The status of referential indices in syntactic theory is unclear. On one hand, theories of coreference and binding have been devised which avoid referential indices altogether (e.g. Safir 2004; Reuland 2011; Rooryck & Vanden Wyngaerd 2011). The development of these theories was motivated by the Inclusiveness Condition of Chomsky 1995 (p. 228), which posited that symbols such as indices could not be added to syntactic representations during the computational procedure.
On the other hand, several streams of research in syntax and semantics continue to assume that indices are part of grammatical representations. For example, the rigidly referential properties of demonstrative noun phrases suggests that they include a referential index, as in (Nunberg 1993; Elbourne 2008; Simonenko 2014; Šimík 2016). The semantic effect of this index is to anchor certain noun phrases to particular referents in the discourse or context. Similarly, Schwarz (2009) and Jenks (2018) argue that anaphoric definites have an overt index while unique definites do not.
Indices have also proven indispensable in research on the grammar of focus. The widely adopted formalism of Kratzer (1991) relies on a binding relationship between a focus operator which evaluates alternatives and a distinguished focus index on the focused constituent which generates those alternatives, necessitated by the island-insensitivity of this relationship (see also Wold 1996; Beck 2016; Bassi & Longenbaugh 2020). In addition to providing an account of island-insensitivity, index-based theories of focus account for intervention effects with multiple foci (Beck 2006). Overt syntactic correlates of focus indices have been proposed in Basaá focus constructions (Leffel et al. 2014) and Sinhala wh-particles de (Romero & Meertens 2022).
Outside of focus and reference, indices have been essential in the analysis of switch-reference morphology, which has been recently been analyzed as index-sensitive agreement in Washo (Arregi & Hanink 2018) and Amahuaca (Clem 2019a; b; To appear). Leading analyses of sentence-external same and different also make crucial use of indices Brasoveanu (2011); Hardt & Mikkelsen (2015); Hanink (2018). Finally, reference to indices are needed to account for the distribution of null versus overt pronouns in Mayan languages such as Popti’ (Aissen 2000) and Chuj (Royer 2021): if two overt third person pronouns occur in the same clause and neither binds the other, they must have disjoint reference. If one of these pronouns is null, it must be coindexed with the other. Royer (2021) argues that this effect arises at PF, requiring the second of two coindexed DPs to be elided, hence necessarily represented in the syntax. Summing up, then, there is strong evidence from a variety of sources pointing to the fact that indices are a part of the syntax and semantics of natural languages.
It seems that there is strong support for the idea that referential indices may be present in syntax. The only way to include indices in the syntactic representation without violating inclusiveness is to provide them with a featural counterpart from the start. As is the case with any feature, a featural counterpart of indices would be expected to be part of some but not all syntactic expressions. Building on the above work, this paper argues that incorporating indices into syntactic theory illuminates the differences between unique definite descriptions and a class of expressions which are labeled indexed definites. Indexed definites, or DxPs, are proposed as a natural class of rigidly referential noun phrases which include demonstratives, anaphoric definites, and pronominal definites (such as we linguists). The main idea is that pronouns, anaphoric indices, and demonstratives share a syntactic feature idx, interpreted as a variable. In the general theory of idx sketched in Section 3, idx is category-neutral and combines with different syntactic categories to create anaphoric or indexical counterparts for those categories. The class of indices which refer to individuals are of category D/idxPs; when they occur in indexed definites they occupy [Spec, DxP]. Plain unique definite DPs, on the other hand, lack an index in their specifier. This contrast is illustrated in Figure 1, where the president is a unique definite DP while that president is DxP. In this example, the demonstrative determiner that is the realization of idx in [Spec, DxP].
Semantically, plain or unique definites DPs are headed by a definite determiner interpreted as an ι operator. Once composed with the NP complement of D, plain definite DPs denote the unique individual or maximal plurality with property P in situation s, e.g., the unique president in s where s= ‘somewhere in France in the year 2022’. Indexed definite DPs, on the other hand, are headed by a Dx head. DxPs denote the unique individual or maximal plurality with property P in situation s who is identical to the denotation of the D/idxP, namely, the individual located at the index on idxx, namely the discourse referent g(x), e.g., ‘the unique president who is g(1),’ where g(1)=Emmanuel Macron in some context.
