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Linguistic Inquiry

Winter 2004, Vol. 35, No. 1, Pages 159-168
(doi: 10.1162/ling.2004.35.1.159)
© 2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
First and Second Person Pronouns as Bound Variables
Article PDF (65.78 KB)
Abstract

Déchaine and Wiltschko (2002) argue that, in English, 1st and 2nd person pronouns belong to a different syntactic category than 3rd person pronouns. One of their main arguments is the claim that English 1st and 2nd person pronouns cannot be used as bound variables, unlike 3rd person pronouns.1 In this squib, I discuss data showing that English 1st and 2nd person pronouns actually do allow bound variable interpretations. In one set of cases, the pronoun’s person and number features appear to have no semantic import; these examples seem to involve purely syntactic agreement between the pronoun and its antecedent. A second set of cases points in the opposite direction; in these examples, the person and number features of the variable do play a crucial role in the semantics. The facts discussed in this squib therefore raise interesting theoretical questions about the nature of pronominal agreement and the semantics of the features person and number.2