Competition in Grammar

Funding: BOF

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This research project aims to investigate the relationship between form and meaning in the pronominal paradigms of personal, reflexive, and possessive pronouns against the background of a theory of competition in grammar. Its central research question is formulated in (1):

(1) Central Research Question
What does the form of anaphors and (possessive) pronouns reveal about their internal featural makeup?

The meanings of these pronouns can be characterized in terms of feature systems (person, number, gender, etc.). The association of features or combinations of features with forms is typically not one-to-one, but it involves syncretisms (e.g. the English plural pronoun they is syncretic for masculine, feminine and neuter gender). It has been argued that syncretisms are not random, but that they reveal the underlying organisation of the features that the forms express (see Caha 2009 on case morphology). Put differently, looking into the syncretism patterns of words and morphemes will yield insights into (a) the nature of the features involved, and (b) the way these features are hierarchically structured.