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Linguistic Inquiry

Spring 2017, Vol. 48, No. 2, Pages 259-297
(doi: 10.1162/LING_a_00243)
© 2017 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Revisiting Pronominal Typology
Article PDF (884.26 KB)
Abstract

The overarching goal of this article is to shed new light on the debate over whether pronouns (she/he/it) generally have the syntax and semantics of definite descriptions (the woman/the man/the thing) or that of individual variables. As a case study, we investigate the differences between personal pronouns and demonstrative pronouns in German. We argue that the two types of pronouns have the same core makeup (both contain a null NP and a definite determiner), but demonstrative pronouns have additional functional structure that personal pronouns lack. This analysis is shown to derive both their commonalities and their differences, and it derives the distribution of demonstrative vs. personal pronouns by means of structural economy constraints.