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ANR funded project

Programme franco-allemand en SHS (FRAL)
Edition 2011


Dialectal, acquisitional, and diachronic data and investigations on subject pronouns in Gallo-Romance

Crossing perspectives from dialectology, acquisition, and diachrony to study subject pronouns
Clitic subject pronouns have progressively appeared in the evolution from Latin to modern Romance languages. The original comparison of dialectal, acquisitional, and diachronic data should allow us to shed light on this evolution, and to provide the scientific debate with new analyses.

Looking for universal principles underlying linguistic change.
The pronominal system of Romance languages constitutes a complex domain where wide variation is observed. This project investigates clitic subject pronouns and their progressive emergence in some Romance languages. The aim is to shed new light on these clitics within the generative framework, comparing three types of data stemming from dialects, first language acquisition, and ancient texts, suggesting that individual diachrony parallels language diachrony.

Constitution and analysis of large corpora
The research undertaken within this project is based on the study of corpora. Three corpora are gathered, one for each domain (i.e. dialectology, acquisition, and diachrony), and analysed in order to compare the results in all three domains, as well as against theory. The aim is hence to collect and process data in all three domains, which requires complementary fieldwork and data processing tools (databases and specific tools).


A comparison of the outcome in each of the three domains of investigation should allow us to shed new light on generative linguistics and to precise the cognitive aspect underlying linguistic change. Dialectologists have often shown that dialects represent different stages of the evolution of language, and the matter to be addressed is to verify if the same progression emerges in first language acquisition. Oral and written data will also be compared.


Confirmation of this hypothesis would then give us indications as to the implementation of Language Faculty by showing that linguistic evolution abides by universal principles. Back to generative theory, this should allow us to precise the Principles and Parameters at work in this process. Research should then be extended beyond Romance languages to other linguistic families. Finally, all three corpora will be shared online with the scientific community.

Scientific outputs and patents

The members of the DADDIPRO project have given talks at several conferences and have started to publish several papers on these matters. They also contribute to the development of an important dialectal database named Thesaurus Occitan (THESOC): A first corpus of acquisitional data is also available at:



ANR grant: 270 000 euros
Beginning and duration: février 2012 - 36 mois

Submission abstract

The pronominal system of Romance languages is an extremely complex and variable morpho-syntactic domain. This project deals with a subset of this system, i.e. the subject pronouns and in particular the clitic elements which mainly occur in Gallo-Romance languages in addition to strong or non-clitic pronouns. This topic has occupied generative linguists for at least thirty years now and has led to the definition of the controversial Pro-drop Parameter. Our aim is to forward new insights into the function and the status of these subject clitics within the generative framework. This will be done by investigating these pronouns from three different perspectives, namely dialectology, acquisition and diachrony. The first objective is hence to collect and process data within these three domains. Secondly, the investigations will rely on major previous work by both teams in these domains on an array of Gallo-Romance languages. As a result, it is intended to compare the three sets of data and to analyse them conjointly in order to complement the existing Principles & Parameters theory. One of the hypotheses to be investigated is whether dialectal data may reflect stages which are found in the acquisitional and/or diachronic data with regard to the behaviour of subject clitic pronouns. This will be done by studying thoroughly both already collected data and additional data to be gathered in the fields where they are needed in order to verify the hypotheses. Finally, we intend to share our corpora with the scientific community on the Internet.


ANR Programme: Programme franco-allemand en SHS (FRAL) 2011

Project ID: ANR-11-FRAL-0007

Project coordinator:


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The project coordinator is the author of this abstract and is therefore responsible for the content of the summary. The ANR disclaims all responsibility in connection with its content.