Variables in Natural Language [PhD thesis]
Meredith Landman
February 2006

A central goal of linguistics is to determine what constitutes a possible grammar of a natural language. This thesis works toward that goal in positing a constraint on the possible semantic types of variables in natural language. Specifically, I argue that object language variables are restricted to semantic type e (see Chierchia (1984) and Baker (2003) for similar proposals). I refer to this constraint as the No Higher-Type Variables constraint (NHTV). Assuming that the domain of individuals, D, includes at least objects, kinds, events, event-kinds, degrees, situations, worlds, times, and locations, all of which have been independently argued to be necessary members of D, what NHTV predicts not to occur are variable-denoting expressions that vary over higher types, such as generalized quantifiers, relations, or properties. Although NHTV thus predicts a very restricted inventory of variable-denoting expressions, I show that the constraint accounts for a wide range of data in characterizing which variable-denoting expressions do and do not occur. I focus empirically on two types of expressions that are commonly analyzed as involving variables: (a) pro-forms and (b) movement gaps (i.e., traces). In particular, I look closely at pro-forms and traces that have the syntactic distribution of items that are typically taken to be of a higher-type, for example, APs, AdvPs, VPs, and NPs. I argue that pro-forms and traces that have the syntactic distribution of these categories should not be analyzed as higher-type variables, but instead either vary over individuals or do not involve variables at all.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003744
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: UMass Amherst
keywords: variables, semantic types, semantic universals, anaphora, pro-forms, movement, traces, ellipsis, semantics, syntax
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