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3 - Direct compositionality and variable-free semantics: the case of Antecedent Contained Deletion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Pauline Jacobson
Affiliation:
Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences Brown University Providence Rhode Island USA
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Summary

Since at least as early as Sag (1976), the phenomenon of Antecedent Contained Deletion (hereafter, ACD) has generally been taken as strong evidence for a level of Logical Form or some other abstract syntactic representation mediating between the surface syntax and the model-theoretic interpretation of a sentence. In particular, it is often taken as a settled matter that ACD shows that at least sometimes a quantified NP in object position is not interpreted “in situ.” Rather, the semantic composition of a sentence like John read every book involves a level of representation in which the object is just a simple pronoun or trace interpreted as a variable. The purpose of this paper is to show that this received wisdom is mistaken. ACD is perfectly compatible with the view that quantified NPs are interpreted “in situ” – i.e. the meaning of read directly combines with the meaning of every book to give a VP meaning.

What is at stake here is more important than just the question of how to interpret quantified NPs in object position: my main concern is to provide support for two broader hypotheses. The first is the hypothesis of direct compositionality: the syntactic combinatory operations “build” (i.e. define as well-formed) surface syntactic expressions while the semantics works in tandem to supply a model-theoretic interpretation for each expression as it is “built” in the syntax.

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Topics in Ellipsis , pp. 30 - 68
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2008

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