On the Properties of “PRO” and “Pro”

By Germán F. Westphal.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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According to Chomsky (1981), literature cited therein and subsequent literature, there are two possible interpretations of PRO: (1) A referential interpretation in structures of control such as “John expects [PRO to win],” where PRO has the “John” as its antecedent and referent, and (2) An arbitrary interpretation in non-control structures such as “It’s always good [PRO to win],” where PRO is interpreted as a generic human subject with no specific referent.
In this paper, however, evidence will be presented to show that in Spanish, PRO can in fact be referential in non-control structures, as in the case of examples such as “Es bueno [PRO mostrarnos siempre contentas]” ([It] is good [PRO to-show-ourselves always happy-feminine-plural]), where PRO is interpreted as a first person feminine plural subject, equivalent to the overt subject pronoun “nosotras”.
Since this referential property generally corresponds to that of pro, the paper will examine the properties of PRO vis-à-vis those of pro in both control and non-control structures and conclude that these two phonologically-null pronouns are in fact instantiations of an even more abstract pronoun, namely the “proneme”/PRO/.
The significance of the hypothesis advanced in this paper is that it simplifies the grammar by reducing both PRO and pro to one single abstract pronominal category –a highly desirable move within the Minimalist Program advanced by Chomsky (1995).

Keywords: Abstract Pronouns, Generative Syntax, Minimalist Program

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.153-158. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 718.474KB).

Prof. Germán F. Westphal

Associate Professor of Spanish and Linguistics, Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Ph.D. in Linguistics, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. Research Interests: Syntax. Creative Writing: Poetry and Short Stories. Languages: Spanish and English. Other Interests: Human Rights issues. Born in Chile in 1942.

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