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Dorothy Ahn Colloquium
February 14, 2020 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
A competition mechanism for anaphoric expressions
This talk explores a competition-based analysis of anaphoric expressions, which refer to familiar entities. I propose a unified semantic account, where all anaphoric expressions such as pronouns and definite descriptions share an underlying semantic structure and differ only in the amount of restrictions they carry. The complexity of the restrictions results in an information based competition, where a quantity-based economy principle chooses the simplest form possible in the given context, avoiding redundant information. I motivate this theory from an investigation of languages that freely allow bare nouns as arguments, where the anaphoric ability of the bare noun seems to depend on the availability of morphologically simplex pronouns. I show that the competition mechanism allows for a unified account for a number of independently observed cross-linguistic phenomena and enables a more precise and predictive semantic typology of languages.