Pro-drop language

A pro-drop language (from "pronoun-dropping") is a language in which certain classes of pronouns may be omitted when they are pragmatically or grammatically inferable (the precise conditions vary from language to language, and can be quite intricate). The phenomenon of "pronoun-dropping" is also commonly referred to as zero or null anaphora.[1] In the case of pro-drop languages, null anaphora refers to the fact that the null position has referential properties, meaning it is not a null dummy pronoun. Pro-drop is only licensed in languages that have a positive setting of the pro-drop parameter, which allows the null element to be identified by its governor.[2] In pro-drop languages with a highly inflected verbal morphology, the expression of the subject pronoun is considered unnecessary because the verbal inflection indicates the person and number of the subject, thus the referent of the null subject can be inferred from the grammatical inflection on the verb.[3]

Even though in everyday speech there are instances when who or what is being referred to can be inferred from context, non-pro-drop languages still require the pronoun. However, pro-drop languages allow those referential pronouns to be omitted, or be phonologically null. Among major languages, two of which might be called a pro-drop language are Japanese and Korean (featuring pronoun deletion not only for subjects, but for practically all grammatical contexts). Chinese, Slavic languages,[4] and American Sign Language also exhibit frequent pro-drop features. In contrast, non-pro-drop is an areal feature of many northern European languages (see Standard Average European), including French, (standard) German, and English.[5]

Some languages might be considered only partially pro-drop in that they allow deletion of the subject pronoun. These null-subject languages include most Romance languages (French is an exception) as well as all the Balto-Slavic languages and to a limited extent Icelandic. Colloquial and dialectal German, unlike the standard language, are also partially pro-drop; they typically allow deletion of the subject pronoun in main clauses but not in subordinate clauses.

History of the term

The term "pro-drop" stems from Noam Chomsky's "Lectures on Government and Binding" from 1981 as a cluster of properties of which "null subject" was one (for the occurrence of pro as a predicate rather than a subject in sentences with the copula see Moro 1997).

Thus, a one-way correlation was suggested between inflectional agreement (AGR) and empty pronouns on the one hand and between no agreement and overt pronouns, on the other. It is worth noting that in the classical version, languages which not only lack agreement morphology but also allow extensive dropping of pronouns—such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese—are not included, as is made clear in a footnote: "The principle suggested is fairly general, but does not apply to such languages as Japanese in which pronouns can be missing much more freely." (Chomsky 1981:284, fn 47).

The term pro-drop is also used in other frameworks in generative grammar, such as in lexical functional grammar (LFG), but in a more general sense: "Pro-drop is a widespread linguistic phenomenon in which, under certain conditions, a structural NP may be unexpressed, giving rise to a pronominal interpretation." (Bresnan 1982:384).

The empty category assumed (under government and binding theory) to be present in the vacant subject position left by pro-dropping is known as pro, or as "little pro" (to distinguish it from "big PRO", an empty category associated with non-finite verb phrases).[6]



Consider the following examples from Japanese:

Kono kēki wa oishii. Dare ga yaita no?
"This cake is tasty. Who baked it?"
Shiranai. Ki ni itta?
know-NEGATIVE. like-PAST?
"I don't know. Did you like it?"

The words in bold in the English translations (it in the first line; I, you, and it in the second) appear nowhere in the Japanese sentences but are understood from context. If nouns or pronouns were supplied, the resulting sentences would be grammatically correct but sound unnatural. (Learners of Japanese as a second language, especially those whose first language is non-pro-drop like English or French, often supply personal pronouns where they are pragmatically inferable, an example of language transfer.)


The above-mentioned examples from Japanese are readily rendered into Chinese:

Zhèi kuài dàngāo hĕn hăochī. Shéi kăo de?
This piece cake DEGREE tasty. Who bake-MODIFY?
"This cake is tasty. Who baked it?"
Bù zhīdào. Xĭhuan ma?
Not know. like QUESTION-YES/NO?
"I don't know. Do you like it?"

Though it is worthy to note that unlike Japanese, the inclusion of the dropped pronouns does not make the sentence sound unnatural.


Arabic is considered a null-subject language, as demonstrated by the following example:

Arabic: ساعد غيرك، يساعدك
Transliteration: sāʻid ghayrak, yusāʻiduk
Literal translation: help other, helps you.
Idiomatic translation: If you help another, he helps you.


Sen-i gör-dü-m
I saw you.

The subject "I" above is easily inferable as the verb gör-mek "to see" is conjugated in the first person simple past tense form. The object is indicated by the pronoun seni in this case. Strictly speaking, pronominal objects are generally explicitly indicated, although frequently possessive suffixes indicate the equivalent of an object in English, as in the following sentence.

Gel-diğ-im-i gör-dü-n mü?
Did you see me coming?

In this sentence, the object of the verb is actually the action of coming performed by the speaker (geldiğimi "my coming"), but the object in the English sentence, "me", is indicated here by the possessive suffix -im "my" on the nominalised verb. Both pronouns can be explicitly indicated in the sentence for purposes of emphasis, as follows:

Sen ben-im gel-diğ-im-i gör-dü-n mü?
2SG 1SG-POSS come-"ing"-POS.1SG-ACC see-PST-2SG Q
Did you see me coming?


