Antecedent accessibility and exceptional covariation: Evidence from Norwegian Donkey Pronouns
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionGlossa: a journal of general linguistics. 2019, 4 (1), 1-17. 10.5334/gjgl.930
It is generally assumed that interpreting a co-referential or a syntactically-bound pronoun requires retrieving a representation of its antecedent from memory. Donkey pronouns (e.g., Geach 1962) are pronouns that co-vary in interpretation with non-c-commanding indefinite QPs in apparent violation of structural constraints on QP-pronoun relations (Reinhart 1976). Recent research (Moulton & Han 2018) has hypothesized that the real-time processing of donkey pronouns may not involve retrieval of the co-varying indefinite QP as an antecedent, because non-c-commanding QPs are assumed to be inaccessible to retrieval. We tested this hypothesis with a self-paced reading study that compared the processing of standard co-referential pronouns and donkey pronouns in Norwegian. Contrary to the hypothesis, our results indicate that donkey pronouns retrieve a feature-matching antecedent from memory in a manner analogous to how co-referential pronouns retrieve a referential antecedent. Our findings imply that retrieval of a feature-matching antecedent is a necessary step in the processing of all pronouns, irrespective of their ultimate interpretation. Moreover, retrieval does not uniformly ignore non-referential NPs that fail to c-command a pronoun. We briefly discuss the implications of these findings for psycholinguistic models of anaphora resolution and formal theories of donkey pronouns.