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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

This paper investigates the referring preferences of null subject pronouns and overt subject pronouns in Catalan. In particular, it contributes the debate about whether the referring preferences of pronouns in null-subject languages are governed by syntactic factors or by information structure. A questionnaire experiment was performed, in which the word order of the experimental items (SVO vs OVS) was manipulated in order to distinguish syntactic and information structure factors. The results support a multiple-factor model of salience, in which grammatical as well as pragmatic function play a role and in which different forms are sensitive to different factors. Null pronouns refer to the most salient antecedent, which is always the subject, even if it is not the link of the sentence. In contrast, overt pronouns refer to non-salient antecedents (non-subject, non-link antecedents), if there such an antecedent, and fail to show a clear preference otherwise.

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