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Colloquium with Simon Charlow, Rutgers University

Title: Givenness and local contexts




Givenness plays a central role in the licensing of anaphoric reduction phenomena like deaccenting and ellipsis. I argue that Givenness is assessed compositionally, in a local context. In other words, I give evidence for anaphoric Givenness operators in syntax, and I argue that such operators are sensitive to local manipulations of the context (specifically, the assignment). This gives a theory of the syntax-semantics of Givenness intermediate in a sense between the systems of Schwarzschild and Rooth, and converges with conclusions reached in recent work by Kratzer & Selkirk.


I show how this approach leads to significant simplifications in the theory of reduction licensing, allowing us to dispense with otherwise necessary stipulations (e.g., Heim's prohibition of "Meaningless Coindexing" or Sag's non-standard definition of alphabetic variance), and making it feasible at last to treat the relationship between an elided phrase and its antecedent as one of strong semantic identity.


I consider several consequences of my proposal for the formulation of Givenness operators, arguing that it compels us to take their dynamic, anaphoric character seriously. I argue that Givenness domains are maximized, and against the notion that any non-F-marked node must be Given. And, time permitting, I explore some consequences of these moves for restrictions on antecedent-contained deletion and the puzzling phenomenon of focused bound pronouns.