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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

Research on Binding Theory shows that the syntactically-conditioned complementarity normally exhibited by pronouns and reflexives breaks down in certain syntactic environments, including possessorless picture-NPs (e.g. picture of {her/herself}). We report two psycholinguistic experiments which investigate what kinds of factors influence how pronouns and reflexives in picture-NPs are interpreted, given that their antecedents are not determined by Binding Theory. The results show that the interpretation of pronouns and reflexives in picture-NPs is governed by multiple factors. On the one hand, we corroborated the results of prior work which found that pronouns and reflexives are subject to opposing syntactic and semantic biases (Kaiser et al. 2009). However, on other hand, we provide evidence of shared biases: Both pronouns and reflexives dislike referentially underspecified antecedents, namely the indefinite existential ‘someone’ and wh-expressions. This pattern seems to fit well with claims that both forms prefer to pick out the antecedent whose point-of-view is being represented (Kuno 1987, Tenny 2003), assuming that referentially underspecified antecedents are not good point-of-view anchors

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