Patrick Grosz & Sarah Zobel

Language & Logic

Week One - 17.00-18.30 - Level: A

Room: 7E02


The question addressed by this course is whether the traditional class of pronouns can be given a uniform semantic analysis. We explore the apparent semantic disunity of pronouns and address issues of a possible reunification. We start with an introduction to the semantics of 3rd person pronouns (e.g. he/she/it). Based on this introduction, we discuss issues that emerge from: 1. 1st/2nd person pronouns (e.g. I/you), 2. demonstrative pronouns (e.g. German der/die/das ‘that’), and 3. indefinite pronouns (e.g. somebody, one).

  1. In discussing 3rd vs. 1st/2nd person pronouns, we address issues that arise from the view that the latter are intrinsically deictic, an assumption challenged by apparently bound uses of 1st/2nd person pronouns.
  2. While 3rd person pronouns and demonstrative pronouns are often subsumed under the label definite pronouns, we evaluate evidence that they may vary in their structural make-up and be subject to different processing mechanisms (deep vs. surface anaphora).
  3. In contrast to personal and demonstrative pronouns, indefinite pronouns are traditionally analyzed as quantifying expressions. We discuss systematic indefinite uses of 1st/2nd person pronouns (unavailable for 3rd person pronouns); these challenge a strict opposition of referential vs. indefinite pronouns and a unified treatment of 3rd vs. 1st/2nd person pronouns.