The idea that demonstratives, pronouns, and anaphoric indices occur in the specifier of some DPs has been assumed in some form in much work on DP syntax (Giusti 2002; 2015), anaphoric definiteness (Schwarz 2009; Jenks 2015; 2018), demonstratives (Šimík 2016; 2021b; Ahn 2019), and strong or demonstrative pronouns (Patel-Grosz & Grosz 2017; Clem 2017; Bi & Jenks 2019). An alternative perspective on syntactic indices is pursued by Simonenko (2014) and Hanink (2018; 2021), in which an equivalent of idxP lives below DP; this paper will build on this work in pursuing a general theory of syntactic idxPs, but will argue that the syntax in Figure 1 is correct, that is, that indices generally surface as a specifier or perhaps adjunct of the DP projection.
The first part of this paper motivates and sets out the distinction between unique vs. indexed definites. Section 2 reviews arguments that plain definites are characterized only by uniqueness, and shows how this conclusion accounts for the ability of plain definites to function predicationally and to covary based on situations. Section 3 sketches a theory of syntactic indices, in particular the idea that there is a general-purpose syntactic idx feature, realized as what linguists usually call pronouns and demonstratives, which is interpreted as a variable which picks out a discourse referent. Section 4 argues for the existence of a dedicated syntax and semantics for indexed definites. The arguments for the proposed syntax focus on the phrasal status of demonstratives and pronouns and their ability to co-occur with definite articles in many languages. The argument for the proposed semantics come from the rigidly referential properties of indexed definites and the observation that a trio of interpretations characterize pronouns, demonstratives, and indexed definites: direct reference, anaphoric reference, and covariation via dynamic binding.
The second part of the paper (Section 5) builds further support for the proposal with a case-study of Marka-Dafing, a Mande language spoken in Burkina Faso. Like many Mande languages, Marka-Dafing has an enclitic definite article, shown in (1a). We show that this enclitic is a plain or unique definite marker. However, Marka-Dafing has a dedicated construction for anaphoric definites which includes an additional syntactic marker, the prenominal element wó, glossed idx in (1b).
- = ó
- ‘the woman’
- = ó
- ‘the woman (that we were talking about)’
The distribution and interpretation of wó in (1b) and elsewhere provides direct support for the conclusion that it introduces a discourse-anaphoric index, as in the analysis of German strong definites of Schwarz (2009). The anaphoric index wó is shown to be in complementary distribution with possessors, both of which are in [Spec, DP].
Finally, section 6 centers around the observation that wó is incompatible with the exophoric demonstrative in Marka-Dafing, despite the fact that they occupy syntactically distinct positions. The proposed explanation is the following general constraint:
- The Single Index Constraint: Indexed definites and deictic pronouns can only rely on a single referential index to refer.
This constraint follows if the proposed structure for indexed definiteness is a general property of human language, i.e., if indexed DPs more generally only rely on a single referential index to refer.
2 Plain definiteness is unique definiteness
Many languages make use of a morphosyntactic feature [±definite], typically associated with a functional element within DPs (Lyons 1999: p. 16). In this section I review existing arguments which show that uniqueness/maximality is both necessary and sufficient to account for the distribution of [+definite], and hence to characterize the distribution of plain definite DPs. One consequence of this claim is that semantic functions such as referentiality which have often been associated with definite articles are not necessarily associated with definiteness as a notional category per se (cf. Coppock & Beaver 2012).
One compelling argument that definiteness can be reduced to uniqueness/maximality is made by Coppock & Beaver (2012; 2015), who point out that in some predicative uses of the definite article, particularly under negation, the existence presuppositions which are textbook properties of definite articles fail to surface (Coppock & Beaver 2015: p. 380). Such contexts are illustrated below:
- Scott is the (only) author of Waverly.
- Scott is not the only author of Waverly.
In the positive example in (3a), the definite article contributes the inference that there is just a single author of Waverly. This same uniqueness inference holds in (3b) as well, but the sentence explicitly negates the existence of such an author, so the existence of a unique author of Waverly cannot be presupposed.
