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DANIEL LEROY FINER, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation is a study of the syntax of switch-reference (SR) and its implications for the theory of grammar. SR, found in many genetically and geographically diverse languages, is a phenomenon whereby referential identity between subjects of hierarchically adjacent clauses is encoded by the presence of a morpheme, usually suffixed to the verb of the subordinate clause. Noncoreferentiality between subjects is indicated by a different morpheme, likewise suffixed to the subordinate verb. The dissertation argues that SR should be analysed as a syntactic rather than a purely pragmatic or functional feature of language; SR may appear to be a device to eliminate possible ambiguity in discourse, but SR-marking redundantly occurs even in environments that have no potential for ambiguity. Moreover, SR-marking does not occur in certain constructions where it would be expected, were it governed exclusively by functional or pragmatic considerations. I propose instead that the syntax of SR follows from the various locality conditions on syntactic binding that are central to the Government and Binding theory of syntax. These conditions carry the major explanatory burden in the theoretical description of the SR systems from Native American, Australian, and New Guinea languages which are surveyed in the dissertation. I attempt to show that the apparent complexity and exotic nature of SR and associated topics admit of a principled, intuitive account within the Government and Binding framework.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

FINER, DANIEL LEROY, "THE FORMAL GRAMMAR OF SWITCH-REFERENCE" (1984). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8410282.