Donkey anaphora is in-scope binding

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Chris Barker
Chung-chieh Shan


We propose that the antecedent of a donkey pronoun takes scope over and binds the donkey pronoun, just like any other quantificational antecedent would bind a pronoun. We flesh out this idea in a grammar that compositionally derives the truth conditions of donkey sentences containing conditionals and relative clauses, including those involving modals and proportional quantifiers. For example, an indefinite in the antecedent of a conditional can bind a donkey pronoun in the consequent by taking scope over the entire conditional. Our grammar manages continuations using three independently motivated type-shifters, Lift, Lower, and Bind. Empirical support comes from donkey weak crossover (*He beats it if a farmer owns a donkey): in our system, a quantificational binder need not c-command a pronoun that it binds, but must be evaluated before it, so that donkey weak crossover is just a special case of weak crossover. We compare our approach to situation-based E-type pronoun analyses, as well as to dynamic accounts such as Dynamic Predicate Logic. A new 'tower' notation makes derivations considerably easier to follow and manipulate than some previous grammars based on continuations.

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See also the interactive tutorial about the system in this paper

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Author Biographies

Chris Barker, NYU

Associate Professor, Linguistics

Chung-chieh Shan, Rutgers

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Center for Cognitive Science