The prosody-syntax interface and the status of pronouns in Papiamentu


This paper shows that a distinction should be made between weak and strong pronouns in Papiamentu. The members of the weak series are prosodically and distributionally deficient, in contrast with those of the strong series. Their prosodic deficiency means that weak pronouns need to be prosodically licensed. I argue that this is achieved by integration into a tone domain, and, in the case of weak object pronouns, by incorporation into the prosodic word of the preceding verb. Tone polarisation, whereby weak pronouns acquire a contextually determined tone, is evidence of integration into a tone domain. A mismatch in the directionality of tone integration (to the right) and incorporation (to the left) shows that the tone domain of Papiamentu is not co-terminate with the prosodic word. An important distributional fact is found in the distribution of subject pronouns relative to mood marker “lo”, suggesting that weak and strong subject pronouns occupy different positions in the clausal architecture. I argue that weak subject pronouns are functional heads, and appear lower than strong pronouns, which have the same status as lexical subjects.

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Kouwenberg, S., (2007) “The prosody-syntax interface and the status of pronouns in Papiamentu”, Journal of Portuguese Linguistics 6(1), 203-225. doi:


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Silvia Kouwenberg (University of the West Indies (Mona) / MPI-EvA Department of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7 Jamaica)



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