In Swahili, both subject and object pronouns can be omitted as they are indicated by verbal prefixes.

I will help you.


English is considered a non-pro-drop language. Nonetheless, subject pronouns are almost always dropped in imperative sentences (e.g., Come here). This is sometimes called "you understood", because the sentence subject is putatively one or more listeners. In informal speech, pronouns may sometimes be dropped in other types of sentences, together with some other words, especially copulas and auxiliaries:

  • [Have you] ever been there?
  • [I'm] going to the shops. [Do you] want to come?
  • [I] haven't been there yet. [I'm] going later.
  • Seen on signs: [I am/We are] out to lunch; [I/we will be] back at 1:00 [P.M].
  • What do you think [of it]?I like [it]! (the latter only in some dialects and registers)

In speech, when pronouns are not dropped, they are more often reduced than other words in an utterance.

Relative pronouns, provided they are not the subject, are often dropped in short restrictive clauses: That's the man [who] I saw.

Note that the dropping of pronouns is generally restricted to very informal speech and certain fixed expressions, and the rules for their use are complex and vary among dialects and registers. A noted instance was the "lived the dream" section of George H. W. Bush's speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention.[7][8][9][10]

Null-subject languages

Modern Greek

Subject pronouns can be often omitted in modern Greek. Example:

Βλέπεις εκείνο το κούτσουρο; Θα ήταν καλό για τη φωτιά. Είναι τελείως ξερό.
See that the log? Would be good for the fire. Is completely dried (literal, direct translation)
(Do) you see this log? It would be good for the fire. It has completely dried. (idiomatic translation)

Romance languages

Most Romance languages (with the notable exception of French) are often categorised as pro-drop too, most of them only in the case of subject pronouns. Unlike in Japanese, however, the missing subject pronoun is not inferred strictly from pragmatics, but partially indicated by the morphology of the verb, which inflects for person and number of the subject.


In Spanish, the verb is inflected for both person and number, thus expression of the pronoun is unnecessary because it is grammatically redundant.[3] In the following example, the inflection on the verb ver, 'see', signals informal 2nd person singular, thus the pronoun is dropped. Similarly, from both the context and verbal morphology, the listener can infer that the second two utterances are referring to the log, so the speaker omits the pronoun that would appear in English as "it."

¿Ves este tronco? Sería bueno para la fogata. Está completamente seco. (Spanish)
See this log? Would be good for the campfire. Is completely dry (literal, direct translation)
(Do) you see this log? It would be good for the campfire. It is completely dry (English gloss)

Although Spanish is a pro-drop language, not all grammatical contexts allow for a null pronoun. There are some environments that require an overt pronoun. In contrast, there are also grammatical environments that require a null pronoun. According to the Real Academia Española, the expression or elision of the subject pronoun is not random. Rather there are contexts in which an overt pronoun is abnormal, while in other cases the overt pronoun is possible or even required.[11]

The third person pronouns (él, ella, ellos, ellas) in most contexts can only refer to persons. Therefore, when referring to things (that are not people) an explicit pronoun is usually disallowed.[11]

Subject pronouns can be made explicit when used for a contrastive function or when the subject is the focus of the sentence. In the following example, the first person explicit pronoun is used to emphasize the subject.

Yo [y no tú u otra persona] creo que en eso estuvo mal.
I [and not you or another person] think that that was wrong.

Subject pronouns can also be made explicit in order to clarify ambiguities that arise due to verb forms that are homophonous in the first person and third person. For example, in the past imperfect, conditional, and the subjunctive, the verb forms are the same for first person singular and third person singular. In these situations, using the explicit pronoun yo (1st person singular) or él, ella (3rd person singular) clarifies who the subject is, since the verbal morphology is ambiguous.[11]


Vedi questo tronco? Andrebbe bene da bruciare. È completamente secco. (Italian)
See this log? Would go well for burning. Is completely dry (literal, direct translation)
Do you see this log? It would be fit for burning. It is completely dry. (English gloss)


Examples of omitted subject:

Estás a ver este tronco? Seria bom para a fogueira. Secou completamente. (European Portuguese)
Are to see this log? Would be good for the campfire. Dried completely (literal, direct translation)
(Do) you see this log? It would be good for the campfire. It has completely dried. (English gloss)
"Tá" (está) vendo esse tronco? Seria bom pra fogueira. Secou totalmente. (Brazilian Portuguese)
Are seeing this log? Would be good for-the campfire. Dried totally (literal, direct translation)
(Do) you see this log? It would be good for the campfire. It has completely dried. (English gloss)

Omission of object pronouns is likewise possible when the referent is clear, especially in colloquial or informal language:

Acho que ele vai rejeitar a proposta, mas pode aceitar.
Think that he goes (to-)reject the proposal, but may accept. (literally)
I think he is going to turn down the proposal, but he may accept it.
Ainda tem macarrão? Não, papai comeu.
Still is there pasta? No, daddy ate. (literally)
Is there pasta left? No, daddy ate it.

