Variable Binding and Semantic Gender Agreement in German Personal Pronouns
|Language & Linguistics; LEXICAL ACCESS; Linguistics; WORKING-MEMORY
|WALTER DE GRUYTER GMBH
|ZEITSCHRIFT FUR GERMANISTISCHE LINGUISTIK
The gender specification of personal pronouns in German which refer to lexical hybrids like Madchen (neuter noun; eng.: girl) can either be determined directly by the grammatical features of these nouns (das Madchen [...] es) or by the sex of their referents (das Madchen [...] sie). This phenomenon is a typical example of the alternation of grammatical and semantic agreement, which can be observed in many variations among the world's languages. In order to explain the distribution of these two agreement types, many authors argue that there is a positive correlation of the linear and/or structural distance between the agreeing elements (controller and target) on the one hand and the acceptability of semantic agreement on the other hand. Based on empirical data, I argue for the additional integration of semantic factors which are strongly related to structural aspects. It is shown that the choice of agreement type for German personal pronouns depends on the interpretation of these words as bound or free variables, whereby semantic agreement is less likely with bound variables.
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