Anaphora and Language Design

From Linguistic Inquiry Monographs

Anaphora and Language Design

By Eric Reuland

A study on anaphoric dependencies that derives the conditions on anaphora in natural language from the design properties of the language system.





A study on anaphoric dependencies that derives the conditions on anaphora in natural language from the design properties of the language system.

Pronouns and anaphors (including reflexives such as himself and herself) may or must depend on antecedents for their interpretation. These dependencies are subject to conditions that prima facie show substantial crosslinguistic variation. In this monograph, Eric Reuland presents a theory of how these anaphoric dependencies are represented in natural language in a way that does justice to the the variation one finds across languages. He explains the conditions on these dependencies in terms of elementary properties of the computational system of natural language. He shows that the encoding of anaphoric dependencies makes use of components of the language system that all reflect different cognitive capacities; thus the empirical research he reports on offers insights into the design of the language system.

Reuland's account reduces the conditions on binding to independent properties of the grammar, none of which is specific to binding. He offers a principled account of the roles of the lexicon, syntax, semantics, and the discourse component in the encoding of anaphoric dependencies; a window into the overall organization of the grammar and the roles of linguistic and extralinguistic factors; a new typology of anaphoric expressions; a view of crosslinguistic variation (examining facts in a range of languages, from English, Dutch, Frisian, German, and Scandinavian languages to Fijian, Georgian, and Malayalam) that shows unity in diversity.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262015059 464 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$38.00 X ISBN: 9780262515641 464 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • [A] game-and paradigm-changer in the field of anaphoric relations...Highly recommended to all interested scholars working in the field of anaphora, regardless of their theoretical background.

    The Linguist List


  • Eric Reuland's book is a daring attempt to rethink the theoretical status of anaphora. Reuland's objective could not be more bold. It is to derive the variation in anaphora seen across languages from structural differences among languages rather than from a system specific to anaphora.

    Peter Cole

    Professor of Linguistics, University of Delaware and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

  • Anaphora and Language Design is a major theoretical achievement within the domain of research of minimalist syntax. It offers a number of fascinating insights into the ways in which what might appear as random crosslinguistic variation in the domain of anaphora can be successfully understood in terms of the interaction among the syntactic computation, the language interfaces, and the feature endowment of individual lexical items.

    Denis Delfitto

    Linguistics Department, University of Verona

  • This masterful study provides a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of some of the most curious phenomena of language, referential dependencies, exploring the range of their permissible variation, the reasons for puzzling surface complexities, and the far-reaching implications for design of language and cognitive architecture more generally. A major contribution to linguistics and related disciplines.

    Noam Chomsky