The use of the object pronoun in these examples (aceitá-la, comeu-o) would be grammatical but rather unnatural, especially in Brazil.

Ela me procurou ontem e não achou.
She me sought yesterday and not found. (literally)
She looked for me yesterday and didn't find me.

Here não me achou would also be possible.

A: Eu te amo; você também me ama? B: Amo, sim.
A: I you love; you too me love? B: Love-1-SING, yes. (literally)
A: I love you; do you love me too? B: I do.

Omission of the object pronoun is possible even when its referent has not been explicitly mentioned, so long as it can be inferred. The next example might be heard at a store; the referent (a dress) is clear to the interlocutor. In both Brazilian and European Portuguese the pronoun is omitted.

Viu que bonito? Não gosta? Pode comprar? (BP)
Saw how beautiful? Don't like? Can buy? (using polite 2nd person) (BP)
Viste que bonito? Não gostas? Podes comprar? (EP)
Saw how beautiful? Don't like? Can buy? (using informal 2nd person) (EP)
Have you seen how beautiful it is? Do you like it? Can you buy it? (English gloss)

Modern Spanish and Portuguese are also notable amongst Romance languages because they have no specific pronouns for circumstantial complements (arguments denoting circumstance, consequence, place or manner, modifying the verb but not directly involved in the action) or partitives (words or phrases denoting a quantity of something). However, Medieval language had them, e.g. Portuguese hi and ende.

Compare the following examples in which Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, and Romanian have null pronouns for place and partitives, but Catalan, French, Occitan, and Italian have overt pronouns for place and partitive.

Languages in Europe
  Non-pro-drop languages
  Pro-drop being displaced by a non-pro-drop language

Circumstantial complement denoting place

Partitive denoting quantity

Slavic languages

All Slavic languages behave in a similar manner to the Romance pro-drop languages. Example:

Бачу [яго]. Ідзе. Belarusian
Виждам го. Идва. Bulgarian
Vidim ga. Prilazi. Croatian
Vidím ho. Jde. Czech
Го гледам. Доаѓа. Macedonian
Widzę go. Idzie. Polish
Вижу [его]. Идёт. Russian
Видим га. Долази. Serbian
Vidím ho. Ide. Slovak
Vidim ga. Prihaja. Slovene
Бачу [його]. Йде. Ukrainian
"I see him. He is coming."

Here he in the second sentence is inferred from context. In the East Slavic languages even the objective pronoun "его" can be omitted in the present and future tenses (both imperfect and perfective). As with the Romance languages mentioned above, the missing pronoun is not inferred strictly from pragmatics, but partially indicated by the morphology of the verb (Вижу, Виждам, Widzę, Vidim, etc...). However, the past tense of both imperfective and perfective in modern East Slavic languages inflects by gender and number rather than the person due to the fact that the present tense conjugations of the copula "to be" (Russian быть, Ukrainian бути, Belorussian быць) have practically fallen out of use. As such, the pronoun is often included in these tenses, especially in writing.

Finno-Ugric languages

In Finnish, the verb inflection replaces first and second person pronouns in simple sentences, e.g. menen "I go", menette "all of you go". Pronouns are typically left in place only when they need to be inflected, e.g. me "we", meiltä "from us". There are possessive pronouns, but possessive suffixes, e.g. -ni as in kissani "my cat", are also used, as in Kissani söi kalan ("my cat ate a fish"). A peculiarity of colloquial Finnish is that the pronoun me ("we") can be dropped if the verb is placed in the passive voice (e.g. haetaan, standard "it is fetched", colloquial "we fetch"). In the Estonian language, a close relative of Finnish, the tendency is less clear. It generally uses explicit personal pronouns in the literary language, but these are often omitted in colloquial Estonian.

Hungarian is also pro-drop, subject pronouns are used only for emphasis, as example (Én) mentem "I went", and because of the definite conjugation, object pronouns can be often elided as well; for example, the question (Te) láttad a macskát? "Did (you) see the cat?" can be answered with just láttam "(I) saw (it)", because the definite conjugation renders the object pronoun superfluous.


Modern Hebrew, like Biblical Hebrew, is a "moderately" pro-drop language. In general, subject pronouns must be included in the present tense. Since Hebrew has no verb forms expressing the present tense, the present tense is formed using the present participle (somewhat like English I am guarding). The participle in Hebrew, as is the case with other adjectives, declines only in grammatical gender and number (like the past tense in Russian), thus:

I (m.) guard (ani shomer) = אני שומר
You (m.) guard (ata shomer) = אתה שומר
He guards (hu shomer) = הוא שומר
I (f.) guard (ani shomeret) = אני שומרת
We (m.) guard (anachnu shomrim) = אנחנו שומרים

Since the forms used for the present tense lack the distinction between grammatical persons, explicit pronouns must be added in the majority of cases.

