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Linguistic Inquiry

Spring 2009, Vol. 40, No. 2, Pages 187-237
(doi: 10.1162/ling.2009.40.2.187)
© 2009 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Making a Pronoun: Fake Indexicals as Windows into the Properties of Pronouns
Article PDF (234.07 KB)
Abstract

This article argues that natural languages have two binding strategies that create two types of bound variable pronouns. Pronouns of the first type, which include local fake indexicals, reflexives, relative pronouns, and PRO, may be born with a “defective” feature set. They can acquire the features they are missing (if any) from verbal functional heads carrying standard λ-operators that bind them. Pronouns of the second type, which include long-distance fake indexicals, are born fully specified and receive their interpretations via context-shifting λ-operators (Cable 2005). Both binding strategies are freely available and not subject to syntactic constraints. Local anaphora emerges under the assumption that feature transmission and morphophonological spell-out are limited to small windows of operation, possibly the phases of Chomsky 2001. If pronouns can be born underspecified, we need an account of what the possible initial features of a pronoun can be and how it acquires the features it may be missing. The article develops such an account by deriving a space of possible paradigms for referential and bound variable pronouns from the semantics of pronominal features. The result is a theory of pronouns that predicts the typology and individual characteristics of both referential and bound variable pronouns.