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In this paper we will observe some binding phenomena concerning the pronoun ta 'he' in embedded subject position. We will see that some verbs in matrix position can affect the reference determination of the embedded subject pronoun. Verbs that can change the coreferential relation between the matrix subject quantifier and the pronoun pose problems for the binding theory. The main question to be raised in this investigation is why and how certain elements can work on the binding relation between NPs in a sentence. This paper will present a syntactic explanation of the changing binding effect associated with the relation between the quantificational subject and the embedded subject pronoun ta 'he'.
Key words: Governing Category, Pronoun, Binding
In this paper I will examine certain exceptional binding phenomena that pose interesting questions for binding theory. The main question to be raised in this investigation is whether verbs can affect the binding relation between NPs in a sentence by changing the governing category of the binding domain. If so, one might ask what mechanism allows this and under what circumstances. It is my intention in this paper to try to answer these questions.
1. AN OBSERVATION ON THE RELATION
A binding problem concerning the Specified Subject Condition (SSC) was pointed out in Chomsky (1986a), as shown in (1):
a. They i told [my stories about them i ]
b. They i heard [my stories about them i ]
c. * They i told [stories about them i ]
d. They i heard [stories about them i ]
Since SSC requires that pronouns not be bound and anaphors not be free in the domain of the most local subject, the local domain for sentences (1a-b) is the embedded NP because it contains the nearest subject my . The pronouns are free in this domain. SSC applies correctly. However the embedded NP in sentences (1c-d) has no subject, the nearest subject for the pronoun in (1c) is the matrix subject They . The local domain is the entire sentence in which the pronoun is not free; (1c), therefore, violates Binding Condition B and is correctly predicted ungrammatical. Nevertheless, sentence (1d), having the same structure except for having a different verb, is not as expected. Though the pronoun is not free in its local domain, the sentence is grammatical. To explain this problem, Chomsky suggests the following structures for (1c-d):
The indexing tells us that in (2a) the stories are by the subject they ; in (2b) the stories are by someone outside the sentence. Under this explanation, SSC is then applicable as the embedded NP now has a subject PRO. Binding principle B is therefore consistent. Although Chomsky paid no attention to the role of the verb in binding (as the only difference between the two sentences is the matrix verb), sentences in (1c-d) raise the interesting question whether verbs play some sort of syntactic role in determining the binding relation; more precisely, whether the choice of the verb affects the pronoun's antecedent. In theory, such a possibility seems quite reasonable. As is well known, in certain cases the choice of one constituent may have some sort of effect on the choice of another. In theta theory, for example, the thematic role of the subject in a sentence is determined by the choice of the object. Compare, for instance:
We note that sentences (3a) and
(3b) share the same structure, except that the verb in (3b) takes the NP
its object; the subject
is then assigned the role AGENT, since
the one who initiates the action¾ breaking a window. However,
cannot be considered AGENT because the verb takes the NP
as its complement.
in this case turns out to be the one who undergoes the action pointed out by the
predicate. The subject is therefore assigned the role THEME (or PATIENT). The theta role
of a subject may sometimes depend on the semantics of verb and its complement
compositionally. This fact in turn suggests that it is not implausible to expect a close
correlation between verbs and binding. More straightforwardly, the idea that verbs may
affect the binding relation may be another possible account in addition to
Chomsky's PRO as subject in NP
for the problem shown in (1c-d).
There are two reasons for preferring the verb-based alternative. First, the following sentences in (4) suggest that the verb hear in English may play a part in binding:
Second, the idea that PRO in [Spec NP] position may serve as subject creates problems. For example, by adopting this proposal, (5a) below would have an incorrect syntactic representation something like (5b):
Clearly, (5b) is not consistent with Condition A. The reciprocal anaphor is not bound in the embedded NP (= its governing category), so the sentence is starred. Chomsky realizes this problem, and so suggests that the presence of PRO as subject inside NP S is optional. When PRO is not present, the governing category for the reciprocal anaphor in (5a) is the entire sentence because it contains the most local subject they , and this is the domain where the anaphor is bound. The sentence is thus correctly predicted, as (6) shown:
Superficially, the problem seems to be plausibly resolved. However, Kuno (1987) points out certain problems concerning Chomsky's PRO suggestion and argues that the problem should be dealt with semantically rather than syntactically. For instance, Kuno (1987, pp. 171-172) indicates that Chomsky's PRO as subject in NP S assumption fails to explain why the sentences such as (7a) is unacceptable, whereas (7b) is nearly acceptable or acceptable:
According to Chomsky, (7) would have the following syntactic representation in (8):
That is, just like the verb tell , write must also assign subject control to the PRO so that the unacceptability of (7a) can be correctly explained, as shown in (8a). Yet this is not the case in (7b), which is not an unacceptable sentence, even though the binding between John , PRO, and herself clearly shows that the sentence should not be acceptable. Kuno, therefore, concludes that this suggests that the phenomenon requires a semantic explanation rather than a syntax one.