More generally, definite articles are freely available in predicative contexts where uniqueness holds but there is no reference, for example with superlatives like Fido is the biggest dog in the pound, including cases without a real-world denotation such as the largest real number. Such uses are unique, but they are not referential and in the latter case cannot be said to presuppose existence.
Coppock and Beaver propose that in predicative contexts, the is interpreted as an identity function which checks for uniqueness.
- λP : |P| ≤ 1.P
Coppock & Beaver (2015) propose that the existence presuppositions characteristic of argumental uses of definites arise due to an additional ι type-shift (Partee 1987; Chierchia 1998; Dayal 2004). However, the only consistent semantic notion associated with [+definite] in predicative and argumental contexts is uniqueness.
Another central argument for purely uniqueness-based accounts of definiteness come from cases of situation-based covariation, i.e., contexts where a definite is not referential but covaries due to quantification over situations:
- Every Thanksgiving in the United States, the president pardons a turkey.
What is important about this sentence is that different presidents pardon turkeys on different Thanksgivings, so the definite description the president fails to denote a single individual, though here it functions as an argument.
Elbourne (2005; 2013) and Schwarz (2009) shows how cases like (5) follow from a theory where the uniqueness presupposition characteristic of definiteness is relativized to a situation s, part of the semantic metalanguage. Given a predicate P and a situation s, predicative uses of the definite article simply returns the set of individuals for whom P is true in the situation s:
- ⟦the/ι⟧ = λs.λP⟨e,⟨s,t⟩⟩ : |P(s)| = 1.ιx.P(x,s)
In (5), the situation variable of the definite is bound by the quantifier every Thanksgiving, deriving covarying readings of presidents with Thanksgivings (cf. Berman 1987; Kadmon 1987; Heim 1990). Informally, the situation-dependent denotation of the president can be paraphrased as ‘the unique president in sʹ, where sʹ is a situation variable bound by the quantificational topic, which can be paraphrased ‘Every sʹ which is a Thanksgiving in the United States.’
The main alternative to uniqueness-based views of definiteness comes from discourse-oriented approaches to meaning, where definite NPs are associated with familiar discourse referents (Heim 1982; Kamp & Reyle 1993; Kamp et al. 2011; Roberts 2002). However, some of the most striking evidence that definiteness should be characterized primarily by uniqueness rather than discourse familiarity comes from languages with a morphosyntactic contrast between unique and anaphoric definiteness (Schwarz 2013). Such contrasts have been described in some detail in at least German and Fering (Schwarz 2009), Icelandic (Ingason 2016), Swedish (Simonenko 2014), Akan (Arkoh & Matthewson 2013),1 Thai (Jenks 2015), Korean (Ahn 2017), Mandarin (Jenks 2018), Lithuanian (Šereikaitė 2019), Cuevas Mixtec (Cisneros 2019), ASL (Irani 2019), and Chuj (Royer 2019; To appear).2 If anaphoric definites are distinct from plain definites in these languages, then plain definites must introduce a requirement distinct from anaphoricity; uniqueness is the only plausible option. As predicted, the simpler plain definites in such languages are always those which mark uniqueness and occur in situation-dependent covarying readings (e.g. Schwarz 2009; Jenks 2018), while the more complex expressions are are directly referential and anaphoric (Schwarz 2009; Simonenko 2014; Jenks 2018).
3 The syntactic representation of indices
If plain definites only presuppose uniqueness, we can then ask why expressions such as demonstratives and pronouns can be used in non-unique contexts to refer, either to contextually salient individuals in the immediate context or to a discourse referent, and moreover, why they must refer. It has been proposed in recent work that there is a syntactic feature for a class of syntactic heads that introduce a referential index (cf. Simonenko 2014; Hanink 2018; 2021; Ahn 2019); we will adopt the label idx, from Hanink 2021. The idx is the core of demonstrative and pronoun projections, expressions whose commonalities have long been recognized in the semantics literature (Kaplan 1977; Nunberg 1993). Hanink (2018; 2021) provides striking evidence for this conclusion from Washo (Isolate; Lake Tahoe, California), where third person pronouns and demonstratives share a common morpheme gi:
- gí: ]
- ‘He’s eating the jackrabbit.’
