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  • Strengthening the PRO hypothesis by Lisa A. Reed
  • Mihaela Marchis Moreno
Strengthening the PRO hypothesis. By Lisa A. Reed. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2013. Pp. x, 385. ISBN 9781614510413. $150 (Hb).

This book deals with the phenomenon of control, which represents a core topic of investigation both in the early generative theories and in modern minimalist approaches. The major interest in this topic is related to the syntactic status of the unpronounced subject of control infinitives, inflected infinitives, subjunctives, and indicatives.

Chronologically speaking, in the framework of government and binding, PRO and its distribution are analyzed on the basis of the binding theory. Accordingly, since PRO is simultaneously an anaphor and a pronoun, further stipulations are needed in order to avoid violations of the binding conditions. One necessary requirement for PRO is that it does not have binding domains and, hence, it should not be governed and Case-marked. This is known in the literature as the PRO theorem, introduced by Chomsky (1981).

A second stage in the investigation of control constructions began with the rise of the minimalist program (see Chomsky 1995 and subsequent work). Chomsky and Lasnik (1993) propose that PRO is the only NP that can bear null Case due to its covert nature. Chomsky and Lasnik (1993) and Chomsky (2001) also argue that null Case is only assigned by a nonfinite T. Landau (2003 and subsequent work) proposes an Agree-based approach to PRO and rejects a null Case approach. The advantage of his approach is that he can account for the crucial contrast between raising and control constructions. This difference is observable in languages with case concord, like Icelandic. When the embedded predicate assigns quirky case to its subject in Icelandic, this case shows up on the matrix subject in raising but not in control constructions. The [End Page 260] matrix controller bears nominative, while PRO bears quirky case, as shown by agreeing elements like floating quantifiers or depictives.

According to Landau, this can be explained only if PRO is case-marked. Another clear benefit of this theory is that it provides a unified Agree-based analysis of both partial and exhaustive control. PRO can be either anaphoric or arbitrary. Landau’s approach, however, still cannot account for a number of empirical data, such as the availability of finite control in Brazilian Portuguese where PRO occurs only with a T specified for tense and agreement (Ferreira 2004, Rodrigues 2004). Finite control can be easily explained by the movement theory of control proposed by Hornstein (1999 and subsequent work), who proposes a novel analysis of control that completely eliminates PRO. From this perspective, control, reflexivization, and raising are the result of A-movement. Crucially, control and raising differ only in theta-theoretic terms: movement to theta positions in control and to nontheta positions in raising.

In this book Reed aims at rehabilitating the standard theory of PRO by providing additional evidence that the modular theory of PRO is superior to other syntactic theories of control that eliminate PRO, including the movement theory of control and the lexicalist approach to control by Montague (1974), Chierchia (1985), Dowty (1985), and Jackendoff (1990), among others. In the first two chapters of the book, R provides a complex overview of the past and current analyses of control—a real state-of-the-art review. Chs. 4–6 focus on the well-known arguments for the PRO hypothesis such as the mapping of argument structure onto syntax, binding and agreement facts, and case assignment in rich case languages such as Icelandic or Russian. As R herself admits, these arguments have a nonsyntactic nature, and such facts can thus be accommodated by alternative semantic and morphological accounts of control. Therefore, her purpose in the book is to provide new syntactic evidence for the PRO hypothesis, namely, to show first that a control clause has a thematic subject (contrary to Montague syntax, which assumes that embedded sentences of control verbs involve ‘subjectless’ or ‘bare’ VPs), and second that the subject remains clause-internal at spell-out without undergoing overt movement into the matrix clause (contrary to the movement theory of control). In Ch. 5 she argues that only PRO...


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