PRO vs pro in Arabic Syntax: Theoretical Analysis


  • Atef Mustafa Jalabneh Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University



PRO, pro, nominative case, theta role, interpretation


The objective of this work is to investigate the syntactic and semantic properties of the empty categories PRO and pro in Modern Standard Arabic syntax. The problem: both of them are always syntactically covert at PF; semantically, though PRO bears same / or different theta roles from its anaphor at spell out, it leads to correct interpretation at LF; however, pro bears different theta roles that determine correct c-selection at spell out and lead to correct interpretations at LF. Conclusions: Syntactically PRO occupies, merely, the subject position of non- finite phrases; it does not check the nominative case since the phrases lack [Agrs, T]. However, pro occupies the subject position of finite clauses in (i) independent clause, (ii) embedding, (iii) subordinate and (iv) independent clauses related to weather (expletive) verbs; it checks the nominative case by [Agrs, T]. Semantically, PRO checks, merely, the theta roles of agent and experiencer; however, pro checks the theta roles of agent, patient, experiencer, theme, instrument and location.

Author Biography

Atef Mustafa Jalabneh, Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University

Department of English, College of Languages and Translation


Alghalayini, M. (2006). Jaamic adduruus alcarabiyyah. Beirut, Lebanon: Daar Alfikr.

Borer, H. (1980). ‘Empty subjects and constraints on thematic relations’, in J, H.(ed), Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Meeting of NELS(Cabiers Linguistiques d’Ottwa, vol.9), Department of Linguistics: University of Toronto.

Borer, H (1983). Parametric Syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.

Borer, H. (1986). ‘I-subjects’. Linguistic Inquiry, 17, 375-416.

Carnie, A. (2002). Generative study. Malden, USA: Blackwell Publishing.

Chomsky, N. (1986). Knowledge of language: Its nature, origin, and use. New York: CBS Educational and Professional Publishing.

Chomsky, N. (1995). The minimalist program. Cambridge, Mass: MIT press.

Fari, sh. et al. (2006). Muqadimih fi al-lughawiyyati al- mucasirah. Amman: Dar Wa?il li-al- nashir.

Hageman, L. (1994). Introduction to government and binding theory. Massachusetts: Cambridge.

Hyams, D. (1986). Language acquisition and the theory of parameters. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.

Huang, J. (1984). ‘On the distribution and reference of empty pronouns’. Linguistic Inquiry, 15, 531-74.

Jalabneh, A. (2007). The thematic relations in Arabic and English syntax: Minimalist program. Amman: Dar Al-Hadatheh Lilnashir watawziic.

Platzack, C. (1987). ‘The Scandinavian languages and the null-subject parameter’. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. 5, 377-402.

Rizzi, L. (1986). ‘Null objects in Italian and theory of pro’. Linguistic Inquiry, 17, 501-58.