A minimalist theory of PRO and control

Date of Completion

January 1996


Language, Linguistics




This thesis explores the nature of the empty category PRO within the Minimalist Program of Chomsky (1995). It is proposed that the distribution of PRO follows from Case theory, hence effectively eliminating the need for the notion government for this purpose. I argue, following Chomsky and Lasnik (1993), that PRO is marked with null Case and that null Case is checked only in the domain of certain instances of non-finite T(ense). Crucial to the proposal are arguments that non-finite T in control infinitivals is (+Tense), whereas non-finite T in raising infinitivals is ($-$Tense), as initially suggested by Stowell (1981). From this, the (near) complementary distribution of PRO and lexical DP/trace in the subject position of infinitives can be deduced.^ The second part of the thesis is devoted to deriving properties of obligatory and non-obligatory control. I argue that PRO is a clitic, corresponding roughly to the anaphoric/impersonal clitic SE in Romance. In obligatory control constructions, PRO must climb out of its own clause and cliticize to an appropriate host in the superordinate clause. This results in an instance of Chain Fusion, in which the Chain headed by the PRO-clitic and that headed by a DP in the higher clause (the "controller") are collapsed into a single Chain which receives two thematic roles. Non-obligatory control, on the other hand, involves licencing of PRO internal to its own clause by a functional head that encodes point-of-view (F in Uriagereka 1988). This lead to a sort of "pragmatic" control which has properties distinct from obligatory control. The difference in the mode of licensing PRO is also shown to account for a number of non-trivial differences between control in English and a variety of Romance languages. ^