Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 299–348

Focusing bound pronouns


DOI: 10.1007/s11050-012-9083-4

Cite this article as:
Mayr, C. Nat Lang Semantics (2012) 20: 299. doi:10.1007/s11050-012-9083-4


The presence of contrastive focus on pronouns interpreted as bound variables is puzzling. Bound variables do not refer, and it is therefore unclear how two of them can be made to contrast with each other. It is argued that this is a problem for both alternative-based accounts such as Rooth’s (Nat Lang Semantics 1:75–116, 1992) and givenness-based ones such as Schwarzschild’s (Nat Lang Semantics 7:141–177, 1999). The present paper shows that previous approaches to this puzzle face an empirical problem, namely the co-occurrence of additive too and focus on bound pronouns. Our account is based on the idea that the alternatives introduced by focused bound pronouns denote individuals. Putting forward the novel concept of compositional reconstruction, we show that a suitably modified Roothian analysis of focus licensing allows us to get bound pronouns to contrast with other bound pronouns. The reason for this is that the number of potential alternatives increases. We also suggest a modification of Rooth’s ~-operator: contrastiveness becomes a requirement of the operator, which is modelled as a definedness condition. It is argued that in the case of focused bound pronouns a ~-operator is necessarily inserted in the scope of the quantifier. If this is on the right track, it follows that the phenomenon of focused bound pronouns warrants both an operator interpreting focus as well as a semantic value for the contribution of focus. Any givenness-based analysis must include these two ingredients as well; we suggest a way in which this can be implemented more or less straightforwardly.


Focus Bound variables Alternatives Two-dimensional semantics Givenness 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zentrum für Allgemeine SprachwissenschaftBerlinGermany

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