Asymmetries between interpretation and production in Catalan pronouns


  • Laia Mayol Universitat Pompeu Fabra



The literature on Romance null-subject languages has often postulated a division of labor between Null and Overt pronouns: Nulls prefer to retrieve an antecedent in subject position, whereas Overts prefer an antecedent in a lower syntactic position (Carminati, 2002). However, recent research on English pronouns (Rohde and Kehler, 2014) has shown grammatical function alone cannot explain pronoun interpretation. According to these models, pronoun interpretation and production are sensitive to different sets of factors and, instead of being mirror images of each other, are related probabilistically in a Bayesian fashion. This paper tests this model with Catalan data from two discourse-completion experiments to study the grammatical and pragmatic factors that affect the interpretation and production of Null and Overt pronouns. Our main result is that both Null and Overt pronouns present asymmetries regarding their interpretation and production: (1) the production of Null pronouns is affected mainly by grammatical factors (they are subject-biased), but their interpretation is also influenced by pragmatic factors (in particular, rhetorical relations), and (2) while Overt pronouns have a strong interpretation bias towards the object, the data indicates that they are not the preferred form to refer to the object.