Control Theory

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In generative syntax, control theory is a would-be theory that accounts for the referential properties of PRO.


The fact that John is the understood subject of to do the dishes in (i) but not in (ii) (Susan is the understood subject of to do the dishes in (ii)) is to be accounted for by control theory.

(i) Johni promised Susanj [PROi to do the dishes]

(ii) Johni ordered Susanj [PROj to do the dishes]


Sometimes the term 'control theory' is used for whatever explains those aspects of the behavior of PRO which are not captured by other theories (such as binding theory or the theory of predication).

See also


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Bouchard, D. 1984. On the content of empty categories. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Chomsky, Noam A. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht:Foris.
  • van Haaften, T. 1991. De interpretatie van verzwegen subjecten. Unpublished diss. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit.
  • Koster, J. 1987. Domains and dynasties: The radical autonomy of syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Manzini, R. 1983. On control and control theory. Linguistic Inquiry 14-3, pages.
  • Williams, E. 1980. Predication. Linguistic Inquiry 11, 203-238.