The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Colloquium 11/22 - Ezra Keshet (University of Michigan)

Speaker: Ezra Keshet (University of Michigan)
Title: Pronouns in 3-D
Time: Friday, November 22nd, 3:30pm – 5pm
Location: 32-155

Abstract: This talk aims to demystify dynamic logic by tracing the development of a new plural logic step-by-step through 3 dimensions of meaning:

  1. Storing and retrieving single discourse referents (akin to names), each suitable for later reference via pronouns:
    Arthur saw Beth. She waved to him.
  2. Repeating this process along multiple parallel paths to explain pronoun reference to an antecedent indefinite (cf. Groenendijk & Stokhof 1991):
    A man saw a woman. (= Arthur saw Beth or Arthur saw Dara or Charlie saw Beth or Charlie saw Dara …)
    She waved to him.
  3. Accessing values along multiple paths at once to derive plural pronoun values and other more exotic effects (cf. van den Berg 1996):
    Every student donated a book. (= Arthur donated W&P and Beth donated C&P and Charlie donated P&P …)
    They are on that shelf. [they = W&P, C&P, P&P, …]

I will argue, perhaps unsurprisingly, that my new logic is simpler than existing analyses, while handling the same data plus new empirical cases. For instance, the logic can handle a class of sentences where a plural pronoun in the nuclear scope of a quantifier seems to refer to the very value being constructed by that nuclear scope, as in (4). I will propose that such cases relate to a straightforward account of reflexives such as each other.

(4) Almost every North Atlantic country agreed in a treaty that an attack on one of them constitutes an attack on all of them. [them = only the treaty signatories]