In contrast, the past tense and the future tense the verb form is inflected for person, number, and gender. Therefore, the verb form itself indicates sufficient information about the subject. The subject pronoun is therefore normally dropped, except in third-person.[12]

I (m./f.) guarded (shamarti) = שמרתי
You (m. pl.) guarded (sh'martem) = שמרתם
I (m./f.) will guard (eshmor) = אשמור
You (pl./m.) will guard (tishm'ru) = תשמרו

Many nouns can take suffixes to reflect the possessor, in which case the personal pronoun is dropped. In daily modern Hebrew usage, inflection of nouns is common only for simple nouns, and in most cases, inflected possessive pronouns are used. In Hebrew, possessive pronouns are treated mostly like adjectives and follow the nouns which they modify. In biblical Hebrew, inflection of more sophisticated nouns is more common than in modern usage.

Generalizations across languages

Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Occitan and Romanian can elide subject pronouns only (Portuguese sometimes elides object pronouns as well), and they often do so even when the referent has not been mentioned. This is helped by person/number inflection on the verb. It has been observed that pro-drop languages are those with either rich inflection for person and number (Persian, Polish, Portuguese, etc.) or no such inflection at all (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc.), but languages that are intermediate (English, French, etc.) are non-pro-drop.

While the mechanism by which overt pronouns are more "useful" in English than in Japanese is obscure, and there are exceptions to this observation, it still seems to have considerable descriptive validity. As Huang puts it, "Pro-drop is licensed to occur either where a language has full agreement, or where a language has no agreement, but not where a language has impoverished partial agreement."[13]

Other language families and linguistic regions

Among the Indo-European and Dravidian languages of India, pro-drop is the general rule though many Dravidian languages do not have overt verbal markers to indicate pronominal subjects. Mongolic languages are similar in this respect to Dravidian languages, and all Paleosiberian languages are rigidly pro-drop.

Outside of northern Europe, most Niger–Congo languages, Khoisan languages of Southern Africa and Austronesian languages of the Western Pacific, pro-drop is the usual pattern in almost all linguistic regions of the world. In many non-pro-drop Niger–Congo or Austronesian languages, like Igbo, Samoan and Fijian, however, subject pronouns do not occur in the same position as a nominal subject and are obligatory, even when the latter is present. In more easterly Austronesian languages, like Rapa Nui and Hawaiian, subject pronouns are often omitted even though no other subject morphemes exist. Pama–Nyungan languages of Australia also typically omit subject pronouns even when there is no explicit expression of the subject.

Many Pama–Nyungan languages, however, have clitics, which often attach to nonverbal hosts to express subjects. The other languages of Northwestern Australia are all pro-drop, for all classes of pronoun. Also, Papuan languages of New Guinea and Nilo-Saharan languages of East Africa are pro-drop.

Among the indigenous languages of the Americas, pro-drop is almost universal, as would be expected from the generally polysynthetic and head-marking character of the languages. That generally allows eliding of all object pronouns as well as subject ones. Indeed, most reports on Native American languages show that even the emphatic use of pronouns is exceptionally rare. Only a few Native American languages, mostly language isolates (Haida, Trumai, Wappo) and the Oto-Manguean family are known for normally using subject pronouns.

Pragmatic inference

Classical Chinese exhibits extensive dropping not only of pronouns but also of any terms (subjects, verbs, objects, etc.) pragmatically inferable, giving a very compact character to the language. Note, however, that Classical Chinese was a written language, and such word dropping is not necessarily representative of the spoken language or even of the same linguistic phenomenon.