Note now what would happen in (1c-d) if we do not adopt Chomsky's PRO as subject in NP S explanation. Suppose we assume Chomsky's (1996) binding theory, repeated here:
C. An r-expression must be free.
Recall that governing category in this version is defined roughly as in (10) below.
The GC for a is the minimal CFC that contains
a and a governor of a and in which a's binding
condition could, in principle, be satisfied.
Following (10), sentences (1c-d) would have the following interpretation instead of (2).
a. *[They i told stories about them i ]
b. [They i heard stories about them i ]
That is, the governing category for the pronoun them is the entire sentence, since it contains the pronoun itself, its governor about , which is the head of the PP about them , and the most local subject they serving as the binder. In (11a) the sentence's ungrammaticality is precisely predicted by Condition B because the pronoun is not free in this domain. But the grammaticality of (11b) cannot be explained. Note that, however, the sentences shown in (4) suggest that the verb hear may be important in deciding the binding relation. A natural question to ask here then is: how can the verb affect the binding? A possible explanation may be that the sentences in (4) may have the following syntactic representations.
(12) suggests that sentences (a-h) involve unmarked structure, in which the governing category for each sentence is the root sentence; while sentence ( i ) has a marked structure in which the governing category for the pronoun them is the embedded NP. In other words, the determination of the governing category in these sentences is somehow determined by the verb. Based on this assumption, sentences (1c-d) may now be alternatively considered as having the following structures instead of the (2) or (11).
Thus, while the pronoun in (13a)
is bound, it is free in (13b). Their grammaticality is therefore accounted for by
Condition B of the binding theory. However, there is one question that arises further in
connection with this explanation. That is, how do verbs determine the governing category?
We will return to this question in the later discussion.
In sum, the English data illustrated in this section proposes that verbs may be responsible for the determination of governing category. In that regard, I will present evidence found in Chinese in the following sections.
2. VERBS THAT AFFECT BINDING IN CHINESE
Aoun and Li (1988) claim that bound pronouns in Chinese can not appear in such a context as shown in (14).
Context Bound Pronoun
In (14b) ta him is a referential pronoun since it is coindexed with a name called Zhangsan, while in (14d) ta is a bound pronoun for its referent is Meigeren, a quantifier. As they point out, only referential pronouns, but not bound pronouns, can appear in the subject position of an embedded clause. Nevertheless, let's consider the following sentences that have the similar structures (i.e. they all comply with the context (14c)) except for having different verbs in place of shuo say.
Contrary to the prediction, the sentences in (15) are all perfectly acceptable. The bound pronoun ta in each sentence is in the subject position of the embedded clause, and is naturally interpreted as referring to the quantifier Meigeren everyone . To see if verbs do possibly play a crucial role in the interpretation of pronoun reading, let ' s now replace the matrix verb in each sentence to see the result.
c. *Meigeren i dou yiwei ta i zaiyebu zuo huaishi le
everyone all think he no more do bad thing ASP
"Everyone thought that he no more did the bad things."
d. *Meigeren i dou zhichu ta i jiushi neige baiwanfuweng
everyone all indicate he is exactly that millionaire
structures clearly suggest that the sentences
is dependent on the particular verbs. This observation can be further
comparing (17) with (18).
