On the (im)possibility of partial argument coreference

Michael Cysouw, 1 , 2  and Javier Fernández Landaluce,
  • 1 Phillips-Universität Marburg
  • 2 University of the Basque Country


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.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Journal + Issues

Linguistics publishes articles and book reviews in the traditional disciplines of linguistics as well as in neighboring disciplines insofar as these are deemed to be of interest to linguists and other students of natural language. The journal also features occasional Special Issues in these fields.