Pro-drop in interrogatives and declaratives.

A parallel study of Old High German and Old Italian

  • Federica Cognola Università Ca' Foscari Venezia
  • George Walkden Universität Konstanz


While there has been a substantial body of research on the asymmetry between main and subordinate clauses in terms of the licensing of pro-drop, potential differences between types of unembedded clause have received much less attention – despite the fact that competing theories of pro-drop make strong, clear predictions about the distribution of null subjects across clause types, especially with regard to interrogatives. This paper presents the first in-depth comparative study of pro-drop in both declaratives and interrogatives in two asymmetric pro-drop languages: Old High German and Old Italian. Based on a parallel corpus study using two translations of Tatian’s Diatessaron, we show that there is a clear difference in distribution between interrogatives and declaratives: null subjects are more frequent in declarative clauses than in interrogatives, and these also differ in terms of the persons in which pro-drop is licensed. Our results speak against the V-in-C licensing theory of asymmetric pro-drop of Benincà (1984) and Adams (1987), and in favour of an account based on an Agree relation with left-peripheral operators in the sense of Frascarelli (2007, 2018).

Cognola, F., & Walkden, G. (2019). Pro-drop in interrogatives and declaratives.: A parallel study of Old High German and Old Italian. Linguistik Online, 100(7), 95–140.