While null subjects have been reasonably well studied in Principles and Parameters theory, null objects have received considerably less attention. Different languages impose different restrictions on the use of missing objects. While unspecified object drop is a widely attested phenomenon, definite/anaphoric object drop is more restricted. Yet, it can be found in typologically different languages ranging from those that lack agreement inflection altogether, such as the Asian radical pro-drop languages (Huang, 1984), to those that have agreement inflection, but lack agreement with the object, such as Finnish, Hebrew, Portuguese, the Slavic languages, etc. At the same time, data from language acquisition have been taken to suggest that the nonrealization of an object is an option widely available in early stages of language development, even when the adult language severely restricts object drop (Pérez-Leroux, Pirvulescu, & Roberge, 2008; Pérez-Leroux, Pirvulescu, Roberge, & Castilla, 2013). Thus, investigating what features of the grammar contribute to restricting or favoring object drop in particular languages is fundamental to an adequate theory of missing arguments.

Currently, there are essentially two main approaches to object drop: the argument ellipsis analysis, which claims that the null object is an elided full-fledged nominal projection (Oku, 1998; Saito, 2004, 2007; Sato, 2012; Takahashi, 2014 on Japanese, and Landau, 2018, on Hebrew), and null-anaphora analyses, which posit that the null argument is a base-generated minimally specified silent nominal, the meaning of which is pragmatically retrieved (Cyrino, 2001; Erteschik-Shir, Ibnbari, & Taube, 2013; Li, 2014; Tomioka, 2003).

Raposo (1998) explores the possibility that null objects in EP are cases of NP ellipsis under a null D, a hypothesis that has a lot in common with Tomioka's (2003) claim that null NP anaphora/ellipsis is at the heart of argument drop in Japanese. In this perspective, investigating null objects amounts to investigating the conditions under which D is null or altogether absent. In effect, Ruda's (2017) cross-linguistic study on English, Polish and Hungarian concludes that the variation observed "follows, first and foremost, from the association of heads in the extended nominal phrases with phonemic features and from the system of interpretation of nominal phrases in a language" (Ruda, 2017, p. 4).

This meeting aims to provide a forum for discussion of aspects pertaining to the issue of the licensing of null objects not only from a cross-linguistic perspective but also in language development. We welcome submissions that contribute to the discussion at hand both from a theoretical perspective and from the perspective of research on monolingual and bilingual language acquisition. Talks will be 40 minutes long (30 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussion). Topics may include, but are not limited to the following questions:

a) Is there a relation between the contexts licensing object drop, and the contexts licensing bare nominals in argument position? How does this relate to the internal make-up of nominal projections in the language and Spell-out conditions?

b) How does null object syntax relate to systems of interpretation of nominal phrases in the language? What is the role of type-shifting processes in the range of readings available for null objects? What is the role of LF-copying rules?

c) In Portuguese and Hebrew, null objects are subject to an animacy restriction (Cyrino, 2001; Erteschik-Shir et al., 2013). No such restriction is attested in Russian. Why is there such a difference? Does the animacy restriction relate to Differential Object marking, as argued by Schwenter (2014)?

d) If children start with a generalized null object stage, what triggers the acquisition of the relevant grammar in the domain of object expression?

e) Do children acquiring different null object languages show similar syntactic and pragmatic constraints on the use of direct objects?

f) When does children’s sensibility to animacy effects emerge in different languages?

Confirmed keynote speakers:

-Esther Rinke (Goethe Universität Frankfurt)
-Marta Ruda (Jagiellonian University in Krakow)
-Sonia Cyrino (Universidade de Campinas, Brasil)
-Vera Dvorak (Rutgers University, NJ & ServiceNow, CA)




Research team on Experimental and Theoretical Linguistics (LTE group) of the Center for Humanistic Studies (CEHUM):

Pilar Barbosa

Cristina Flores

Ana Cristina Silva

Marco Carneiro

Center for Humanistic Studies of the University of Minho (LTE group)



The conference will be held online {zoom} on January 29-30. If you want to attend please register for free until January 26. You will, then, receive the access information.


University of Minho, Braga.


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Registration is free. You will receive a zoom link a few days before the conference starts.



Programme: PDF

Book of Abstracts PDF


As the Conference was held online, the organizers have decided to make the presentations’ material available for everyone interested.

Below you can find the presenter’s slides/handouts for each Conference session. A special thank you goes to the presenters and keynote speakers who have readily shared their material.



Esther Rinke: Does Animacy Matter for the Realization of Null Objects in European Portuguese? Evidence from Monolingual and Bilingual Language Acquisition and Use [PDF]

Pedro Guijarro Fuentes & Ana Madeira: L2 Deficits or Delays? Acquisition of Residual Object Drop in L2 Spanish [PDF]
Eva-Maria Roessler: On Null Object Licensing in Guaraní – An Account of Person-Split Pro-Drop (Tupí-Guaraní Family, *Paraguay/Brazil) [PDF]
Alexander Letuchiy: Is it Possible to Catch the Object Argument of A-labile Verbs and in Antipassive Constructions?
Matthew L. Maddox: Licensing Contexts for Null Objects in Rioplatense Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese [PDF]
Scott Schwenter & Kendra V. Dickinson: Parallel Acceptability of Null Direct Objects in European and Brazilian Portuguese [PDF]
Rosane Lira, Letícia Corrêa & Maria Lobo: The Effect of Animacy and Schooling in the Production of Co-referential Objects in the Acquisition of two Varieties of Portuguese [PDF]
Almike Vazquez-Lozares: Case is Key: The Relevance of Case in Basque-Spanish Null Objects
Robert Külpmann: The Role of Sentence Type in German Argument Omission [PDF]


Sonia Cyrino: On the Syntax of Null Objects in Brazilian Portuguese [PDF]



Marta Ruda: Null Arguments and Diagnostic Issues. Argument Ellipsis vs. Null Pronouns [PDF]

Takeo Kurafuji: Some Extensions of a Choice Function Analysis of Null Arguments [PDF]
Usama Soltan: On Null Objects in Egyptian Arabic: Evidence for Argument Ellipsis [PDF]
Anna Gavarró & Jingtao Zhu: Testing the Variational Model: Null Subjects and Null Objects in L1 Chinese [PDF]
Vasiliki Liarou: Object Drop in Greek [PDF]


Vera Dvorak: Generic and Indefinite Null Objects (comparing Czech to Italian and English) [PDF]