Nominal Modification

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Colloquium: Sanja Srdanović

On Tuesday, November 26th at 4pm (c.t.) at SH 0.107, Sanja Srdanović will be giving a talk in the GK colloquium. See below for the abstract.

Title: Cataphoric pronoun resolution in Serbian

It has been shown that c-command has an effect on the acceptability of coreference in pronoun-name constructions (cataphoric binding/backward anaphor) (cf. 1a and 1b). The ungrammaticality of (1b) has been attributed to a violation of Binding principle C (Gordon and Hendrick, 1997).

(1) a. Hisi roommates met Johni at the restaurant. 
b.*Hei met Johni’s roommates at the restaurant.

Studies focussing on cataphoric pronoun resolution (Kazanina et al, 2007; Kazanina and Phillips, 2010; Drummer and Felser, 2018) assume that participants actively search for an antecedent following a cataphoric pronoun when there is no c-command (1a.). On the other hand, when a c-command is involved (violation of principle C), speakers do not even consider the interpretation of readings that violate this constraint (1b), which is shown in RTs. 

According to Despić (2013), constructions like (1a) in Serbian are unacceptable with the coreferential reading, following the assumption that Serbian does not project a DP layer. Therefore, Serbian prenominal modifiers are adjuncts that c-command out of the NP and violate Binding principle C as in example (2) (Despić, 2013).

(2) *Njegovi najnoviji film je zaista razočarao Kusturicui.
   ‘Hisi latest film really disappointed Kusturicai.’

If this was the case, then we would expect that the following 2 constructions are not different in Serbian (cf. 3.a and 3.b).
(3) a.?Njegovi menadžer je pričao fanovima dok je Jovani potpisivao autograme.
‘Hisi manager talked to the fans while Johni signed autographs.’ 

b.?Proi pričao je fanovima dok je Jovan*i potpisivao autograme.
‘Hei talked to the fans while John*i signed autographs.’ 

A Truth-Value Judgment Task was conducted with 35 native speakers of Serbian to examine whether there is a difference between structures like (3a) and (3b) with and without c-command with respect to binding possibilities in Serbian. The results from the experiment show that participants allow coreferential reading in (3a) and reject the coreference in (3b). This suggests that there is an effect of c-command on the acceptability of coreferential reading in Serbian, too. Given that these structures pattern with English, i.e. the structure with the possessive modifier in the subject position is indeed acceptable with the coreferential reading, c-command is not involved here and therefore, there is no violation of Principle C.

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