Unit 1 focuses on surface syntax, using anaphoric dependences as a case study. In generative grammar, the study of anaphoric dependencies falls under the purview of Binding Theory, which legislates how DP positions — in particular anaphors and their antecedents — can be related to each other.
Binding Theory: a user's guide
In natural languages, referential dependencies are sensitive to structure, and in particular to a particular tree geometry, namely the c-command relation. Because of their sensitivity to tree geometry, referential dependencies are an ideal testing ground for surface syntax, which is the theme of this unit.
In principle, one can use data from any language to exemplify how Binding Theory works. In any language, when one is trying to understand the syntax of anaphoric expressions, there are three data sets to examine:
- the distribution of expressions that must be locally bound (i.e. anaphors in the narrow Binding Theory sense)
- the distribution of expressions that must be locally freed (i.e. pronouns in the narrow Binding Theory sense)
- the distribution of expressions that must not be bound (i.e. R-expressions in the narrow Binding Theory sense)
Syntacticians investigate the syntax of referential dependencies in a given language by examining, in a systematic fashion, the distribution of anaphors, pronouns, and R-expressions. Because these elements are all DPs, this means that one examines the various positions where these DPs are found. In dong this, there are two variables to control for:
- Within a given local domain (usually a clause), one examines the DP positions that these expressions can occupy, e.g., subject, object, prepositional object, possessor, and so on.
- Across two domains (usually two clauses), one determines whether the antecedent can occur outside of the local domain that contains the target DPs.
We illustrate how these tests apply to English for DPs in object position and subject position. We look first at binding in a local domain, and then binding outside of a local domain. (If you're unfamiliar with the inventory of English pronominal expressions, see the Primer on Pronouns section.) The data is presented in triples: the (a) examples test anaphors (in particular reflexives); the (b) examples test pronouns; the (c) examples test R-expressions. The target DP is given in boldface.
Testing the local domain
- DP in subject position of a root clause (where the target DP refers to a previously mentioned discourse antecedent)
(1) a. Lucyi came in. *Herselfi saw the dog. b. Lucyi came in. Shei saw the dog. c. Lucyi came in. Lucyi saw the dog.
- DP in object position of a root clause
The examples in (2) test for coreference:
(2) a. Lucyi admires herselfi. b. *Lucyi admires heri. c. *Lucyi admires Lucyi.
The example in (3) tests for non-coreference:
(3) a. *Lucyi admires herselfj. b. Lucyi admires herj. c. Lucyi admires Lucyj. (in a context where there are two different Lucy's)
Sometimes the tests for coreference and non-coreference are collapsed, by marking the target DP with multiple indices, as in (4). Note that when multiple indices are used, then the grammaticality of the sentence is indicated by placing an asterisk on the index (rather than placing an asterisk at the beginning of the sentence. (In all the following examples, we adopt the convention of using multiple indices.)
(4) a. Lucyi admires herselfi/*j. b. Lucyi admires her*i/j. c. Lucyi admires Lucy*i/j.
Testing the non-local domain
- DP in subject position of an embedded clause
(5a) Lucyi said that herself*i/*j saw the dog. (5b) Lucyi said that shei/j saw the dog. (5c) Lucyi said that Lucy*i/j saw the dog.
- DP in object position of an embedded clause
(6a) Lucyi said that Suzyj admires herself*i/j. (6b) Lucyi said that Suzyj admires heri/*j. (6c) Lucyi said that Suzyj admires Lucyi*/*j.
What applying the binding tests reveal
While reflexives must be locally bound (2a, 3a, 4a), pronouns must be locally free (2b, 3b, 4b). And while reflexives cannot be non-locally bound (1a, 5a, 6a), pronouns can be non-locally bound (5b, 6b) as well as discourse bound (1b). As for R-expressions they must not be bound at all; in other words, they can't be locally bound (2c, 3c, 4c), nor can they be non-locally bound (5c, 6c). However, they can be discourse-bound (1c).
- reflexives must be locally bound
- pronouns must be locally free (i.e. they can't be locally bound, but they can be non-locally bound as well as discourse-bound)
- R-expressions must not be locally bound (i.e. they can't be locally or non-locally bound, but the can be discourse-bound)
What you should be able to do
On the basis of these tests, for each of the examples in (1) through (6), you should be able to draw the corresponding phrase structure trees and explain how the Binding Principles apply to each of them. (See chapter 7 of Sportiche, Koopman, and Stabler for discussion and exemplification.)
