evidence against previous proposals arguing that inflection represents agreement with a null pronoun. The proposal extends to cases where complementarity breaks down by analogy with clitic doubling and it also provides new insight into so-called ‘gaps’ in verbal inflection for which the least-marked inflections are frequently replaced with pronouns. The analysis is extended to Welsh, where a limited set of pronouns appear to exhibit a kind of feature doubling, and to KiLega, where prepositional inflection appears under cyclic argument extraction.

NYU Working Papers in Linguistics