Rose-Marie Déchaine Seminar

Title: How to be a pronoun

Abstract: Pronouns are traditionally defined by their substitution class, namely they substitute for nouns, and more specifically for nominal phrases. If a nominal phrase is defined as a DP (as Abney’s 1987 DP hypothesis postulates), this leads to the conclusion that pronouns must be pro-DPs. This is enshrined in Postal’s classic 1966 proposal (which equates pronouns with determiners), and makes its way into more recent semantic analyses (such as Paul Elbourne’s) that treat all pronouns as individual-denoting variables of type e. However, both within and across languages there is ample evidence that pronouns do not constitute a uniform morphological, syntactic, or semantic class; this is the basis for the proposal articulated in Déchaine & Wiltschko 2002, which distinguishes pro-NP, pro-PhiP, and pro-DP. This presentation revisits that proposal in light of recent advances in syntax and semantics, with a focus on the deployment of reflexive pro-forms.