- ‘That jackrabbit ran.’ (Hanink 2021: p. 506)
Hanink builds an analysis of noun phrases in Washo based on the idea that gi realizes an idx feature, which is proposed to realize either variable binders or variables themselves.
For Hanink, however, idx occurs in the extended projection of nouns above NP and below DP. The ability of demonstratives to occur with adjectives (that tall) and adverbs (that slowly) suggest their distribution is not tied to a particular syntactic category. Usually functional projections such as number or aspect only associate with a particular lexical category.
Suppose instead that idx is not part of the extended projection of DP, but instead a feature which freely combines with any lexical or functional category, resulting in an indexed counterpart of that category. The resulting complex head, [idx, F]—F a category feature—is a phrasal projection with the distribution of F. This immediately accounts for the fact that pro-forms are generally distributed across various categories in natural languages. For example, the idx counterparts of various categories are suggested below for English:
- [idx,D] = this, that, other pronouns
- [idx,N] = one
- [idx,V] = so, that (as in do so or do that)
- [idx,P] = here, there
- [idx,Deg] = so, that (as in so tall or that tall)
- [idx,Adv] = so, thus
- [idx,C] = so, that (as in say so or say that)
- [idx] ↔ that
- [idx,+prox] ↔ this
The observation that this and that have a largely category neutral distribution provides an independent argument for the existence of a category-neutral feature like idx. More specifically, if lexical items are the realization of abstract bundles of syntactic features, then there must be some feature like idx which serves as a shared feature in the category neutral realization of functional morphemes like English so, this, or that.4 When idxPs are associated with a particular category F we will label the resulting phrase F/idxP; this paper will focus on D/idxP.
D/idxP are internally complex. This complexity includes ϕ-features and features indicating spatial deixis. These features serve as part of the articulated superstructure of idx, and are restricted to occur with idx features at least in part by their semantics, as specified below.
- Structure of this2:
- Structure of we7:
The idea that pronouns are featurally different from other noun phrases has been pursued extensively elsewhere (Bejar 2003; Harley & Ritter 2002; Harbour 2016; Sichel & Wiltschko 2021; Sichel & Toosarvandani To appear), including the idea that they bear an index feature which restricts their binding behavior (Rezac 2004; Adger & Ramchand 2005). The contribution of the D feature specifically is to restrict the variables which idx allows to be included in the domain of individuals. I follow Ahn (2019) in introducing the particular index as type n (numeral) argument of idx.
Now suppose that the features associated with an index—e.g. gender, number, or place—are partial identity functions on the variable (of type ⟨e,e⟩) which ‘add in’ presuppositional content, restricting the referential potential of the index (Cooper 1979; Heim & Kratzer 1998; Sauerland 2009). First and second person features, for example, would require that the variable be restricted to individuals which have as a subpart the contextually supplied speaker or hearer. Inherently spatial demonstratives, on the other hand, might restrict the potential denotation of the variable to individuals at a contextually defined location.5
- ⟦D, idx⟧g,c = λn:g(n) ∈ De.g(n), else undefined.
- ⟦D, idx2⟧g,c = g(2), if g(2) ∈ De, else undefined.
- ⟦sg⟧g,c = λx.x, if |x| = 1, else undefined.
- ⟦pl⟧g,c = λx.x, if | x | ≠ 1, else undefined.
- ⟦+spkr⟧g,c = λx.x, if speakerc ≤ x, else undefined.
- ⟦-prox⟧g,c = λx.x, if x is at δ (a demonstration) not near speakerc, else undefined.
- ⟦+prox⟧g,c = λx.x, if x is at δ (a demonstration) near speakerc, else undefined.
- ⟦+anaph⟧g,c = λx.x, if x is an established discourse referent, else undefined.
- ⟦this2⟧g,c = g(2), if g(2) ∈ De, if | g(7)| = 1, if g(2) is at δ near the speaker in c, else undefined.