See also


  1. ^ Welo, Eirik. "Null Anaphora". Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics. doi:10.1163/2214-448x_eagll_com_00000254.
  2. ^ Bussmann, Hadumod (2006). Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. doi:10.4324/9780203980057. ISBN 9780203980057.
  3. ^ a b Flores-Ferrán, Nydia (2007-11-01). "A Bend in the Road: Subject Personal Pronoun Expression in Spanish after 30 Years of Sociolinguistic Research". Language and Linguistics Compass. 1 (6): 624–652. doi:10.1111/j.1749-818X.2007.00031.x. ISSN 1749-818X.
  4. ^ Kordić, Snježana (2001). Wörter im Grenzbereich von Lexikon und Grammatik im Serbokroatischen [Serbo-Croatian Words on the Border Between Lexicon and Grammar]. Studies in Slavic Linguistics ; 18 (in German). Munich: Lincom Europa. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-3-89586-954-9. LCCN 2005530313. OCLC 47905097. OL 2863539W. Summary.
  5. ^ Martin Haspelmath, The European linguistic area: Standard Average European, in Martin Haspelmath, et al., Language Typology and Language Universals, vol. 2, 2001, pp. 1492-1510
  6. ^ R.L. Trask, A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics, Routledge 2013, p. 218.
  7. ^ Bush, George W. (18 August 1988). "Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans". American Presidency Project. University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved 22 July 2015. Those were exciting days. Lived in a little shotgun house, one room for the three of us. Worked in the oil business, started my own. In time we had six children. Moved from the shotgun to a duplex apartment to a house. Lived the dream - high school football on Friday night, Little League, neighborhood barbecue.
  8. ^ Didion, Joan (27 October 1988). "Insider Baseball". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 22 July 2015. as Bush, or Peggy Noonan, had put it in the celebrated no-subject-pronoun cadences of the "lived the dream" acceptance speech.
  9. ^ Greenfield, Jeff (September 2008). "Accepting the Inevitable: What McCain can learn from the acceptance speeches of Reagan, Bush, and Gore". Slate: 2. Note how, as he tells his story, the pronouns drop out, underscoring the idea that this was more a conversation than a speech
  10. ^ Winant, Gabriel (21 December 2006). "When the Going Gets Tough". Leland Quarterly. Retrieved 23 July 2015. Bush projects an image as a forthright Westerner who has no truck with fancy language or personal pronouns.
  11. ^ a b c "Pronombre Personales Tónicos". Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas. Real Academia Española. 2005.
  12. ^ Hacohen, Gonen; Schegloff, Emanuel A. (2006-08-01). "On the preference for minimization in referring to persons: Evidence from Hebrew conversation". Journal of Pragmatics. Focus-on Issue: Discourse and Conversation. 38 (8): 1305–1312. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2006.04.004.
  13. ^ Huang, C.-T. James. "On the distribution and reference of empty pronouns". Linguistic Inquiry 15: 531-574. 1984.

Further reading

  • Bresnan, Joan (ed.) (1982) The Mental Representation of Grammatical Relations, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Chomsky, Noam (1981) Lectures on Government and Binding: The Pisa Lectures. Holland: Foris Publications. Reprint. 7th Edition. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1993.
  • Graffi, Giorgio (2001) 200 Years of Syntax. A critical survey, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • Moro, Andrea (1997) The raising of predicates. Predicative noun phrases and the theory of clause structure, Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.
  • Rizzi, Luigi (1982) Issues in Italian Syntax, Foris, Dordrecht.
  • Krivochen, Diego and Peter Kosta (2013) Eliminating Empty Categories. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
  • Jaeggli, Osvaldo, and Ken Safir (1989) The Null Subject Parameter. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

External links

Caribbean Spanish

Caribbean Spanish (Spanish: español caribeño) is the general name of the Spanish dialects spoken in the Caribbean region. It resembles the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands and more distantly the one spoken in western Andalusia.

More precisely, the term refers to the Spanish language as spoken in the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic as well as in Panama, Venezuela, and the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

Dependent clause

A dependent clause is a clause that provides a sentence element with additional information, but which cannot stand as a sentence. A dependent clause can either modify an adjacent clause or serve as a component of an independent clause. Some grammarians use the term subordinate clause to refer only to adverbial dependent clauses.The different types of dependent clauses include content clauses (noun clauses), relative (adjectival) clauses, and adverbial clauses.

Georgian language

Georgian (ქართული ენა, translit.: kartuli ena, pronounced [kʰɑrtʰuli ɛnɑ]) is a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians. It is the official language of Georgia. Georgian is written in its own writing system, the Georgian script. Georgian is the literary language for all regional subgroups of Georgians, including those who speak other Kartvelian languages: Svans, Mingrelians and the Laz.

Kwaza language

Kwaza (also written Kwazá or Koaiá) is an endangered Amazonian language spoken by the Kwaza people of Brazil. Kwaza is classified as a language isolate, meaning it shows no relation to other known languages or linguistic families.

Little is known about Kwaza people and language due to the minimal historical sources available; if mentioned in reliable documents, it is usually in reference to its neighbors. What is known, is that the Kwaza people were at one point a fierce nation of a few thousands persons, which could be subdivided into various groups.As of 2014, the language is spoken by 54 people, who live in the south of the Brazilian federal state of Rondônia . Of these 54 speakers, more than half are children, half are trilingual, speaking Kwaza, Aikanã, and Portuguese, and a part are bilingual, also speaking Portuguese. However, this information is based off studies in 2004/2005, therefore the number of speakers could be more or less today. They live South of the original habitat on the indigenous reserve Tubarão-Latundê and speak Kwaza on a day-to-day basis.In the past, South Rondônia was populated by twenty different nations or "tribes" (in a linguistic rather than ethical sense), consisting of several thousand members each. Comparing this information to what the population and region is now today is striking, especially when it comes to thinking about language extinction. The Kwaza language is threatened by extinction, as it is at risk of disappearing because it is spoken by a minute population and/or because it is not being transferred to the next generation.

Latin grammar

Latin is a heavily inflected language with largely free word order. Nouns are inflected for number and case; pronouns and adjectives (including participles) are inflected for number, case, and gender; and verbs are inflected for person, number, tense, aspect, voice, and mood. The inflections are often changes in the ending of a word, but can be more complicated, especially with verbs.

