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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

LingLunch | Suzana Fong (QMUL)

13 October 2021

Time: 2:00 - 3:00pm
Venue: Bancroft 3.21 (Mile End campus) or Zoom | Meeting ID: 833 0738 7582 | Security Passcode: 085673 | If you are attending in person, please wear a face mask.

Pronouncing PRO in Wolof

Suzana Fong

In Wolof (Niger-Congo; Senegal), subject and object control clauses differ in whether or not the embedded controlled subject is pronounced. In subject control, the embedded subject is obligatorily null (1), while in object control, the embedded subject is obligatorily an overt pronoun (2). (1) Xadi Xadi jéem-na try-NA.3SG (*mu) (*3SG.SUBJ) togg cook ginaar. chicken ‘Xadi tried to cook chicken.’ (2) Dimbali-na-a help-NA-1SG a-b INDEF-CM.SG xale child *(mu) *(3SG.SUBJ) jàng read téere book b-i. CM.SG-DEF ‘I helped a child read the book.’ Prima facie, the presence of the pronoun in (2) may suggest that this construction is not an instance of control (cf. English: I helped a child (*she) read the book). Nonetheless, that (2) is indeed a case of control can be argued on the basis of the signature properties that characterize this type of construction (i.e. obligatory bound reading, de se interpretation, and sloppy reading under ellipsis). The main questions that (1) vs. (2) give rise to are then: why do subject and object control in Wolof differ in the phonological realization of controlled PRO? Which control theory is compatible with such realization? Answers to the first question may be provided by further differences between (1) and (2). Specifically, the absence of a pronounced subject in subject control (1) correlates with the obligatoriness of clitic climbing (Gowda & Wu, 2020; Martinović, 2021) and the prohibition of WH-resumption (i.e. the occurrence of a clitic in the position where a Wh-phrase moves from in the embedded clause). Conversely, the obligatoriness of a pronounced subject in object control (2) correlates with the prohibition of clitic climbing and the obligatoriness of Wh-resumption. Based on these properties, I suggest that object control clauses project a ΣP which ”impedes” movement. Assuming that obligatory control is derived by movement (Hornstein, 1999), I model the pronounced PRO in (2) as the partial residue of movement (Van Urk, 2018) that has been impeded (Lee, 2003). Likewise, Wh-resumption is modeled in the same way (i.e. as a residue of impeded movement), which accounts for why these properties dovetail in Wolof object control. Subject control (1), on the other hand, would be an instance of restructuring (Wurmbrand, 1998), as already proposed by Gowda & Wu (2020) and Martinović (2021). This captures why subject control has the opposite properties as those showcased by object control.


Gowda, Yadav, & Wu, Danfeng. 2020. Clitic climbing and linear adjacency in Wolof. LSA 2020 presentation.

Hornstein, Norbert. 1999. Movement and control. Linguistic Inquiry, 30(1), 69–96. DOI: https://doi. org/10.1162/002438999553968.

Lee, Felicia. 2003. Anaphoric R–expressions as bound variables. Syntax, 6(1), 84–114. 10.1111/1467-9612.00057.

Martinović, Martina. 2021. Exhaustive Control as Raising: The case of Wolof. Ms., Mcgill University. Available at 1

Van Urk, Coppe. 2018. Pronoun copying in Dinka Bor and the copy theory of movement. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 36(3), 937–990. DOI:

Wurmbrand, Susanne. 1998. Infinitives. Ph.D. thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Available at:

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