Skip to main content Accessibility help

Embedded null subjects in Capeverdean1



The status of Capeverdean as a pro-drop language is controversial. Baptista (2002) contends that this Portuguese-based creole has null referential subjects with some types of predicates, while Pratas (2002, 2007) proposes that it has only expletive null subjects. She argues that the rare cases of root null subjects can be analyzed as instances of null expletives. The aim of this paper is to show that in Capeverdean there is an asymmetry in the distribution of null referential subjects. These are ruled out in root contexts, but allowed in some embedded contexts; this is the case when the null subject is bound by a wh-operator or a quantifier. Following Holmberg's (2005) and Holmberg, Nayudu & Sheehan's (2009) analysis of null subjects, we offer an analysis of Capeverdean null subjects exploring the properties of T in the language (in particular, the lack of a rich inflectional system), the syntax of subjects, and the type of null category available. We claim that Capeverdean embedded null subjects are variables, licensed by an operator in the matrix clause. We show that these specific properties explain minimal differences between null subjects in Capeverdean and Brazilian Portuguese.


Corresponding author

Authors' addresses: Centro de Linguística da Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Avenida de Berna, 26-C, 1069-061 Lisbon,


Hide All

We are very grateful to our Capeverdean consultants from Santiago Island, especially Ana Josefa Cardoso and José António Brito. We also want to thank three anonymous Journal of Linguistics referees and the editor, for their enriching comments and suggestions; to Nina Hyams, for her careful English editing and perceptive questions, and to our colleagues Alexandra Fiéis, Inês Duarte, Charlotte Galves and Maria Lobo, for relevant insights. Research for this paper was partly funded by FCT, through the project Events and Subevents in Capeverdean (PTDC/CLE-LIN/103334/2008).



