Markedness pp 65-84 | Cite as

Indefinite NPs and the Interpretation of Discourse-Based Null Elements

  • Wynn Chao


In this paper I will propose that notions of markedness can be brought to bear on the question of what kinds of representations indefinite NPs (such a a man, many men, few men) should be associated within a given discourse context. These representations in turn account for the possibilities of pronominal anaphora in discourse. Crucial to this account is the behavior of what I will call discourse-based null elements. These are null elements which receive pronominal interpretation: PRO, the phonetically unrealized subject of a tenseless clause; and pro, the null subject of a tensed clause in languages that allow such constructions. Thus discourse-based null elements stand in contrast to null elements which are associated with so-called movement rules, namely WH- and NP-traces.1


Specific Reading Discourse Representation Discourse Context Discourse Referent Null Subject 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bach, Emmon. 1982. Purpose clauses and control. The nature of syntactic representation, ed. by Pauline Jacobson and Geoffrey K. Pullum, 35–57. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  2. Barwise, Jon and Robin Cooper. 1981. Generalized quantifiers and natural language. Linguistics and Philosophy 4. 159–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chomsky, Noam. 1982. Lectures on government and binding. 2nd ed. Dordrecht: Foris.Google Scholar
  4. Dahl, Deborah and Jeanette Gundel. 1981. Identifying referents for two kinds of pronouns. Paper presented at the LAS Annual Meeting, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Dowty, David R., Robert E. Wall and Stanley Peters. 1981. Introduction to Montague Semantics. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  6. Evans, Gareth. 1980. Pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 11. 337–362.Google Scholar
  7. Fodor, Janet D. and Ivan Sag. Forthcoming. Referential and quantificational indefinites. Linguistics and Philosophy.Google Scholar
  8. Heim, Irene. 1982. The semantics of definite and indefinite NPs. Ph.D thesis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.Google Scholar
  9. Higginbotham, James. Forthcoming. Some remarks on binding theory and logical form. Linguistic Inquiry.Google Scholar
  10. Kamp, Hans. 1981. A theory of truth and semantic representation. Formal methods in the study of language, ed. by J. Groendíjk, T. Janssen and M. Stokhof, 277–322. Amsterdam: Mathematical Centre Tracts (lk’s 135, 136).Google Scholar
  11. Karttunen, Lauri. 1976. Discourse Referents. Syntax and Semantics 7, 363–385. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. Kempson, Ruth and Annabel Cormack. 1982. On specificity. ms., University of London.Google Scholar
  13. Lappin, Shalom. 1983. VP anaphora, quantifier scope and Logical Form. ms., University of OttawaGoogle Scholar
  14. Maling, Joan and Annie Zaenen. 1982. A Phrase Structure account of Scandinavian extraction phenomena. The nature of syntactic representation, ed. by Pauline Jacobson and Geoffrey K. Pullum, 229–282. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  15. Montague, Richard. 1974. The proper treatment of quantification in ordinary English. Formal philosophy, ed. by Richmond H. Thomason, 245–270. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Partee, Barbara H. 1975a. Deletion and variable binding. Formal semantics of natural language, ed. by Edward Keenan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Partee, Barbara H. 1975b. Montague Grammar and Transformational Grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 6. 203–300.Google Scholar
  18. Williams, Edwin. 1980. Predication. Linguistic Inquiry 11. 203–238.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wynn Chao
    • 1
  1. 1.Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations