The syntax of subject pronouns in heritage languages: innovation and complexification aims to investigate syntactic change in heritage languages, focussing on discourse features involved in the distribution of different types of subject pronouns. The author investigates how different types of subject pronouns interact with syntax and with information structure and what happens to discourse features when languages get in contact with others.
Based on heritage Italo-Romance data, the author shows that all subject pronouns have the same internal structure and the differences in their interpretation depend on a discourse feature: when subject pronouns encode this feature, they are referentially specific enough to obviate or switch reference; when subject pronouns lack this feature, they refer to the most salient discourse antecedent.
Finally, the author reflects on the fact that heritage varieties are always spoken in contact with other languages, showing that the different distribution of discourse features in heritage varieties depends on a process of contact-induced feature-reassembly. Such process represents a source of innovation in heritage languages, possibly leading to a complexification of the system.