Hide All
Alexiadou, Artemis & Anagnostopoulou, Elena. 1998. Parametrizing Agr: Word-order, V-movement and EPP-checking. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 16, 491539.
Baptista, Marlyse. 2002. The syntax of Cape Verdean creole, the Sotavento varieties. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Barbosa, Pilar. 1995. Null subjects. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.
Belletti, Adriana. 1988. The case of unaccusatives. Linguistic Inquiry 19.1, 134
Biberauer, Theresa, Holmberg, Anders, Roberts, Ian & Sheehan, Michelle (eds.). 2010. Parametric variation: Null subjects in Minimalist theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht: Foris.
Cinque, Guglielmo. 1988. On si constructions and the theory of arb. Linguistic Inquiry 19, 521581.
Coelho, Izete, Costa, João, Silva, Maria Cristina Figueiredo, Oliveira, Fátima & Menuzzi, Sérgio. 2001. Ordem VS e sujeito nulo em PE e PB. Presented at the II Colóquio do Projecto PE/PB, Universidade do Ceará.
Costa, João. 2011. Topic prominence is not a factor of variation between Brazilian and European Portuguese. In Berns, Janine, Jacobs, Haike & Scheer, Tobias (eds.), Romance languages and linguistic theory 2009, 7188. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Costa, João, Duarte, Inês & Silva, Cláudia. 2006. Construções de redobro em português brasileiro: sujeitos tópicos vs. soletração do traço de pessoa. Leitura. Revista do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Letras (UFAL) 33, 135145.
Costa, João & Galves, Charlotte. 2002. External subjects in two varieties of Portuguese: Evidence for a non-unified analysis. In Beyssade, Claire, Bok-Bennema, Reineke, Drijkoningen, Frank & Monachesi, Paola (eds.), Romance languages and linguistic theory 2000, 109125. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
De Cat, Cécile. 2005. French subject clitics are not agreement markers. Lingua 115, 11951219.
Duarte, Maria Eugênia Lamoglia. 1993a. Do pronome nulo ao pronome pleno: a trajetória do sujeito no português bra-sileiro. In Roberts & Kato (eds.), 107128.
Duarte, Maria Eugênia Lamoglia. 1993b. O enfraquecimento da concordância no Português Brasileiro. In Roberts & Kato (eds.), 387408.
Duarte, Maria Eugênia Lamoglia. 2008. O sujeito de referência indeterminada em sentenças infinitivas. Revista do GEL (Araraquara) 5, 930.
Figueiredo Silva, Cristina. 1996. A posição sujeito no Português Brasileiro: frases finitas e infinitivas. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp.
Galves, Charlotte. 2001. Ensaios sobre as gramáticas do português. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp.
Gilligan, Gary Martin. 1987. A cross-linguistic approach to the pro-drop parameter. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California.
Holmberg, Anders. 2005. Is there a little Pro? Evidence from Finnish. Linguistic Inquiry 36, 533564.
Holmberg, Anders. 2010. Null subject parameters. In Biberauer et al. (eds.), 88124.
Holmberg, Anders, Nayudu, Aarti & Sheehan, Michelle. 2009. Three partial null-subject languages: A comparison of Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish and Marathi. Studia Linguistica 63.1, 5997.
Holmberg, Anders & Roberts, Ian. 2010. Introduction. In Biberauer et al. (eds.), 157.
Holmberg, Anders & Sheehan, Michelle. 2010. In Biberauer et al. (eds.), 125152.
Menuzzi, Sérgio. 1999. Binding theory and pronominal anaphora in Brazilian Portuguese. The Hague: Thesus.
Miyagawa, Shigeru. 2011. Minimal parametric variation. Presented at the 21st Colloquium on Generative Grammar, Sevilla.
Modesto, Marcelo. 2000. On the identification of null arguments. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California.
Modesto, Marcelo. 2007. Null subjects in Brazilian Portuguese and Finnish: They are not derived by movement. In Dubinsky, Stanley & Davies, William D. (eds.), New horizons in the analysis of control and raising, 231248. Dordrecht: Springer.
Modesto, Marcelo. 2008. Topic prominence and null subjects. In Biberauer, Theresa (ed.), The limits of syntactic variation, 375410. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Montalbetti, Mario. 1984. After binding: On the interpretation of pronouns. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.
Neeleman, Ad & Szendrői, Kriszta. 2007. Radical pro drop and the morphology of pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 38, 671714.
Nicolis, Marco. 2005. On pro drop. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Siena.
Nunes, Jairo. 2008. Inherent case as a licensing condition for A-movement: The case of hyper-raising constructions in Brazilian Portuguese. Journal of Portuguese Linguistics 7, 83108.
Pinto, Manuela. 1997. Licensing and interpretation of inverted subjects in Italian. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Utrecht.
Pratas, Fernanda. 2002. O sistema pronominal do Caboverdiano. MA dissertation, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
Pratas, Fernanda. 2004. TP in Capeverdean: An almighty functional projection? Presented at the Lisbon Workshop on Alternative Views on the Functional Domain, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
Pratas, Fernanda. 2007. Tense features and argument structure in Capeverdean predicates. Ph.D. dissertation, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
Rizzi, Luigi. 1982. Issues in Italian syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.
Rizzi, Luigi. 1986. On the status of subject clitics in Romance. In Jaeggli, Osvaldo & Silva-Corvalán, Carmen (eds.), Studies in Romance linguistics, 391419. Dordrecht: Foris.
Roberts, Ian & Kato, Mary (eds.). 1995. Português Brasileiro: uma viagem diacrônica. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp.
Rodrigues, Cilene. 2004. Effects of loss of morphology in partial pro-drop languages. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland.
Safir, Ken. 1982. Syntactic chains and definiteness effect. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.
Sigurðsson, Halldór Ármann. 1993. Argument-drop in Old Icelandic. Lingua 89.2–3, 247280.
Vikner, Sten. 1995. V°-to-I° movement and inflection for person in all tenses. Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax 55, 127.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Embedded null subjects in Capeverdean1



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.