Project Description




Project Description 

Principle B 

Exceptions to Principle C



1 Problems and Goals

1.1 Problems

Condition C of Chomsky's Binding Theory specifies that an R-expression (=a definite description or a proper name) cannot appear in the scope of a coreferring expression:

(1) a. *?[The director]i loves people who admire [the director]i
     b. *Hei loves people who admire [the director]i
     c. Hisi mother loves people who admire [the director]i

Violations are particularly severe when the R-expression is c-commanded by a coreferential pronoun, as is shown in (1) a-b. When the R-expression is not c-commanded by the other expression, no ungrammaticality ensues, as shown in (1)c. Interestingly, descriptions that have an expressive component escape Condition C in at least some cases. Standard cases involve epithets, which specify the speaker's negative attitude towards the denotation of the description ((2)a). But descriptions with a positive expressive component appear to behave in the same way ((2)b):

(2) a. Johni /(?) hei is so careless that [the idiot]i will get killed in an accident one of these days.
b. Pope John Paul II was so beloved that the entire world is now mourning the great man.
c. Hisi mother loves people who admire [the director]i

The analysis of Condition C raises explanatory, empirical and architectural problems.

(i)Explanatory Problems:

(a) First, it must be asked why Condition C should hold in the first place. In the classic theories of Chomsky and Lasnik [21][59], Condition C is stipulated. Reinhart [77] tried to argue that Condition C derives from a general preference for binding over 'accidental coreference', but this preference itself does not follow directly from standard pragmatic reasoning: binding yields the same truth conditions as 'accidental coreference', and thus one cannot simply argue that the former yields a more 'specific' (and hence 'preferable') meaning than the latter. The same observation applies to Safir 2004 ([82]), whose 'Form to Interpretation Principle' must stipulate that, under c-command, the most 'dependent' form available must be picked to express a given meaning. Purely pragmatic attempts have either failed to derive the c-command condition (Bolinger [14][15]) or have done so by enlisting a version of Reinhart's theory (Levinson [62]). In previous work, the PI [92] sought to derive Condition C from a more basic principle of 'Non-Redundancy', but as we discuss below the theory faces empirical difficulties.

(b) Second, it must be asked why epithets escape some instances of Condition C. Although several analyses have attempted to describe formally the anaphoric behavior of epithets ([59][1][29]), no formal account has tied their semantics to their syntactic behavior, i.e. no formal account explains why it is that those expressions that have an expressive component escape Condition C.

(ii) Empirical Problems:

On an empirical level, there are a host of exceptions to Condition C, some of which have been discussed in great detail by Reinhart and her followers ([77][78][38][44]). Thus (3), which is entirely acceptable with coreference, is generally analyzed by observing that Condition C only constrains presupposed coreference, or by making semantic values more fine-grained, replacing individuals with 'guises' ([44]):

(3) (Who is this man over there?) He is Colonel Weisskopf ([38])

But there are other cases which have not been formally analyzed so far:

(4) a. A linguist working on Binding Theory was so devoid of any moral sense that he forced a physicist [working on particles] to hire the linguist's girlfriend in his lab.
b. John Smith was so devoid of any moral sense that he forced Peter Smith to hire John's girlfriend in his lab.

In each case the expressions in bold are understood as coreferential. Thus the linguist in (4)a and John in (4)b are both c-commanded by a coreferential pronoun, which should lead to the most severe variety of Condition C violation. But both sentences appear to be quite acceptable, in violation of every current theory of Condition C (including the PI's [92]). Intuitively, what is going on is that the definite description serves a disambiguating function that the possessive pronoun his could not fulfill. Specifically, if the embedded expression were his girlfriend there would be an ambiguity as to whether his denotes the linguist or the physicist (resp. John or Peter). This intuition is confirmed by the observation that the sentences degrade markedly when the italicized expression is replaced with me:

(5) a. *A linguist working on Binding Theory was so devoid of any moral sense that he forced me to hire the linguist's girlfriend in his lab.
b. *John Smith was so devoid of any moral sense that he forced me to hire John's girlfriend in his lab.

Since his carries third person features, it could not be coreferential with me in (5). As a result, replacing his with an R-expression does not produce any additional disambiguation, which might account for the deviance of both example. Further exceptions to Condition C will be discussed below.

(iii) Architectural Problems:

Finally, it must be asked how Condition C relates to other constraints on anaphora that have a similar 'flavor'. This is in particular the case of:
(a) constraints on backwards anaphora in discourse, and;
(b) Condition B.

Regarding (a), it can be observed that a pronoun in discourse often cannot appear before its antecedent (e.g. *He1 entered. John1sat down.), though in current accounts this fact is not related in any way to Condition C.

Regarding Condition B, most (though not all) theories treat it as having a 'family resemblance' with Condition C. Accounts that are not based on competition, such as those of Chomsky and Lasnik ([21][59]) or the PI's earlier work ([92]), posit that Condition B is a kind of 'local' version of Condition C, applying to pronouns instead of R-expressions. Competing accounts such as those of Reinhart, Reinhart & Reuland ([77][79]) and Safir ([82]) generally treat both Condition B and C as being competition-based (i.e. *John1 likes him1 is deviant because there exists a better way to express the intended truth conditions, namely John1 likes himself1). But it is an open question whether and why this is the case (Reinhart's account of Condition C and Reinhart & Reuland's account of Condition B are not formally connected; only Safir's 'Form to Interpretation' principle connects Conditions B and C).

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