Primer on English pronouns
A pronoun is a part-of-speech that can replace a noun phrase. In the model that we are using, a noun phrase is a DP, so this means that a pronoun replaces a DP. Technically, this means that a "pronoun" is actually a "pro-DP". However, for the sake of simplicity, we'll continue to call pronouns "pronouns", with the understanding that they actually replace an entire DP. To comprehend the central role that pronouns have played in the development of syntactic theory, it's necessary to understand that pronominals occur in different forms.
- Terminology Warning: The first thing that we stumble into is a terminological difference between traditional grammar and Generative Grammar. Traditional grammar groups together into a single class all the elements that replace a DP: this includes reflexive pronouns (e.g., myself), reciprocal pronouns (e.g., each other), and personal pronouns (e.g., I, me). Generative Grammar uses a slightly different terminology: anaphor is a cover term that groups together reflexive and reciprocal pronouns; pronoun is used for personal pronouns only.
- anaphor = reflexive pronoun, reciprocal pronoun
- pronoun = personal pronoun
English anaphors include reflexive pronouns and reciprocal pronouns.
English reflexive pronouns
English reflexive pronouns inflect for person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), number (singular, plural), and gender (feminine, masculine, neuter). By convention, linguists present pronouns in a matrix called a paradigm, as follows:
English reciprocal pronouns
(7) We saw each other. (cf. *I saw each other.)
(8) You saw each other.
(9) They saw each other. (cf. *She saw each other. *He saw each other.)
(10) Lucy and Sally saw each other. (cf. *Lucy saw each other. *Sally saw each other.)
English personal pronouns for person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), number (singular, plural), gender (feminine, masculine, neuter), and case (nominative, accusative, genitive).
Key concepts and definitions
Key concepts in Binding Theory
- DP types: pro-DP, pronominal, anaphor, pronoun, non-pronominal expression, R-expression
- referential dependency: coreference, non-coreference, antecedent, quantified antecedent, agreement (in gender, number, person, and case)
- binding: bound, free, domain, Binding Principles
- tree geometry: c-command, node, sister, dominate, immediately dominate
Key definitions for Binding Theory
Definitions relating to referential dependencies
- Pronominal expressions
- The class of DP expressions (reflexives, reciprocals, pronouns, epithets, logophors) that stand in for other DPs.
- The DP on which the reference of a pronominal expression depends.
- Pronouns and reflexives agree with their antecedent in person, number, and gender. (SKS:173)
- If two DPs have the index, then they are meant to be coreferential; in other words, they refer to the same entity (cf. SKS:158)
- If two DPs have different indices, then they are meant to refer to be non-coreferential; in other words, they refer to different entities (cf. SKS:158)
Definitions relating to Binding Conditions
- A DP is bound (by its antecedent DP) just in case there is a c-commanding DP which has the same index. (SKS168), (51))
- The domain of a DP anaphor is the smallest XP that has a subject and that has a DP c-commanding the anaphor. (SKS:171, (66))
- The domain of a DP pronoun is the smallest XP with a subject that contains the DP. (SKS:171, (65))
- Binding conditions
- Principle A: An anaphor must be bound in its domain.
- Principle B: A pronoun must be free in its domain.
- Principle C: An R-expression cannot be bound.
- Condition on Pronominal Binding: If a pronoun has a quantified expression as antecedent, the pronoun must be c-commanded by this antecedent. (SKS:176, (99))
Definitions relating to tree geometry
- The point where two lines of a tree intersect. (cf. SKS:119)
- A node A dominates another node B if A is connected to B by a downward path along the branches. (SKS:120)
- Immediately Dominate
- A immediately dominates B if and only if A dominates B and there is no other node that dominates B and does not dominate A. (SKS:120)
- A node A is the mother of node B if and only if A immediately dominates B. (SKS:120)
- Nodes are sisters just in case they have the same mother. (SKS:120)
- Node X c-commands node Y if a sister of X dominates Y. (SKS:161)