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Hardcover | $8.75 Short | £7.95 | 284 pp. | 6 x 9 in | March 2012 | ISBN: 9780262016889
eBook | $25.00 Short | March 2012 | ISBN: 9780262302425
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A Study of Pronominal Agreement


Normally, a speaker uses a first person singular pronoun (in English, I, me, mine, myself) to refer to himself or herself. To refer to a single addressee, a speaker uses second person pronouns (you, yours, yourself). But sometimes third person nonpronominal DPs are used to refer to the speaker--for example, this reporter, yours truly--or to the addressee--my lord, the baroness, Madam (Is Madam not feeling well?). Chris Collins and Paul Postal refer to these DPs as imposters because their third person exterior hides a first or second person core.

In this book they study the interactions of imposters with a range of grammatical phenomena, including pronominal agreement, coordinate structures, Principle C phenomena, epithets, fake indexicals, and a property of pronominal agreement they call homogeneity.

Collins and Postal conclude that traditional ideas about pronominal features (person, number, gender), which countenance only agreement with an antecedent or the relation of the pronoun to its referent, are much too simple. They sketch elements of a more sophisticated view and argue for its relevance and explanatory power in several data realms. The fundamental proposal of the book is that a pronoun agrees with what they call a source, where its antecedent constitutes only one type of source. They argue that the study of imposters (and closely related camouflage DPs) has far-reaching consequences that are inconsistent with many current theories of anaphora.

About the Authors

Chris Collins is Professor of Linguistics at New York University.

Paul M. Postal is the author of many books, including On Raising and Edge-Based Clausal Syntax (both published by the MIT Press).


Imposters offers a fast-paced ride, with a lively, direct and down-to-earth presentation through the fascinating landscape of noun phrase types that look like one thing but in some ways behave like another. Along the way, the reader learns myriad new things about antecedence and the status of ‘accidental coreference’, the syntactic representation of implicit antecedents and of the speaker and addressee, ‘camouflage’ noun phrases (like your ass and your/her Highness), appositions, epithets, agreement, coordinate structures, and predicate nominal constructions. This exploration of largely uncharted territory, rich in empirical detail, presents plenty of interesting and often surprising consequences for the analysis of better-studied phenomena and for linguistic theory in general.”
Marcel den Dikken, Professor of Linguistics, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York