The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 3/18 - Itai Bassi (MIT)

Speaker: Itai Bassi (MIT)
Title: Principle C effects with plural antecedents (joint work with Paul Marty)
Time: Monday, March 18th, 1-2 pm
Abstract:In the literature on Principle C, it has been claimed on the basis of examples like (1) that an R-expression cannot overlap in reference with a c-commanding plural antecedent (a.o., Lasnik 1989, Schlenker 2003). Yet we add to (1) the datapoint in (2), and observe that this claim only holds on a distributive interpretation of the relevant antecedent: as (2) shows, things get better on a collective interpretation (cf. Reinhart and Reuland for a parallel observation for principle B configurations).

(1) They think that Oscar should be the band leader (* if Oscar is part of the reference of “they”)
(2) They (jointly) decided that Oscar will be the band leader (ok if Oscar is part of the reference of “they”)

Our idea to understand this contrast is this: the distributive LF, but not the collective one, has an embedded constituent of the form ‘x thinks that Oscar…’, where ‘x’ is an atomic variable quantified over by a distributive operator.  When `x’ takes Oscar as one of its values, a (classical) Principle C violation obtains. We propose to derive these “embedded principle C” effects by extending Reinhart’s competition theory of principle C (aka ‘Rule I’) to make it operative at embedded levels. We then argue that on this refinement, Rule I can be eliminated as a primitive of the grammar and be subsumed by the independently motivated principle, Maximize Presupposition!, which has also been argued to regulate competition between LF representations at embedded levels (Singh, 2011).