Skip to main content Accessibility help

Referential vs. non-referential null subjects in Middle Norwegian

  • Kari Kinn (a1)


This paper investigates the relationship between referential and non-referential null subjects in Middle Norwegian. It argues that overt, non-referential subject det arose before the loss of referential null subjects, contrary to the predictions of much previous work. A diachronic analysis compatible with the empirical findings is sketched out.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Referential vs. non-referential null subjects in Middle Norwegian
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Referential vs. non-referential null subjects in Middle Norwegian
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Referential vs. non-referential null subjects in Middle Norwegian
      Available formats



Hide All
Alexiadou, Artemis & Anagnostopoulou, Elena. 2001. The subject-in-situ generalization and the role of case in driving computations. Linguistic Inquiry 32 (2), 193231.
Aronoff, Mark. 1976. Word formation in generative grammar. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.
Axel, K. & Weiß, H.. 2011. Pro-drop in the history of German. From Old High German to the modern dialects. In Wratil, M. & Gallmann, P. (eds.), Null pronouns, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.
Axel, Katrin. 2007. Studies on Old High German syntax: left sentence periphery, verb placement and verb-second. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Baker, Mark. 2008. The macroparameter in a microparametric world. In Biberauer, Theresa (ed.), The limits of syntactic variation, 351373. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Barðdal, Jóhanna & Eythórsson, Thórhallur. 2003. The change that never happened: the story of oblique subjects. Journal of Linguistics 39 (3), 439472.
Bennis, Hans. 1986. Gaps and dummies. Dordrecht: Foris.
den Besten, Hans. 1983. On the interaction of root transformations and lexical deletive rules. In Abraham, Werner (ed.), On the formal syntax of the West-Germania, 47131. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Biberauer, Theresa. 2008. Introduction. In Biberauer, Theresa (ed.), The limits of syntactic variation, 174. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Biberauer, Theresa, Holmberg, Anders, Roberts, Ian & Sheehan, Michelle. 2014. Complexity in comparative syntax: the view from modern parametric theory. In Newmeyer, Frederick J. & Preston, Laurel B. (eds.), Measuring grammatical complexity, 103127. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Biberauer, Theresa & Richards, Mark. 2006. True optionality: when grammar doesn’t mind. In Boeckx, Cedric (ed.), Minimalist essays, 3567. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Boeckx, Cedric. 2010. What principles and parameters got wrong. (accessed 27 November 2013).
Breivik, Leiv Egil. 1990. Existential There. A synchronic and diachronic study, 2nd edn. Oslo: Novus Press.
Camacho, José. 2013. Null subjects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cardinaletti, Anna & Starke, Michal. 1996. Deficient pronouns: a view from Germanic. A study in the unified description of Germanic and Romance. In Thráinsson, Höskuldur, Epstein, Samuel David & Peter, Steve (eds.), Studies in comparative Germanic syntax, vol. II, 2165. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Cardinaletti, Anna & Starke, Michal. 1999. The typology of structural deficiency: a case study on the three classes of pronouns. In van Riemsdijk, Henk (ed.), Clitics in the languages of Europe, 145234. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Carrilho, Ernestina. 2008. Beyond doubling: overt expletives in European Portuguese dialects. In Barbiers, Sjef, Koeneman, Olaf, Lekakou, Marika & van der Ham, Margreet (eds.), Microvariation in syntactic doubling, 301323. Bingley: Emerald.
Chomsky, N. 1986. Knowledge of language: Its nature, origin, and use. Westport: Praeger Publishers.
Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.
Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by phase. In Kenstowicz, Michael (ed.), Ken Hale: a life in language, 153. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Chomsky, Noam. 2005. Three factors in language design. Linguistic Inquiry 36 (1), 122.
Déchaine, Rose-Marie & Wiltschko, Martina. 2002. Decomposing pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 33 (3), 409442.
Dyvik, Helge. 1979. Omkring fremveksten av artiklene i norsk. Språklig markering av referensielle forutsetninger. Maal og Minne 1 (2), 4078.
Eythórsson, Thórhallur & Barðdal, J.. 2005. Oblique subjects: a common Germanic inheritance. Language 84 (4), 824881.
