no fun with pronouns

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Dec 7 18:43:33 UTC 2010

At 1:19 PM -0500 12/7/10, Ronald Butters wrote:
>Where is the "pronominal confusion"? There are only two pronouns,
>both of which refer to some person who was mentioned in context that
>Victor does not give. Even "the man who has angered Washington" is
>clearly a deictic reference to the same person. There is nothing
>remarkable or noteworthy whatever about the sentence (except that we
>are not given the immediately preceding context). f

one aspect of the pronominal usage that's potentially noteworthy is
the use of "his" and "him" in that syntactic position with respect to
their apparent antecedent, "the man who..."  Depending on the actual
syntactic frame, this is often impossible ("His mother talked to him
about the WikiLeaks founder") or difficult (in "His teammates resent
him more than the great Yankee shortstop realizes" is a bit tricky to
get backwards co-reference with all 3 nominals referring to Derek
Jeter).  I do find the passage below hard to follow with the intended
co-reference, although if Assange had just been mentioned in the
preceding sentence, it's not impossible.


>On Dec 7, 2010, at 10:33 AM, Robin Hamilton wrote:
>>  It's rather endearing, though.  For pronominal confusion, it rivals the
>>  Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 755 on Cynewulf and Cyneheard.  But that
>>  particular entry may have been based on a lost oral alliterative text.
>>  Dunno what excuse MSNBC have.
>>  (We may also have the earliest recorded instance of a bran-new sex-crime --
>>  wilfully spilling secrets on the Internet.)
>>  Robin
>>  _____________________________________________
>>  ------Original Message------
>>  From: Victor Steinbok
>>  Sender: ADS-L
>>  To: ADS-L
>>  ReplyTo: ADS-L
>>  Subject: [ADS-L] fun with pronouns
>>  Sent: Dec 7, 2010 6:00 AM
>>  MSNBC's article on Asange's arrest contains the following sentence:
>  >
>>>  His lawyer had earlier arranged to deliver him to British police for
>>>  questioning in a sex-crimes investigation of the man who has angered
>>>  Washington by spilling thousands of government secrets on the Internet.
>>  "His", "him" and "man who..." all refer to the same person.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list