Binding in Germanic
Binding in Germanic
- Eric ReulandEric ReulandUtrecht University
- and Martin EveraertMartin EveraertUtrecht University
All languages have expressions, typically pronominals and anaphors, that may or must depend for their interpretation on another expression, their antecedent. When such a dependency is subject to structural conditions, it reflects binding. Although there is considerable variation in binding patterns cross-linguistically, in fact, variation is along a limited set of parameters. The Germanic languages exemplify some of the main factors involved.
In Germanic, third-person pronominals generally do not allow binding by a co-argument. However, in Frisian and Afrikaans, they do, being embedded in a richer structure than meets the eye. In Continental West Germanic and Scandinavian, anaphors come in two types: simplex anaphors (SE-anaphors)—deficient for number and gender—and complex anaphors (SELF-anaphors). These typically consist of a pronominal or SE-anaphor combined with an element like Dutch zelf ‘self’ or one of its cognates. In all the Germanic languages SELF-anaphors are bound in their local domain—approximately the domain of their nearest subject—except in a few identifiable positions, where they are interpreted logophorically. That is, they accept a non-local antecedent, provided this element holds the perspective of the sentence.
The distribution of SE-anaphors involves three different conditions. First, they can be bound by a co-argument only if the verb belongs to a restricted class, which allows syntactic detransitivization. Second, in general, SE-anaphors allow non-local binding. But the conditions differ among subgroups. In Dutch and German, they can only be bound non-locally when contained in a causative or perception verb complement or a small clause. In Mainland Scandinavian, non-local binding is, in principle, available to all infinitival clauses (subject to some dialectal variation). For instance, in some varieties of Norwegian, referentiality of intervening subjects restricts binding; in other varieties, the restricting factor is not “finiteness” but “being specified for tense.” Third, in Icelandic long-distance antecedents beyond the infinitival domain are licensed by a subjunctive, together with the requirement that the antecedent holds the perspective. Faroese largely patterns like Icelandic, although lacking a subjunctive. However, the class of verbs that allow this pattern coincides with the class of verbs in Icelandic that have a subjunctive complement.
Non-local binding of SE-anaphors is sensitive to the requirement that the antecedent be animate, but the languages show differences in the details.
Unlike the West Germanic languages, the Scandinavian languages all have a possessive reflexive in third person. In general, their distribution appears to be quite close to that of SE-anaphors, but this is subject to dialectal variation, with various differences in the details.
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