Faarlund, Jan Terje. 1990. Syntactic change. Toward a theory of historical syntax. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Faarlund, Jan Terje. 2001. The notion of oblique subject and its status in the history of Icelandic. In Faarlund, J. T. (ed.), Grammatical relations in change, 99135. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Faarlund, Jan Terje. 2004. The syntax of Old Norse: with a survey of the inflectional morphology and a complete bibliography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Faarlund, Jan Terje. 2012. Fråvær av noko eller nærvær av ingenting. Om nullsubjekt og andre manglar. In Røyneland, U. & Enger, H.-O. (eds.), Fra holtijar til holting. Språkhistoriske og språksosiologiske artikler til Arne Torp på 70-årsdagen, Oslo: Novus forlag.
Faarlund, Jan Terje. 2013. The pro cycle. In van Gelderen, Elly, Barðdal, Jóhanna & Cennamo, Michela (eds.), Argument structure in flux. The Naples-Capri papers, 257284. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Faarlund, Jan Terje, Lie, Svein & Vannebo, Kjell Ivar. 1997. Norsk referansegrammatikk. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
Falk, Cecilia. 1992. Pro-drop in early modern Swedish. Folia Linguistica Historica 13, 115123.
Falk, Cecilia. 1993a. Non-referential subjects in the history of Swedish. Lund University.
Falk, Cecilia. 1993b. Non-referential subjects and agreement in the history of Swedish. Lingua 89, 143180.
Farasyn, Melissa & Breitbarth, Anne. Forthcoming. Nullsubjekte im Mittelniederdeutschen. Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur.
Fleischer, Jürg & Schallert, Oliver. 2011. Historische Syntax des Deutschen. Eine Einführung. Tübingen: Narr.
Fox, Danny. 2000. Economy and semantic interpretation. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Frascarelli, Mara. 2007. Subjects, topics and the interpretation of referential pro. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 25 (4), 691743.
Fuß, Eric & Wratil, Melani. 2013. Der Nullsubjektzyklus. In Fleischer, Jürg & Simon, Horst (eds.), Sprachwandelvergleich – Comparing Diachronies, 163196. Berlin: De Gruyter.
van Gelderen, Elly. 2000. A history of English reflexive pronouns. Person, self, and interpretability. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
van Gelderen, Elly. 2013. Null subjects in Old English. Linguistic Inquiry 44, 271285.
Gilligan, Gary Martin. 1987. A cross-linguistic approach to the pro-drop parameter: University of Southern California dissertation.
Greco, Ciro, Phan, Trang & Haegeman, Liliane. 2015. Optional expletives in radical null subject languages and the syntax of specificity. Talk at CamCos4, Cambridge, May 8.
Grønvik, Ottar. 1991. “Utbrytning” i eldre norrøn diktning og i andre gammelgermanske språk. Arkiv för nordisk filologi 106, 156.
Grøtvedt, Per Nyquist. 1961. Forholdet mellom skrift og talespråk i sørøstnorsk i senmiddelalderen. Arkiv för nordisk filologi 76, 213230.
Håkansson, D. 2008. Syntaktisk variation och förändring. En studie av subjektslösa satser i fornsvenska: Lunds universitet dissertation.
Håkansson, David. 2013. Null referential subjects in the history of Swedish. Journal of Historical Linguistics 3 (2), 155191.
Haspelmath, Martin. 2002. Understanding morphology. London: Hodder Education.
Haugan, Jens. 1998. Passiv av norrøne dobbelt objekt-konstruksjonar og subjektspørsmålet. Norsk lingvistisk tidsskrift 16, 157184.
Haugland, Kari E. 2007. Old English impersonal constructions and the use and non-use of non-referential pronouns: University of Bergen dissertation.
Heltoft, Lars. 2012. Zero expression of arguments in Old Danish. Acta Linguistica Hafniensia 44 (2), 169191.
Hilpert, Martin. 2010. What can synchronic gradience tell us about reanalysis? Verb-first conditionals in written German and Swedish. In Traugott, Elizabeth Closs & Rousdale, Graeme (eds.), Gradience, gradualness and grammaticalization, 181202. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Hinzelin, Marc-Olivier & Kaiser, Georg A.. 2007. El pronombre ello en el léxico del español dominicano. In Mihatsch, Wiltrud & Sokol, Monica (eds.), Language contact and language change in the Caribbean and beyond, 171188. Frankfurt am Main: Lang.
