The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Colloquium 3/6 - Nicholas Fleisher (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Speaker: Nicholas Fleisher (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Title: On Binding-Strict Configurations
Time: Friday, March 6th, 3:30pm – 5pm
Location: 32-155

Abstract: Many prominent approaches to binding and ellipsis countenance binding-strict configurations: cases where strict identity is licensed for an elided pronoun while the corresponding pronoun in the ellipsis antecedent is locally bound. I argue that such a licensing regime overpredicts the distribution of strict readings. This is a particularly dire problem for theories that involve what I call compulsory binding (Reinhart 1983, Grodzinsky & Reinhart 1993, Fox 2000, Büring 2005), but it also afflicts the widely adopted ellipsis licensing framework of Rooth (1992). I suggest that we should seek a theory of ellipsis that bars binding-strict configurations. I sketch a modified Rooth-style approach involving formal alternatives (Fox & Katzir 2011); the core idea is that the licensing condition be stated on syntactic logical forms, which preserve crucial pronoun-related distinctions that are neutralized in the mapping to the denotational semantics. I pair this with the approach to binding developed by Heim (1993), Reinhart (2006), and Roelofsen (2010). Beyond its success in taming the generation of strict readings, the theory sketched here offers a straightforward account of certain scope parallelism phenomena (Fox 2000, Merchant 2018), and the alternatives-based licensing mechanism bears a close resemblance to Fiengo & May’s (1994) notion of a reconstruction.