the syntax and semantics of pronouns

Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Thu Dec 9 13:24:31 UTC 2010

Not as I see it, but maybe we are  using different vocabulary.

I am interested in interpretation.

That involves, equally, semantics, syntax, pragmatics, discourse analysis.

The "semantics" of pronouns is (at the level of word and sentence) somewhat barren, since "he" "him" and even "the man" mean little more than 'some male that I have mentioned or not'. There is usually no way of simply looking at a sentence and determining on the basis of syntax and semantics what the pronoun refers to. (Even a sentence such as "John wanted the man to give him a ticket to the play" could refer to "John" or it could refer to some third party, e.g., if preceded by the sentence "John had a ticket to the play but Peter did not".) You have to look at the preceding sentences, and you have to infer what it is that the speaker intended on the basis of the meaning of the sentence and the passage.

I don't think that anyone disagrees that one  has to consider the intrasentential syntax and semantics of a sentence in order to understand the sentence. My point is that in actual use we do not usually stop there (unless we are doing Katz-Fodor semantic analysis).

Thanks for keeping this discussion on the level of idea and avoiding ad hominem attacks. I appreciate the opportunity that your postings offer for serious interchange of ideas.

On Dec 8, 2010, at 5:57 PM, Robin Hamilton wrote:

> ... or to couch my previous post in different words:  it could be said that
> Ron is (primarily) interested in syntax, whereas Victor and I are
> (primarily) interested in semantics.
> As M.A.K.Halliday famously put it, "Lexis as most delicate grammar."
> Robin
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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