Pronouns vs. definite descriptions*

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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 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. 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. The resulting view of Principle C is then used to give a reanalysis of “Vehicle Change” effects and explain a puzzle about its acquisition.


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