Thus verbs can take any of over 100 different endings to express different meanings, for example regō "I rule", regor "I am ruled", regere "to rule", regī "to be ruled", rēxisset "he would have ruled", and so on. Regular verbs are classified into four different groups known as conjugations, according to whether the infinitive ends with -āre, -ēre, -ere, or -īre. There are also irregular verbs such as sum "I am".

There is no definite or indefinite article in Latin, so that rēx can mean "king", "a king", or "the king" according to context.

Nouns belong to one of three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). The gender of a noun is shown by the adjectives and pronouns that refer to it: e.g., hic vir "this man", haec mulier "this woman", hoc nōmen "this name". There are also two numbers: singular (mulier "woman") and plural (mulierēs "women").

As well as having gender and number, nouns have different endings according to their function in the sentence. These different endings are called cases. For example, masculine and feminine nouns have different forms depending on whether they are the subject or the object of the verb: rēx videt "the king sees", but rēgem videt "he sees the king". These two are called the nominative and accusative cases respectively of the word. (In neuter nouns the nominative and accusative cases are identical.) Nouns also have a genitive case, meaning "of" (rēgis "of the king"), a dative case, meaning "to" or "for" (rēgī "to/for the king"), and an ablative case, meaning "with" (rēge "with the king"). A sixth case, the vocative, is used for addressing. With most nouns it is identical with the nominative, e.g. ō rēx "o king!". A seventh case, the locative, has marginal use, and is mostly found with the names of towns and cities, e.g. Rōmae "in Rome".

Pronouns, adjectives and the numbers one to three also show case and number to agree with the noun they refer to. Thus haec tertia pars "this third part" changes to hanc tertiam partem when accusative.Nouns differ from one another in their case endings: for example, the genitive of puella "girl" is puellae "of the girl" but the genitive of servus "slave" is servī "of the slave". Nouns are therefore classified into five different groups called declensions according to the pattern of their endings. Those like puella with genitive -ae are said to belong to the 1st declension, while those like servus with genitive -ī are 2nd declension, and so on.

Latin word order is commonly subject–object–verb. However, other word orders are common. Different word orders can also be used to express subtle nuances, even in prose. (See Latin word order.)

In Latin an adjective can come either before or after a noun, e.g. vir bonus or bonus vir "a good man". Overall, the position before the noun is more frequent, although some kinds of adjectives, such as adjectives of nationality (vir Rōmānus "a Roman man") usually follow the noun. The adjective may also be separated from its noun by other words, especially in poetry. Prepositions, such as in ("in" or "into") or ex ("from" or "out of"), usually precede the noun, except sometimes in poetry.

Latin usually omits pronouns as the subject except for emphasis; so for example amās by itself means "you love" without the need to add the pronoun tū "you". (A language with this characteristic is known as a pro-drop language.) Latin also exhibits verb framing in which the path of motion is encoded into the verb rather than shown by a separate word or phrase. For example, the Latin verb exit (a compound of ex and it) means "he/she/it goes out".

Leco language

Leco, also written as Leko, is a language isolate that, though long reported to be extinct, is spoken by 20–40 individuals in areas east of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. The Leco ethnic population is about 80.

Null subject parameter

Pro-drop parameter or Null subject parameter is the parameter which determines whether a language is a pro-drop language or not. A positive setting of the parameter allows an empty pro-element to be identified by its governor. This is the case in pro-drop languages.

Palauan language

Palauan (a tekoi er a Belau) is a Malayo-Polynesian language native to the Republic of Palau, where it is one of the two official languages, alongside English. It is widely used in day-to-day life in the country. Palauan is not closely related to other Malayo-Polynesian languages and its exact classification within the Austronesian languages is unclear.

Persian grammar

Persian grammar (Persian: دستور زبان فارسی‎) is the grammar of the Persian language, whose dialectal variants are spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan (in Samarqand, Bukhara and the Surxondaryo Region) and Tajikistan. It is similar to that of many other Indo-European languages. The language became a more analytical language around the time of Middle Persian, with fewer cases and discarding grammatical gender. The innovations remain in Modern Persian, which is one of the few Indo-European languages to lack grammatical gender.

Personal pronoun

Personal pronouns are pronouns that are associated primarily with a particular grammatical person – first person (as I), second person (as you), or third person (as he, she, it, they). Personal pronouns may also take different forms depending on number (usually singular or plural), grammatical or natural gender, case, and formality. The term "personal" is used here purely to signify the grammatical sense; personal pronouns are not limited to people and can also refer to animals and objects (as the English personal pronoun it usually does).

The re-use in some languages of one personal pronoun to indicate a second personal pronoun with formality or social distance – commonly a second person plural to signify second person singular formal – is known as the T–V distinction, from the Latin pronouns tu and vos. Examples are the majestic plural in English and the use of "vous" in place of "tu" in French.

For specific details of the personal pronouns used in the English language, see English personal pronouns.


In linguistics, a pro-form is a type of function word or expression that stands in for (expresses the same content as) another word, phrase, clause or sentence where the meaning is recoverable from the context. They are used either to avoid repetitive expressions or in quantification (limiting the variables of a proposition).