- ⟦we7⟧g,c = g(7), if g(7) ∈ De, if |g(7)| ≠ 1, if speakerc ≤ g(7), else undefined.6
The variable introduced by D/idx is what Groenendijk & Stokhof (1990) call a discourse marker, an element of De, formally distinct from the regular metalanguage variables used by the compositional procedure. The idea that discourse markers constitute a distinct set of variables from regular metalanguage variables has been used to account for a variety of phenomena including donkey anaphora (Groenendijk & Stokhof 1990; Chierchia 1995), the distinction between null and overt pronouns (Kurafuji 1998), and the semantic behavior of anaphoric definites (Schwarz 2009), and recently, weak crossover (Chierchia 2020).
A well-known problem for the idea that pronouns are (always) interpreted as variables is the availability of descriptive uses of pronouns, also called E-type pronouns, pronouns of laziness, paycheck pronouns, or neontological pronouns.7 The following example based on Cooper (1979) illustrates the problem:
- This year the president is a Republican. Next year, he will be a Democrat.
In the most natural reading of this sentence, the president in the first sentence and he in the second are two different people, the latter perhaps the president-elect who we know identifies as a man. Such data pose problems for the idea that pronouns are variables over discourse referents, because the pronoun he should pick up its discourse antecedent, which would be the current president. This reading is available if we imagine a context where a president changes parties, but the president could also be a different person.
One widely adopted solution to this problem is to view he in (12) as a unique definite description whose referent can covary by situation. As such, a plausible analysis of descriptive pronouns is as plain definite descriptions with a deleted NP (Karttunen 1969; Partee 1970; Heim 1990; Elbourne 2001; 2005). If this proposal is correct, the pronoun itself could not bear a D/idx feature, as the index is introduced by the deleted NP.8
However, there is a way of reconciling an ellipsis-based analyses of descriptive pronouns with the idea that pronouns always are the morphological realization of D/idx. Suppose that ellipsis is licensed by an ‘E’ feature, as proposed by Merchant (2001: 61), who defines E as an identity function which introduces a presupposition that the elided constituent is e-given, which, as defined by Merchant, entails the presence of a “salient antecedent” (p. 26), a plausible idx. So E seems to entail the presence of [idx], perhaps in addition to a feature such as +anaph, which introduces the requirement for an explicit discourse antecedent (Hankamer & Sag 1976), not unlike the Marka-Dafing anaphoric definite pronoun discussed below. Descriptive pronouns then such as it in (12) would then be cases of a plain definite D (ι) which occur with complements containing [N, idx, +anaph]:
- [DP D [N/idxP N, idx2, +anaph]]
The [+anaph] feature requires that the property anaphor of N/idxP be an established discourse referent. Interpretively, the N/idxP is interpreted as the property of being the president in a particular situation.
- g(2) = λx.λs.President(x,s)
Combined with the definite determiner and a situation variable introduced at D, we achieve the descriptive reading.
On the morphological side, suppose that third person pronouns in English have lexical entries like the following one:
- [D, idx, ϕ] ↔ he, she, they, etc.
These lexical entries could either realize a D/idxP with ϕ-feature restrictions, which could function as DP arguments on their own, or as plain definite DPs with an N/idxP complement. Such an approach could explain why third person pronouns do not allow overt NP complements in standardized English: it is precisely the ellipsis of N which corresponds to the availability of the idx. Another way of putting this is that English third person pronouns are ambiguous between something like ‘the one’, where ‘one’ is N/idx, and referential pronouns, D/idxPs. A twist on this proposal would be to adopt the view that gender features always originate on N (Kramer 2015; 2016; Conrod 2019), composing with either D or Dx to derive descriptive vs. referential readings of pronouns.
This ambiguity seems to be realized overtly in languages which have phonologically strong pronouns, which are referential, and phonologically weak or null pronouns. Typically if one set of pronouns allow descriptive or sloppy readings it will be with weak or null pronouns (e.g. Kurafuji 1998; 1999; Oku 1998; Saito et al. 2008; Runic 2014; Sakamoto 2017; Patel-Grosz & Grosz 2017; Bošković 2018; Barbosa 2019; Bi & Jenks 2019).9 This finding is consistent with the idea that weak and null pronouns realize NP anaphora of some kind rather than DP anaphora (see e.g. Tomioka 2003; Runic 2014); null pronouns can be analyzed as N/idx, at least in cases of certain sloppy readings, while strong pronouns are always referential D/idxP.
