On the interpretation of reflexive pronouns
Alanah McKillen
April 2016

This dissertation is concerned with the interpretation of reflexive pronouns and how their interpretation requirements affect the formulation of Condition A in binding theory. Drawing on evidence from VP-ellipsis and focus constructions in English, I argue against the standard binding theory assumption that reflexives must be interpreted as bound variables only (such as in the binding theory of Chomsky (1981); Reinhart (1983); Büring (2005)). In both of these constructions, strict readings of reflexives are found to be acceptable. Based on this observation, I propose instead that reflexives, like non-reflexive pronouns, can be interpreted either as free variables, coreferential with their antecedents or as bound variables. With the motivation for coreferential reflexives established, this dissertation explores how Condition A can capture this interpretive option. I expand on a proposal of Sauerland (2013) in which Condition A is built into the compositional semantics as an argument identity presupposition, and that strict readings are analysed as an instance of weakened presupposition projection. I argue that this semantic approach to Condition A and strict readings is more insightful than a syntactic approach, such as Fiengo and May’s (1994) vehicle change analysis, since it is able to link the behaviour of reflexives to the already established empirical phenomenon of weakened projection. Lastly, this dissertation is concerned with the conditions under which presuppositional elements can be absent in focus alternatives. In order for weakened projection to occur, Sauerland (2013) assumes that a presupposition must be purely presuppositional. I present data which are problematic for this assumption and outline a new direction for the conditions under which weakened projection in focus alternatives may proceed, which is based on the relation the presuppositional element bears to the focus-marked phrase.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/002952
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: McGill University
keywords: anaphora, binding theory, focus, ellipsis, reflexives, presupposition, alternative semantics, variable binding, coreference, condition a, strict readings, semantics, syntax
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