my your recommendation

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Sep 28 07:31:29 UTC 2001

At 2:57 PM -0400 9/28/01, Steve Kl. wrote:
>On Thu, 27 Sep 2001, Lynne Murphy wrote:
>>  Because 'my' and 'your' are determiners, and there's only one determiner
>>  slot in at the front of a noun phrase.  Same reason you can't say 'the your
>>  recommendation' or 'your that recommendation'.
>The maid picked up my his towel but left my wife's her towel on the floor.
>I agree with Lynn, but you can get very context-specific readings to work
>if you say them just right, or set up the context just right, the way you
>can make "Agnew supposes poached." to be grammatical if you set the
>context up right.
I'm not sure the two cases are parallel.  Yours aren't really "my his
towel" and "my wife's her towel" but "my 'HIS' towel and "my wife's
'HER' towel; these 'his' and 'her' aren't possessives but names of
towels.  "Agnew supposes poached" or, as I recall it, "Jerry thinks
with a fork" as  elliptical replies in exchanges like

--How does Nixon eat his eggs?
--(I'm not sure, but) Agnew supposes ___ poached.

--How does the Pope eat his peas?
--(I don't know, but) Jerry thinks ____ with a fork

don't involve the same kind of quotation contexts, playing instead
off what ISN'T said but can be filled in.  In any case, we have it
from Douglas Bigham that "my your hoodie" is perfectly well-formed
and interpretable by his roommate without either quotation or
ellipsis (at least without the very marked ellipsis in "supposes
poached"/"thinks with a fork" above), so we evidently don't have to
go to these contextual lengths.


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