Location, location, location: Anaphor selection in English locative prepositional phrases


  • Shannon Bryant Harvard University




English anaphors, binding theory, reflexivity, syntax/semantics interface, experimental syntax/semantics, locative prepositional phrases, event structure


This paper presents experimental work on the relative naturalness of subject-oriented reflexives (herself) and pronouns (her) in English locative prepositional phrases (e.g., Michele set a glass next to her/herself). Syntactic approaches to anaphor licensing have tended to focus on the lack of complementarity in such constructions; however, it has long been observed that preferences between forms may depend on verb meaning (change in location vs. perception vs. possession) and spatial relation (+contact vs. -contact), with very strong preferences reported in some cases. This study aims to clarify the extent to which these two factors shape anaphor choice. Results confirm that both play a significant role: reflexives are most natural in the expression of change in location and direct contact, while pronouns pattern oppositely. Importantly, preferences between forms are less stark than those found in constructions where syntactic constraints are assumed to render one form ungrammatical. I suggest that these findings favor a treatment of English anaphora that takes event structure into account.

Author Biography

  • Shannon Bryant, Harvard University
    I am a PhD candidate in the linguistics department at Harvard University.




How to Cite

Bryant, Shannon. 2022. “Location, Location, Location: Anaphor Selection in English Locative Prepositional Phrases”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 7 (1): 5263. https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v7i1.5263.