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The Position of Antecedent Hypothesis in Romanian subject alternation: two experiments


We examine the situation in Romanian, a pro-drop language. In Experiment 1, we tested whether null subjects are preferred with a subject antecedent using an acceptability judgment task with items like (1). 56 participants (23 male, 33 female, mean age=26) judged 20 items on a 1-7 likert scale. While the use of null subjects is favored by the prescriptive norm in Romanian, participants only showed a small (but significant, CLMM, p < .03) preference (Figure 1). In Experiment 2, we ran a binary forced-choice task on Ibex Farm (20 experimental items, 30 distractors, comprehension questions after 20% of the trials) comparing antecedent choices in two conditions: null, overt (2, 3). Each experimental item contains a transitive verb with two human arguments (subject and object), followed by a temporal embedded clause containing a null or pronominal subject. Participants had to determine the antecedent of the embedded subject (either matrix subject or object). We had half masculine, half feminine antecedent/ subject pairs, to control for gender effects. We tested 64 Romanian native speakers (25 male, 39 female, mean age=24). The results of Experiment 2 (Figure 2) show that the trends in Romanian are similar to those in Spanish (Filiaci et al. 2013, de la Fuente et al. 2015) and Catalan (Mayol 2010) : participants mostly prefer to associate the null subject of the embedded clause with the subject antecedent of the main clause (64.2%), and the pronominal subject of the embedded clause with the object antecedent (58.2%) (GLMER, p<.001). In contrast to these three languages (Romanian, Spanish, Catalan), Italian and European Portuguese are characterized by a stronger tendency to link the pronominal subject to an object antecedent (about 80%). We conclude that null / overt subject alternation in Romanian is sensitive to the antecedent function as in other Romance languages. As predicted, the first part of Carminati's hypothesis is stronger than the second part. We conclude that Romanian falls into the group of languages with weaker preferences of overt subjects for non-subject antecedents, which might be related to a general weaker preference for null subjects (Experiment 1) (see Fernandes et al. 2018 for similar observations on Brazilian Portuguese).
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hal-03924721 , version 1 (05-01-2023)


  • HAL Id : hal-03924721 , version 1


Fabian Istrate, Anne Abeillé, Barbara Hemforth. The Position of Antecedent Hypothesis in Romanian subject alternation: two experiments. Going Romance, Nov 2022, Barcelona, Spain. ⟨hal-03924721⟩
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