Possessive binding in Serbian: clitics versus strong pronouns


  • Sanja Srdanović Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main
  • Esther Rinke Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main


possessive noun phrases, clitic and strong pronouns, Serbian, binding principle B


This paper focuses on the binding properties of different types of object pronouns in Serbian when a noun phrase modified by a possessor occupies the subject position (possessive binding). It has been argued in previous literature that Serbian differs from English with respect to possessive binding due to the absence of a DP in Serbian (Despić 2011, 2013). More concretely, it has been proposed that in contrast to English, object pronouns cannot be bound by a possessive modifier in the subject noun phrase because the possessor can c-command out of the noun phrase in Serbian, causing a violation of binding principle B. Based on experimental evidence, this paper shows that cross-linguistic differences between Serbian and English are only apparent. More precisely, it will be shown that a coreferential reading of the possessive modifier in subject position and the pronoun in object position is indeed possible in Serbian. However, different types of pronouns available in the language (accentuated (strong pronouns) and unaccentuated (clitics)) behave differently: binding is preferred with the clitic, but less accepted with the strong pronoun. This contrast is attributed to Cardinaletti and Starke’s (1994) ‘Minimise Structure’ principle, which states that the most deficient form should be preferred if strong and weak forms are equally possible in a given context. Finally, the principled availability of a coreferential reading with both clitic and strong pronouns casts doubts on the non-availability of DP in Serbian.




How to Cite

Srdanović, S., and E. Rinke. “Possessive Binding in Serbian: Clitics Versus Strong Pronouns”. Journal of Slavic Linguistics, vol. 28, no. 2, Dec. 2020, pp. 163-82, https://ojs.ung.si/index.php/JSL/article/view/41.