Pro-forms are divided into several categories, according to which part of speech they substitute:

A pronoun substitutes a noun or a noun phrase, with or without a determiner: it, this. (Compare also prop-word; this denotes a word like one in "the blue one".)

A pro-adjective substitutes an adjective or a phrase that functions as an adjective: so as in "It is less so than we had expected."

A pro-adverb substitutes an adverb or a phrase that functions as an adverb: how or this way.

A pro-verb substitutes a verb or a verb phrase: do.

A pro-sentence substitutes an entire sentence or subsentence: Yes, or that as in "That is true".An interrogative pro-form is a pro-form that denotes the (unknown) item in question and may itself fall into any of the above categories.

The rules governing allowable syntactic relations between certain pro-forms (notably personal and reflexive/reciprocal pronouns) and their antecedents have been studied in what is called binding theory.

Serbian language

Serbian (српски / srpski, pronounced [sr̩̂pskiː]) is the standardized variety of the Serbo-Croatian language mainly used by Serbs. It is the official language of Serbia, the territory of Kosovo, and one of the three official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, it is a recognized minority language in Montenegro where it is spoken by the relative majority of the population, as well as in Croatia, North Macedonia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

Standard Serbian is based on the most widespread dialect of Serbo-Croatian, Shtokavian (more specifically on Šumadija-Vojvodina and Eastern Herzegovinian dialects), which is also the basis of Standard Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin. The other dialect spoken by Serbs is Torlakian in southeastern Serbia, which is transitional to Macedonian and Bulgarian.

Serbian is practically the only European standard language whose speakers are fully functionally digraphic, using both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet was devised in 1814 by Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić, who created the alphabet on phonemic principles. The Latin alphabet was designed by Croatian linguist Ljudevit Gaj in 1830.


Serbo-Croatian ( (listen); srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски also called Serbo-Croat , Serbo-Croat-Bosnian (SCB), Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS), or Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian (BCMS)) is a South Slavic language and the primary language of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. It is a pluricentric language with four mutually intelligible standard varieties.

South Slavic dialects historically formed a continuum. The turbulent history of the area, particularly due to expansion of the Ottoman Empire, resulted in a patchwork of dialectal and religious differences. Due to population migrations, Shtokavian became the most widespread dialect in the western Balkans, intruding westwards into the area previously occupied by Chakavian and Kajkavian (which further blend into Slovenian in the northwest). Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs differ in religion and were historically often part of different cultural circles, although a large part of the nations have lived side by side under foreign overlords. During that period, the language was referred to under a variety of names, such as "Slavic" in general or "Serbian", "Croatian", ”Bosnian”, "Slavonian" or "Dalmatian" in particular. In a classicizing manner, it was also referred to as "Illyrian".

The process of linguistic standardization of Serbo-Croatian was originally initiated in the mid-19th-century Vienna Literary Agreement by Croatian and Serbian writers and philologists, decades before a Yugoslav state was established. From the very beginning, there were slightly different literary Serbian and Croatian standards, although both were based on the same Shtokavian subdialect, Eastern Herzegovinian. In the 20th century, Serbo-Croatian served as the official language of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (when it was called "Serbo-Croato-Slovenian"), and later as one of the official languages of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The breakup of Yugoslavia affected language attitudes, so that social conceptions of the language separated on ethnic and political lines. Since the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bosnian has likewise been established as an official standard in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and there is an ongoing movement to codify a separate Montenegrin standard. Serbo-Croatian thus generally goes by the names Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and sometimes Montenegrin and Bunjevac.Like other South Slavic languages, Serbo-Croatian has a simple phonology, with the common five-vowel system and twenty-five consonants. Its grammar evolved from Common Slavic, with complex inflection, preserving seven grammatical cases in nouns, pronouns, and adjectives. Verbs exhibit imperfective or perfective aspect, with a moderately complex tense system. Serbo-Croatian is a pro-drop language with flexible word order, subject–verb–object being the default. It can be written in Serbian Cyrillic or Gaj's Latin alphabet, whose thirty letters mutually map one-to-one, and the orthography is highly phonemic in all standards.

Sinhalese language

Sinhalese (), known natively as Sinhala (Sinhalese: සිංහල; siṁhala [ˈsiŋɦələ]), is the native language of the Sinhalese people, who make up the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka, numbering about 16 million. Sinhalese is also spoken as a second language by other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, totalling about four million. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. Sinhalese is written using the Sinhalese script, which is one of the Brahmic scripts, a descendant of the ancient Indian Brahmi script closely related to the Kadamba script.Sinhalese is one of the official and national languages of Sri Lanka. Sinhalese, along with Pali, played a major role in the development of Theravada Buddhist literature.The oldest Sinhalese Prakrit inscriptions found are from the third to second century BCE following the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, the oldest extant literary works date from the ninth century. The closest relative of Sinhalese is the Maldivian language.

Sinhalese is of two main varieties – written and spoken. it is a good example of the linguistic phenomenon known as diglossia.

