Defective pronouns in the history of Russian: null subjects and object clitics


  • Nerea Madariaga University of the Basque Country


Object clitics, Null subjects, Diachronic change


In this paper, I present a unified account for the change in referential null subjects and accusative clitics in Russian. Clitics and null subjects are minimal defective pronouns. In Old Russian, long verb movement was the key for licensing these elements. The reorganization of the verbal system around aspectual distinctions by Middle Russian and the consequent loss of long verb movement modified this cue; null subjects became overtly realized, while object clitics disappeared altogether, and were replaced by null objects, free from any requirement of prosodic support. As for null subjects, learners were able to reanalyse the corresponding gaps as either (i) bound by null topics, or (ii) c-commanded by coreferent antecedents (“finite control”). Thus, Modern Russian started to qualify as a partial null subject language.




How to Cite

Madariaga, N. “Defective Pronouns in the History of Russian: Null Subjects and Object Clitics”. Journal of Slavic Linguistics, vol. 31, no. FASL 30 issue, Dec. 2023, pp. 1-17,



FASL proceedings 2021