Hødnebø, Finn. 1971. Om diplomer som kilde for norsk språkhistorie. In Mål og namn. Studiar i nordisk mål- og namnegranskning, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
Höhn, Georg. 2015. Demonstratives and personal pronouns. Cambridge Occational Papers in Linguistics 8, 84105.
Hyams, Nina. 1987. The theory of parameters and syntactic development. In Roeper, Thomas & Williams, Edwin (eds.), Parameter setting, 122. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 2006. Just any pronoun anywhere? Pronouns and “new” demonstratives in Norwegian. In Solstad, Torgrim, Grønn, Atle & Haug, Dag (eds.), A festschrift for Kjell Johan Sæbø – in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the celebration of his 50th birthday, 91106. Oslo: Novus Press.
Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 2008a. Psykologiske demonstrativer. In Johannessen, Janne Bondi & Hagen, Kristin (eds.), Språk i Oslo. Ny forskning omkring talespråk, 6377. Oslo: Novus forlag.
Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 2008b. The pronominal psychological demonstrative in Scandinavian: its syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 31 (2), 161192.
Julien, Marit. 2005. Nominal phrases from a Scandinavian perspective. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Kayne, Richard S. 1994. The antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Kinn, Kari. 2010. Formelle subjekter i norsk – en diakron undersøkelse. Universitetet i Oslo MA thesis.
Kinn, Kari. 2011. Overt non-referential subjects and subject-verb agreement in Middle Norwegian. Working papers in Scandinavian syntax 88, 2150.
Kinn, Kari. 2014. The cognitive status null subject referents in Old Norse and their Modern Norwegian counterparts. In Bech, Kristin & Eide, Kristine Gunn (eds.), Information structure and syntactic change in Germanic and Romance languages, 173200. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Kinn, Kari. 2016a. Null subjects in the history of Norwegian. Ph.D. thesis, University of Oslo, Norway.
Kinn, Kari. 2016b. Null arguments in Old Norwegian: interaction between pronouns and the functional categories of the clause. Manuscript, University of Oslo.
Kinn, Kari, Rusten, Kristian A. & Walkden, George. 2016. Null subjects in early Icelandic. Journal of Germanic Linguistics 28 (1), 3178.
Kroch, Antony. 1989. Reflexes of grammar in patterns of language change. Language Variation and Change 1, 199244.
Kroch, Antony. 1994. Morphosyntactic variation. In Papers from the 30th regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society. Parasession on variation and linguistic theory, 180201. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
Lander, Eric T. & Haegeman, Liliane. 2014. Old Norse as an NP language. Transactions of the Philological Society 112 (3), 279318.
Lebeaux, David. 1987. Comments on Hyams. In Roeper, Thomas & Williams, Edwin (eds.), Parameter setting, 2339. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
Lundeby, Einar. 1976. Om “utbrytningen”s opphav og innhold. In Svensson, Lars, Wieselgren, Anne Marie & Hansson, Åke (eds.), Festskrift tillägnad Gösta Holm, 280301. Lund: Lund studentlitteratur.
Lyons, John. 1977. Semantics, vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mørck, Endre. 1990. Ellipsis of the subject of main clauses in Middle Norwegian. In Tromsø linguistics in the eighties, 356368. Oslo: Novus Press.
Mørck, Endre. 2011. Leddstillinga i mellomnorske heilsetninger. Funksjons- og feltanalyse og materialpresentasjon. Oslo: Novus forlag.
Mørck, Endre. 2013. Mellomnorsk språk. In Haugen, Odd Einar (ed.), Handbok i norrøn filologi, 640689. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget 2nd edn.
Mørck, Endre. 1994. The distribution of subject properties and the acquisition of subjecthood in the West Scandinavian languages. In Swan, Toril, Mørck, Endre & Westwik, Olaf Jansen (eds.), Language change and language structure. Older Germanic languages in a comparative perspective, 159194. Walter de Gruyter.