Obviously some verbs in these
instances do play a part in binding. How they are able to do so will be the focus of the
3. SUBJECT ORIENTATION
3.1 TWO TYPES OF SUBJECT ORIENTATION VERBS IN CHINESE
To explain why some verbs have an effect on changing the binding relation between NPs in certain structures, two types of verbs in Chinese must be first identified. Consider the following two non-exhaustive lists:
a. Strong Subject Orientation (SSO)
b. Weak Subject Orientation (WSO)
How might we distinguish these two types of verbs semantically? One fundamental feature that SSO verbs have in common is that they seem to always report on the subject's actions with respect to a mental state, whereas WSO verbs seem to merely report on the mental state itself (however, the verb shuo say is an exception to this generalization). In general, whether a verb has strong or weak subject orientation property is not evident if the embedded subject pronoun is referential. For instance:
As we can see, both types of verbs in (20) are possible. Nevertheless, this is not the case when a bound pronoun appears in the embedded subject position. More clearly, we find only SSO verbs may occur. Compare:
When a matrix verb is a WSO verb,
it would behave like a barrier for coreference between the bound pronoun and the matrix
subject, as (21a) shows. On the other hand, when the verb is SSO, this barrier disappears,
as illustrated in (21b).
Based on the above observation, we seem to be able to give a schema to conclude the finding:
(22) clearly illustrates why the two groups of subject orientation verbs
listed in (19) can be defined in terms of the notion strong and
weak, as the former shows consistent subject orientation no matter
which type of pronominal occupies the embedded subject position, whereas
the latter does not.
There seems to exist another difference between SSO and WSO verbs. Topicalization of the embedded subject bound pronoun is allowed by weak subject orientation verbs, but not SSO verbs. Compare, for example:
In (23a), the pronoun in the structure can only refer to someone outside the sentence. Therefore, topicalization of the pronoun from the embedded subject position to the highest C-specifier position is fine, as this does not violate Koopman and Sportiche's (1983) Bijection Principle, which requires that every variable be bound by exactly one operator, and every operator bind exactly one variable. Thus, the trace left by the pronoun is a variable, because the pronoun was moved to an A-position. The trace is bound by one operator only. Consider now the LF representation of (23b) in (24):
As shown in (24), each variable
is bound by two operators, i.e., the pronoun and the quantifier; and in a like manner,
each operator binds two variables. As the pronoun has been moved to the highest
C-specifier position, where the quantifier is unable to c-command it, according to the
schema (22a), then, the binding between the pronoun and the quantifier can not be
licensed, for the pronoun can only be bound by a c-commanding subject in a higher position
with the presence of an SSO verb. This may explain why topicalization of the embedded
subject pronoun is allowed with WSO verbs only: since when a WSO verb shows up, the bound
pronoun in the embedded subject position always takes a different index from the matrix
subject, which will ensure that the pronoun does not violate the Bijiection Principle.
4. A GOVERNING CATEGORY CHANGING EXPLANATION
Thus far we have observed that the non-matrix subject pronoun reading may be changed when an SSO verb is involved. We then must ask how a verb or verb class can affect a binding relation. This section aims to suggest an explanation to this question.
The suggestion presented in this paper involves the idea that governing category is sensitive to verb class.
Now let's see how this assumption works on the problems. Consider first the following sentence:
According to Aoun and Li (1988), (26) must obey the A-disjointness requirement, which requires that the pronoun have the entire sentence as its governing category.
But since (26) involves an SSO verb, the pronoun ta he must then be free in the smallest clause. This requirement entails that the governing category of the pronoun in (26) must be drawn back from the root sentence to the least clause domain, as illustrated in (28):
Turn now to a sentence that involves no SSO, i.e. (29):
Since sentence (29) has no an SSO verb in the matrix position, but rather a WSO, it obeys the A-disjointness requirement, which will predict that the entire sentence is the governing category of the pronoun. The ungrammatical reading of the pronoun is thus correctly predicted. Now consider the following sentence.
The pronoun ta he in (30) is A-free in its smallest CFC domain, in accordance with the folllowing A-disjointness requirement suggested by Aoun and Li (1988):
However, according to the A-disjointness requirement, the pronoun should be A-bound by ziji at LF in its binding domain, which, nevertheless, would bring an ungrammatical reading. To be in accord with (25), the governing category for the pronoun should be the smallest sentence as this sentence contains an SSO verb chengren admit. We therefore obtain the following correct result by retracting the governing category from IP2 to the smallest IP.
In this paper I
focus on the relation between verbal class and binding, and discover that certain verbal
classes play a role in determining the binding relation, particularly associated with
pronoun, in some sentences. The determination of the binding relation can be theoretically
achieved by assuming that the verbal classes, when involved, are able to contract the
governing category to the smallest clause containing the pronoun, conforming the
coreferential relation to the binding theory.
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