Anaphora and Language Design
Pronouns and anaphors (including reflexives such as himself and herself) may or must depend on antecedents for their interpretation. These dependencies are subject to conditions that prima facie show substantial crosslinguistic variation. In this monograph, Eric Reuland presents a theory of how these anaphoric dependencies are represented in natural language in a way that does justice to the the variation one finds across languages. He explains the conditions on these dependencies in terms of elementary properties of the computational system of natural language. He shows that the encoding of anaphoric dependencies makes use of components of the language system that all reflect different cognitive capacities; thus the empirical research he reports on offers insights into the design of the language system.
Reuland’s account reduces the conditions on binding to independent properties of the grammar, none of which is specific to binding. He offers a principled account of the roles of the lexicon, syntax, semantics, and the discourse component in the encoding of anaphoric dependencies; a window into the overall organization of the grammar and the roles of linguistic and extralinguistic factors; a new typology of anaphoric expressions; a view of crosslinguistic variation (examining facts in a range of languages, from English, Dutch, Frisian, German, and Scandinavian languages to Fijian, Georgian, and Malayalam) that shows unity in diversity.
About the Author
Eric Reuland is Faculty Professor of Language and Cognition at Utrecht Institute of Linguistics, Netherlands.
“[A] game-and paradigm-changer in the field of anaphoric relations...Highly recommended to all interested scholars working in the field of anaphora, regardless of their theoretical background.” — Darcy Sperlich, The Linguist List
"This masterful study provides a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of some of the most curious phenomena of language, referential dependencies, exploring the range of their permissible variation, the reasons for puzzling surface complexities, and the far-reaching implications for design of language and cognitive architecture more generally. A major contribution to linguistics and related disciplines."
"Eric Reuland's book is a daring attempt to rethink the theoretical status of anaphora. Reuland's objective could not be more bold. It is to derive the variation in anaphora seen across languages from structural differences among languages rather than from a system specific to anaphora."
Peter Cole, Professor of Linguistics, University of Delaware and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
"Anaphora and Language Design is a major theoretical achievement within the domain of research of minimalist syntax. It offers a number of fascinating insights into the ways in which what might appear as random crosslinguistic variation in the domain of anaphora can be successfully understood in terms of the interaction among the syntactic computation, the language interfaces, and the feature endowment of individual lexical items."
Denis Delfitto, Linguistics Department, University of Verona