Indefinites, Choice Functions, and Discourse Anaphora


Choice functions are a widely accepted tool used to explain the scope properties of indefinite expressions (Reinhart, 1997, Kratzer, 1998, Winter, 2004, a.o.). This literature, however, has given little attention to the well known fact that indefinite expressions support discourse anaphora. This paper uses insights from von Heusinger (2004) and Elbourne (2005) to account for both the scope of indefinites and their interaction with anaphora. Choice functions receive a dynamic treatment whereby indefinites update a ‘global’ choice function throughout a discourse. Pronouns are treated as covert definite descriptions and are interpreted with respect to the global choice function. Gender agreement facts from German support the claim that the link between a pronoun and antecedent requires formal identity. Pronouns are, accordingly, treated as determiners which take a silent NP complement that has been elided under identity with the antecedent indefinite, ensuring that the descriptive content of the elided NP is available for the interpretation of the pronoun.

The Proceedings of NELS 39