Competition among pronouns in Chamorro grammar and sentence processing

Contributors:
  1. Sandra Chung

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Description: Much work on Binding Theory has implicitly assumed that reflexive anaphors are morphologically distinct from ordinary pronouns, and indeed in most of the world’s languages this seems to be so (Faltz 1977). Research on the comprehension of reflexive anaphors has likewise been concerned with linguistic systems in which reflexives and ordinary pronouns are morphologically distinct. Nonetheless, there are languages in which reflexive anaphors have the same morphological realization as ordinary pronouns. Two of these languages: - Old English (e.g. Faltz 1977, Keenan 2002, Bergeton & Pancheva 2011). - Chamorro, an Austronesian language of the Mariana Islands. Chamorro is a verb-first language in which direct object pronoun forms precede the subject. Reflexive anaphors look like ordinary overt pronouns. Although the language can use special morphology to mark a verb whose direct object is reflexive, this special morphology is optional. This project investigates the syntax and processing of pronouns in Chamorro. On the syntactic side, we show: - Chamorro grammar treats reflexive anaphors differently from ordinary pronouns, despite the fact that they share the same morphological form. - These patterns support a competition-based theory of anaphora most similar to Safir’s (2014). On the processing side, we ask how comprehenders confront the challenge of processing morphological pronoun forms in Chamorro. - In a picture-matching experiment on tablet computers, participants were first presented with visual and linguistic context introducing two characters, and then had to match a target sentence with one of two pictures, one depicting a reflexive event and the other, a disjoint event. - Perhaps the most surprising result: comprehenders strongly prefer to construe overt pronoun forms as reflexive (bound) even when a disjoint construal is allowed. - We derive this result from a competition-based theory of anaphora, together with some of the Chamorro-specific facts just described.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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Competition among Pronouns in Chamorro Grammar and Sentence Processing Much work on Binding Theory has implicitly assumed that reflexive anaphors are morphologically distinct from ordinary pronouns, and indeed in most of the world’s languages this seems to be so (Faltz 1977). Research on the comprehension of reflexive anaphors has likewise been concerned with linguistic systems in which reflexives...

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