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On the (im)possibility of partial argument coreference

  • Michael Cysouw, EMAIL logo and Javier Fernández Landaluce,
From the journal Linguistics


In 1966, Paul Postal claimed that it is impossible to find grammatical sentences in which there is partial overlap between subject and object, i.e., in sentences like I like us. This observation lead, in direct scholarly descent, to the infamous Binding Principle B (Chomsky 1981). In this article we argue against Postal's original observation, as we claim that sentences with partial argument overlap are perfectly possible in English and sundry languages, although such expressions are conversationally constrained. The real-world situations that are described in such utterances are unusual, and thus the constructions are used infrequently, leading to uncertainty on the part of the speaker whether such expressions are well-formed or not. In the process of grammaticalization of pronouns into person-marking inflection this dispreference appears to turn into real impossibility.

Forschungszentrum Deutscher Sprachatlas, Philipps Universität Marburg, Hermann-Jacobsohn-Weg 3, 35032 Marburg

Received: 2011-04-21
Revised: 2011-09-27
Published Online: 2012-07-17
Published in Print: 2012-07-19

©[2012] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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