Null Arguments


Nam-Kil Kang

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One of the most well-known features of linguistic theory is that there exist various empty categories at various levels of mental representation. Languages such as Korean and Japanese are well-known for the fact that they allow arguments of a predicate to be freely dropped. Such null arguments have been a challenge to linguistic theory in that their contents are not recovered from the verbal agreement system. Simply put, null arguments occur in languages such as Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese, which has no agreement system whatsoever. If so, why should we allow the existence of pro? What types of empty categories appear in Korean? In order to give a plausible answer to these queries, we discuss the issue of assuming ECs such as PRO and pro. The present study assumes that both PRO and pro are allowed in Korean and that PRO appears as the subject of both tensed and untensed clauses, and pro as an empty pronominal in subject and object positions. Previous approaches assume that overt plural pronouns in Korean have a definite reading, whereas pro does not. Unfortunately, the picture turns out to be even more complicated. We have demonstrated in this paper that Korean pro can be more broadly used than the Korean overt pronoun ku in that pro can bear definite as well as indefinite interpretations, while overt pronouns have only definite interpretations. Finally, we have proposed that pro can function as a free variable depending on the speaker’s intention since the referent of pro is always influenced by the discriminating use of a demonstrative by the speaker. We have shown that this fact results from extending the spirit of Higginbotham’s (1992) analysis to pro.


I. Introduction
 II. Previous Approaches to Null Arguments
  2.1. PRO Analysis of Null Arguments
  2.2. pro Analysis of Null Arguments
 III. Semantic Analyses of pro
  3.1. Semantic Analyses of pro : Previous Analyses
  3.2. Semantic Analyses of pro : Proposals
 IV. Conclusion
 Works Cited


  • Nam-Kil Kang 강남길. Far East University


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