So-called anticipatory it has been variously classified as a semantically empty prop it, as a referential pronoun, and as a category with an inherently cataphoric function. This article, which is based on a corpus study of actually occurring instances of anticipatory it, examines some of the arguments put forward for each of these classifications and – following Bolinger (1977) – argues for an analysis as ‘definite nominal’ with some referential force which can establish a referential link with a clausal constituent in the immediate context. As such, anticipatory it takes an intermediate position between prop it and referring it, all of which are linked by a scale of gradience specifying their scope of reference (wide vs. narrow). This view of anticipatory it, which allows for both anaphoric and cataphoric reference, can account for all informational types of it-extraposition as well as it-extraposition with complement omission, and provides a possible explanation for cases of it-omission.
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