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Summary Details

Query:   'and' & anaphora (summary)
Author:  Bart Geurts
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Semantics

Summary:   On December 10 I posted a question concerning the interaction between
conjunction and anaphora. I got reactions from (in temporal order):

Geoff Smith, David Gil, Elke Hentschel, Mira Ariel, Karen Davis, John P.
Boyle, Brian Ulicny, Zygmunt Frajzyngier, Marcia Haag, Robin Sackmann, Asya
Pereltsvaig, Michael Cysouw, Kim Dammers, Daniel E. Collins, Vincent
Jenkins, Akiko Yoshimura, and Georges Rebuschi.

Thanks to everybody who responded to what, apparently, many readers must
have found a strange thing to ask. In the following I want to briefly
motivate my question and then give a summary of the responses I received.

Since the beginning of the eighties many semanticists (e.g. Irene Heim,
Hans Kamp, Jeroen Groenendijk & Martin Stokhof, and Gennaro Chierchia) have
held that 'and' is dynamic. I'll omit the technical stuff and turn to an
example straightaway:

There once was a prince and he was very rich.

The idea is that the first conjunct sets up a context c, which contains a
discourse entity representing a prince. Then c is passed on to the right in
order to serve as the background against which the second conjunct is
interpreted. So the pronoun 'he' is interpreted in context c, from which it
can pick up its intended referent. The crucial ingredient in this story is
that it is part of the duties of 'and' to pass on c, which entails that the
lexical meaning of 'and' is dynamic: it takes as its input the context
created by its first argument and hands it over to its second argument.

I have always thought that this is obviously false, because I see no reason
to suppose that what is clearly a pragmatic effect (i.e. the influence of
linear order on the interpretation of pronouns) is encoded in the lexical
meaning of 'and'.

The reason why this point is of some interest is that there is a whole
class of semantic theories to which the claim that conjunction is dynamic
is absolutely essential. If this claim can be shown to be false, then this
will be a severe setback for the theories in this class (to put it mildly).
It is for this reason that I would like to show that conjunction is not
dynamic. (I've written something on this subject, in case anybody is

What prompted my query was the idea that if English 'and' is dynamic, there
may be other languages which use different methods of conjunction depending
on whether or not anaphoric links are to be licensed. That's why I wanted
to know if such languages happen to exist.

Judging from the responses I received my provisional conclusion is that
there are no such languages. There are many languages that distinguish
between several types of conjunction that English doesn't keep apart. But
none of these distinctions coincides with that between dynamic and
non-dynamic conjunction.

Many respondents pointed to languages that distinguish between
constructions with thematically related vs. thematically non-related
conjuncts. Languages that were mentioned in this connection are: Russian,
Polish, Choctaw, and Tongan. More generally, it was suggested several times
that switch-reference systems might be relevant to this issue. Having
followed up on some of these suggestions, my impression is that, although
there are many languages with different types of conjunction where English
only has 'and', and although in some cases the choice of conjunction
constrains possible anaphoric links, there are no languages that
distinguish between dynamic and non-dynamic conjunction per se.

A language that made this distinction should have the following property.
There should be two different types of conjunction, and one of these should
allow for anaphoric links between the two conjuncts, whereas the other
should forbid any such links.

I haven't seen such a language yet.

Bart Geurts

- --------------------------------------------
Universit"at Osnabr"uck, FB 7
49069 Osnabr"uck, Germany
Phone: +49 541 969 6223
Fax: +49 541 969 6210
- --------------------------------------------

LL Issue: 9.82
Date Posted: 19-Jan-1998
Original Query: Read original query


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