Pronouns vs. Definite Descriptions

Abstract

This paper looks at an approach to Principle C in which the disjoint reference effect triggered by definite description arises because there is a preference for using bound pronouns in those cases. Philippe Schlenker has linked this approach to the idea that the NP part of a definite description should be the most minimal in content relative to a certain communicative goal. On a popular view about what the syntax and semantics of a personal pronoun is, that should have the effect of favoring a pronoun over a definite description. This paper shows how that can be made the source of “Vehicle Change,” an effect in ellipsis contexts in which definite descriptions seem to behave like pronouns. It requires, however, a way of distinguishing bound pronouns from non-bound pronouns, and the paper makes a proposal about how these two kinds of pronouns can be distinguished in the way needed.

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