1

What are (1) [NP e], (2) control PRO; pro, other instances, and (3) 'e' in the examples? ('NP' here is actually a subscript in the paper)


I'm reading Barbara Abott's 'Definiteness and Indefiniteness.' In its 'Introduction,' she enumerates definite noun phrases. In the list I see something like this:

NP type: [NP e]
More details: control PRO; pro; other instances of ellipsis
Examples: Mary tried e to fly; [on a pill packet] e contains methanol [=Ariel 1988, ex. 7a]

What are (1) [NP e], (2) control PRO; pro, other instances, and (3) 'e' in the examples? ('NP' here is actually a subscript in the paper)

1 Answer 1

1

e in this parlance refers to any empty category, i.e. a phonologically null element in the structure. They can be of various types indeed, such as

  • movement traces, more often denoted as t
  • controlled PRO, i.e. an empty element that typically occupies subject position in infinitives and receives reference via subject or object control:

    (1) Maryi tried PROi to fly.

  • small pro that occupies argument positions in pro-drop languages: cf. Italian

    (2) pro[1pl] parliamo. `we speak'

  • under some theories, an empty pronoun in the ellipsis site, and the e can be verbal:

    (3) John didn't win, bit he tried to [VP e].

As you can see in three, a superscript in the brackets is actually not specific to NPs, it is notation to specify the category of the constituent enclosed in the brackets; thus, [NP cake] means that the constituent "cake" is an NP, [VP ate cake] means that "ate cake" is a VP etc.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.