Sloppy identity unbound

Ezra Keshet


Reinhart (1983) claims that only pronouns whose antecedents c-command them may give rise to sloppy identity readings. This paper presents counterexamples to this claim; for instance, referring to the famous 1960 televised presidential debate, it is acceptable to say: "Kennedy looked good. People voted for him. Nixon looked bad. People didn't." Despite the fact that the antecedent "Kennedy" for the pronoun "him" is in a previous sentence, this pronoun allows a sloppy identity reading wherein the fourth sentence ("People didn't.") means that people didn't vote for Nixon. To analyze such cases, I first propose an extension to the ~ focus operator due to Rooth (1992), allowing this operator to alter the assignment function used
to interpret pronouns. One construction where Rooth places ~ is in the answers to questions. My new meaning for ~ explains why pronouns are so constrained in answers, e.g., "Who does John like? He[=John] likes Mary." Next, I argue for the Question-Under-Discussion (QUD) model of discourse described in Roberts (1996), which theorizes that every sentence is the answer to an explicit or implicit question. Finally, I show that unbound sloppy identity can be analyzed as cases where pronouns are constrained by antecedents in implicit questions. Along the way, I argue that the QUD model is compatible with the coherence relation model of discourse due to Hobbs (1979), explaining how coherence can constrain pronoun reference as well.


pronouns; sloppy identity; coherence; discourse

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