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’:

-Eduardo Paiva Raposo (University of California Santa Barbara)
-Esther Rinke (Goethe Universität Frankfurt)
-Marta Ruda (Jagiellonian University in Krakow)
-Maria Inês Pedrosa da Silva Duarte (Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa)
-Sonya Cirino (Universidade de Campinas, Brasil)




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)



New dates to be announced


University of Minho, Braga.


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Programme: to be announced.