A new theory of null-subjects of finite verbs in young children

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This paper proposes a new theory of why null-subjects of finite verbs are produced by young children developing a non-null-subject language. We first show that one of the extant theories, Topic-Drop, isn’t supported. Modifying ideas proposed in Rizzi (2006), we assume that finite null-subjects arise in the specifier of a root TP, and may be null as the result of phasal computation. But we reject the idea that the selection of a root is an arbitrary, parametric process. Using new work in syntactic theory that relates information structure (namely undistinguished subjects) to root Tense Phrases (Mikkelsen 2010), we argue that children select undistinguished subjects in situations that don’t warrant them, resulting in root TP and null-subjects.


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