Linguistics Colloquium 02/15/13 – Geoffrey Pullum

Geoffrey PullumAnaphora, Ellipsis, and the Implications for Language Acquisition
Geoffrey K. Pullum
Brown University and University of Edinburgh

Friday, February 15, 2013
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Paccar 291

Recent work has been showing increasing support for the idea that both anaphora (resolution of the semantic contribution of overt elements taking their denotations from an indefinitely large range delimited by the context) and ellipsis (resolution of the semantics in cases of material intuitively “missing” where one would syntactically expect it) are much more sensitive to semantic factors than to syntactic ones. I look briefly at “exophoric” VP ellipsis (without overt antecedent in the linguistic context) and in more detail at antecedents for the anaphoric count noun “one”.  In both cases syntactic conditions have traditionally been over-emphasized and semantic factors have been missed. I argue that recent progress makes the acquisition problem look easier rather than harder.  In the case of anaphoric “one”, more than 30 years of rhetoric about the “poverty of the stimulus” has been based on an analysis that collapses completely, taking with it a significant plank in the platform of linguistic nativism.

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