Spanish conjugation

This article presents a set of paradigms—that is, conjugation tables—of Spanish verbs, including examples of regular verbs and some of the most common irregular verbs. For other irregular verbs and their common patterns, see the article on Spanish irregular verbs.

The tables include only the "simple" tenses (that is, those formed with a single word), and not the "compound" tenses (those formed with an auxiliary verb plus a non-finite form of the main verb), such as the progressive, perfect, and passive voice. The progressive aspects (also called "continuous tenses") are formed by using the appropriate tense of estar + gerund, and the perfect constructions are formed by using the appropriate tense of haber + past participle. When the past participle is used in this way, it invariably ends with -o. In contrast, when the participle is used as an adjective, it agrees in gender and number with the noun modified. And similarly, the participle agrees with the subject when it is used with ser to form the "true" (dynamic) passive voice (e.g. La carta fue escrita ayer 'The letter was written [got written] yesterday.'), and also when it is used with estar to form a "passive of result", or stative passive (as in La carta ya está escrita 'The letter is already written.').

The pronouns yo, tú, vos, él, nosotros, vosotros and ellos are used to symbolise the three persons and two numbers. Note, however, that Spanish is a pro-drop language, and so it is the norm to omit subject pronouns when not needed for contrast or emphasis. Note also that the subject, if specified, can easily be something other than these pronouns. For example, él, ella, or usted can be replaced by a noun phrase, or the verb can appear with impersonal se and no subject (e.g. Aquí se vive bien, 'One lives well here'). The first-person plural expressions nosotros, nosotras, tú y yo, or él y yo can be replaced by a noun phrase that includes the speaker (e.g. Los estudiantes tenemos hambre, 'We students are hungry'). The same comments hold for vosotros and ellos.

Spanish personal pronouns

Spanish personal pronouns have distinct forms according to whether they stand for the subject (nominative), direct object (accusative), or indirect object (dative), and third-person pronouns make a distinction for reflexivity as well. Several pronouns also have special forms used after prepositions. Spanish is a pro-drop language with respect to subject pronouns, and, like French and other languages with T-V distinction, modern Spanish makes a distinction in second person pronouns that has no equivalent in modern English. Object pronouns are generally proclitic, but enclitic object pronouns are mandatory in certain situations. In addition, the second-person singular pronoun vos is found in numerous regions of Latin America, spanning Central America, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Perú, Ecuador and Colombia and the Andean regions of Bolivia and the Venezuelan state of Zulia.

Subject (grammar)

The subject in a simple English sentence such as John runs, John is a teacher, or John was ran over by a car is the person or thing about whom the statement is made, in this case 'John'. Traditionally the subject is the word or phrase which controls the verb in the clause, that is to say with which the verb agrees (John is but John and Mary are). If there is no verb, as in John - what an idiot!, or if the verb has a different subject, as in John - I can't stand him!, then 'John' is not considered to be the grammatical subject, but can be described as the 'topic' of the sentence.

These definitions seem clear enough for simple sentences such as the above, but as will be shown in the article below, problems in defining the subject arise when an attempt is made to extend the definitions to more complex sentences and to languages other than English. For example, in the sentence It is difficult to learn French, the grammatical subject seems to be the word 'it', and yet arguably the 'real' subject (the thing that is difficult) is 'to learn French'. (A sentence such as It was John who broke the window is more complex still.) Sentences beginning with a locative phrase, such as There is a problem, isn't there?, in which the tag question 'isn't there?' seems to imply that the subject is the adverb 'there', also create difficulties for the definition of subject.In languages such as Latin or German the subject of a verb has a form which is known as the nominative case: for example, the form 'he' (not 'him' or 'his') is used in sentences such as he ran, he broke the window, he is a teacher, he was hit by a car. But there are some languages such as Basque or Greenlandic, in which the form of a noun or pronoun when the verb is intransitive (he ran) is different from when the verb is transitive (he broke the window). In these languages, which are known as ergative languages, the concept of 'subject' may not apply at all.

Walser German

Walser German (German: Walserdeutsch) and Walliser German (Walliserdeutsch, locally Wallisertiitsch) are a group of Highest Alemannic dialects spoken in parts of Switzerland (Valais, Ticino, Grisons), Italy (Piedmont, Aosta Valley), Liechtenstein (Triesenberg, Planken), and Austria (Vorarlberg).Usage of the terms Walser and Walliser has come to reflect a difference of geography, rather than language. The term Walser may refer to any speaker of these dialects, whereas Walliser tends to refer only to a speaker from Upper Valais – that is, the upper Rhone valley. In a series of migrations during the Late Middle Ages, people migrated out of the Upper Valais, across the higher valleys of the Alps.

Zay language

Zay (also Lak'i, Laqi) is an Afroasiatic language of the Semitic branch spoken in Ethiopia. It is one of the Gurage languages in the Ethiopian Semitic group. The Zay language has around 5,000 speakers known as the Zay, who inhabit Gelila and the other five islands and shores of Lake Zway in the southern part of the country.

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