Nicolis, Marco. 2008. The null subject parameter and correlating properties. In Biberauer, Theresa (ed.), The limits of syntactic variation, 271294. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Nygård, Mari. 2013. Discourse ellipsis in spontaneously spoken Norwegian: Norwegian University of Science and Technology dissertation.
Nygaard, Magnus 1894. Udeladelse af subjekt; “subjektløse” sætninger i det norrøne sprog (den klassiske sagastil). Arkiv för nordisk filologi 10, ny följd 6 (1), 125.
Nygaard, Magnus 1905. Norrøn syntax. Kristiania: Aschehoug.
Pintzuck, Susan. 2002. Verb-object order in Old English: variation as grammatical competition. In Syntactic effects of morphological change, 276299. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Reinhart, Tanya. 1995. Interface strategies. OTS Working Papers in Linguistics.
Rizzi, Luigi. 1982. Issues in Italian syntax. Dordrecht: Foris Publications.
Rizzi, Luigi. 1986. Null objects in Italian and the theory of pro . Linguistic Inquiry 17 (3), 501557.
Roberts, Ian. 2007. Diachronic syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Roberts, Ian. 2010. A deletion analysis of null subjects. In Biberauer, Theresa, Holmberg, Anders, Roberts, Ian & Sheehan, Michelle (eds.), Parametric variation. Null subjects in minimalist theory, 5887. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Roberts, Ian. 2012. Macroparameters and minimalism. A programme for comparative research. In Galves, Charlotte, Cyrino, Sonia, Lopes, Ruth, Sandalo, Filomena & Avelar, Juanito (eds.), Parameter theory and linguistic change, 320335. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Roberts, Ian & Holmberg, Anders. 2010. Introduction: parameters in minimalist theory. In Biberauer, Theresa, Holmberg, Anders, Roberts, Ian & Sheehan, Michelle (eds.), Parametric variation. Null subjects in minimalist theory, 157. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rögnvaldsson, Eiríkur. 1995. Quirky subjects in Old Icelandic. In Sigurðsson, H.Á. (ed.), Papers from the twelfth Scandinavian conference on linguistics, Reykjavik: University of Iceland.
Rosenkvist, H. 2009. Referential null subjects in Germanic languages – an overview. Working papers in Scandinavian syntax 84, 151180.
Rosenkvist, Henrik. 2010. Null referential subjects in Övdalian. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 33 (3), 231267.
Rusten, Kristian A. 2010. A study of empty referential pronominal subjects in Old English. University of Bergen MA thesis.
Rusten, Kristian A. 2013. Empty referential subjects in Old English prose: A quantitative analysis. English Studies 94 (8), 970992.
Rusten, Kristian A. & Walkden, George. Forthcoming. Null subjects in Middle English. English Language and Linguistics.
Sigurðsson, H. Á. 1993. Argument-drop in Old Icelandic. Lingua 89, 247280.
Sigurðsson, H. Á. 2011. Conditions on argument drop. Linguistic Inquiry 42 (2), 267304.
Sigurðsson, H. Á. & Egerland, V.. 2009. Impersonal null-subjects in Icelandic and elsewhere. Studia Linguistica 63 (1), 158185.
Spurkland, Terje. 1989. Innføring i norrønt språk. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
Thráinsson, Höskuldur. 2007. The Syntax of Icelandic. Cambridge University Press.
Vikner, Sten. 1995. Verb movement and expletive subjects in the Germanic languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Vittersø, Gro. 2004. Fra sva til sav: stabilitet og endring i norske leddsetninger 1200-1875. University of Oslo MA thesis.
Walkden, George. 2013. Null subjects in Old English. Language Variation and Change 25, 155178.
Walkden, George. 2014. Syntactic reconstruction and Proto-Germanic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weiß, Helmut. 1998. Syntax des Bairischen. Studien zur Grammatik einer natürlichen Sprache. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Wetås, Åse. 2008. Kasusbortfallet i mellomnorsk. Ein komparativ studie av proprialt og appellativisk materiale: University of Oslo dissertation.
Wratil, M. 2011. Uncovered pro – on the development and identification of null subjects. In Wratil, M. & Gallmann, P. (eds.), Null pronouns, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Referential vs. non-referential null subjects in Middle Norwegian

  • Kari Kinn (a1)


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.