- Who Brian Dillon & Kyle Johnson
- When Tuesday 2:30 - 5:15PM
- Where ILC N458
In this proseminar-style course we will examine the notion of competition in constraining anaphoric reference. We will survey models that use competitive principles to regulate speakers’ preferences for anaphoric expressions. We will consider both formal and psycholinguistic approaches to this question, looking at the role of ambiguity, structural simplicity, and speaker-internal memory pressures in regulating what anaphoric expressions speakers can, or tend to, use to refer.
One empirical focus of our proseminar will be the ‘Repeated Name Penalty,’ the finding that across several languages, there is a penalty for repeating a name across sentence boundaries when a more minimal referring device would do. Note, for instance, the improvement that comes by changing the title of our course to “The most interesting topics in syntax and its processing.” There is a penalty for repetition where it is not needed. What relation, if any, does this constraint bear to principles that regulate an anaphor’s within-sentence referential potential?
In addition, a more exploratory goal of our proseminar is to ask whether similar principles are at play in governing the distribution of anaphoric expressions beyond names and definite descriptions, such as verb-phrase ellipsis and object drop in East Asian languages.
Students will be exposed to a wide range of approaches to this question.
Enrolled students will be expected to:
- Attend weekly class meetings, read assigned readings, and come ready to discuss.
- Give two presentations throughout the semester. One presentation will be of a paper drawn from the course readings; the second will be a paper related to the student’s project.
- Write a final term paper on a topic of the students’ own choosing. Students will be especially encouraged to find common ground between the content of this proseminar and their current research interests outside of this class; come meet us early on to discuss possibilities.