Recycled Neuter Expletive Pronouns and the Nature of the Left Periphery: ell and Relatives Revisited

Anna Bartra-Kaufmann


In this paper, we revisit two types of apparently Neuter Expletive Pronouns in Romance, namely Catalan ell, Spanish ello, EP ele, a.o., and the expletive neuter demonstratives aço, eso, esto, which have been argued in the literature to have an expressive value and to belong to the Left Periphery of the sentence. Our aim is to explore the relationship between expletive subjects and the Left Periphery in NS languages in a simple way. We base our investigations on the rich insights set up in the literature, and discuss if grammaticalisation could explain the shift from expletive subject to expressive marker. After briefly reviewing the properties of ell/ ello/ele, we show that it is unclear how they could fit into the current definition of grammaticalisation. We then review the common semantic properties of ello elements and neuter demonstratives, and argue that these elements anchor a speech act, a predication to the external situation. We explain how this property is encoded in a framework like the one of Hale & Keyser’s work. As for their syntactic properties, we claim that these elements belong to a reduced C-T area.


expletive subjects; discourse; left periphery; pronouns; demonstratives; ello; açò

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Copyright (c) 2011 Anna Bartra-Kaufmann