A modular theory of pronouns and binding
Simon Charlow
October 2017

Since Shan’s (2002) pioneering work, a number of researchers have argued that monads offer a flexible, robust compositional interface for expressions that denote in "enriched spaces". This paper argues that a monadic treatment of pronouns and assignment-sensitivity has a number of theoretical and empirical benefits, including (i) a maximally simple lexicon and a fully categorematic treatment of abstraction; (ii) centrally, immediate analyses of paycheck pronouns and binding reconstruction, with a unitary, simple semantics for pronouns and traces. The treatment involves abstracting out the two functions that underlie standard treatments of assignment-friendly composition -- yielding a so-called applicative functor -- and then adding a third function to deal with 'higher-order' variables, yielding a monad. Two developments of the basic idea are briefly explored. First, I argue that a mere applicative functor turns out to be sufficient after all, if we (a) adopt a more type-theoretically conservative treatment of assignments than is standard, and (b) countenance sentence meanings that depend on multiple assignments. Second, I demonstrate an equivalence of the resulting theory with a variable-free semantics, one which extends both to the combinatory apparatus underwriting composition, and to the resulting semantic values.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003720
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Submitted to Proceedings of LENLS 14
keywords: paycheck pronouns, binding reconstruction, applicative functors, monads, variable-free semantics, semantics
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