THAT thesis: A competition mechanism for anaphoric expressions [PhD thesis]
Dorothy Ahn
April 2020

This dissertation is concerned with anaphoric expressions that refer to familiar entities in a discourse. Referent tracking studies tell us that anaphoric expressions such as null arguments, pronouns, and definite descriptions differ in their relative frequency and distribution. In this thesis, I explore how this distribution can be derived from underlying denotations and structures of these expressions. All anaphoric expressions are argued to share one underlying basic structure, and only differ in the number of restrictions they carry. This derives a scale that is ordered by semantic strength, and an economy-based principle requires that the least redundant form be used when multiple expressions are available. This competition mechanism is assumed to be universally available, with cross-linguistic differences resulting from languages lexicalizing different sets of denotations. With language-specific lexicalizations assumed, this mechanism provides a uniform analysis for a wide range of phenomena: competition between overt and covert pronouns, blocking of the anaphoric bare noun in some bare argument languages, markedness of demonstratives, as well as the distribution of different types of indexical pointing in American Sign Language.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004742
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: PhD thesis, Harvard University
keywords: reference, familiarity, anaphoric expressions, pronouns, demonstratives, definiteness, competition, bare arguments, asl, ix, semantics, semantics/pragmatics
previous versions: v1 [April 2019]
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