4 Indexed definites
An indexed definite DP is a DP with an D/idxP in its specifier position. In support of this theory, this section presents evidence that adnominal pronouns and demonstratives occupy [Spec, DP] in many languages. We will then examine the semantic effects of the D/idxP specifier in indexed definites, namely the unavailability of situation-based covariation and three semantic functions which are shared with strong pronouns: exophoric uses, anaphoric uses, and dynamically bound uses. This section focuses primarily on complex demonstratives and pronominal definites of the we linguists variety; the following section shows that the theory here extends naturally to account for the overt anaphoric D/idxP in Marka-Dafing.
4.1 The syntax of indexed definites
This section reviews several arguments that adnominal pronouns and demonstratives are phrasal and occupy [Spec, DP]. It then argues that in several languages where demonstratives are arguably D heads they are indexed definite D heads (Dx).
Schwarz (2009) demonstrated that there are two morphologically distinct definite articles in German, ‘weak’ definite articles, plain definite D heads, and ‘strong’ definite articles, which are used as anaphoric definites in German. It seems natural to think of anaphoric definites as just one realization of a more general category of indexed definite heads, Dx. In English, adnominal pronouns and demonstratives are both overt realizations of D/idxP, with the same structure as German strong or anaphoric definites.
The idea that adnominal pronouns and demonstratives have phrasal syntax and occur in [Spec, DP] has been argued for extensively by Giusti (2002; 2015) and is supported by work on the typology of these elements (e.g. Choi 2014; Roberts 2017). In contrast, many analyses of adnominal pronouns and demonstratives in the semantics literature treat them as heads (Elbourne 2001; 2005; 2008; Wolter 2006). This section will review some of the evidence that these categories are phrasal in many cases in support of the view that they occupy a specifier position.
The most basic argument that demonstratives and pronouns are phrasal is that they also function as pronouns, that is, as stand-ins for entire DPs. If demonstratives and pronouns were heads, it would be somewhat surprising for them to license ellipsis of their complement as proposed by Elbourne (2001), as ellipsis in English is typically licensed by a head with a filled specifier (Lobeck 1995). As phrases, demonstratives and pronouns necessarily occupy a specifier position rather than a head position.
Another convincing arguments that demonstratives and adnominal pronouns can be phrasal comes from locative reinforcers, such as in Southern US English these here books, where the demonstrative and reinforcer form a phrasal constituent (Bernstein 1997; Leu 2006; Giusti 2015; Leu 2015). In Southern US English, locative reinforcers can also intervene between adnominal pronouns and the noun:
To the extent that the demonstrative/pronoun and reinforcer form a constituent, they cannot be D heads, so they must be adjuncts or specifiers. As English and other Germanic languages are generally sensitive to a Doubly-Filled D filter, banning both both D and its specifier being pronounced, the absence of an overt definite article in such examples falls into place if demonstratives and adnominal pronouns are in [Spec, DP] (Giusti 2002; 2015; Alexiadou et al. 2007).12
More evidence that demonstratives and pronouns are specifiers comes from the fact that they must co-occur with overt definite articles in many languages (Alexiadou et al. 2007; Giusti 2002; 2015; Roberts 2017; Rudin 2021). For example, in Greek (18) and Akan (19):
- ‘We linguists are smart.’ (Choi 2014: 14)
- ‘this the book’ (Alexiadou et al. 2007: p. 122)
- ‘I like that dress [pointing at Amma’s dress].’ (Bombi 2018: p. 151)
Royer (2019; To appear) analyzes a similar case in Chuj, where demonstratives, which mark anaphoric definiteness, occur with noun classifiers, which mark unique definiteness. The Marka-Dafing case study below provides another example with a dedicated anaphoric demonstrative which co-occurs with a definite article. The position of demonstratives in both languages are consistent with their being in [Spec, DP].
Additionally, in Romance and Greek, demonstratives alternate between a few different positions in the DP, typically analyzed as phrasal movement of the demonstrative from a lower position in DP to [Spec, DP] (Bernstein 1997; Alexiadou et al. 2007; Giusti 2002; 2015; Roberts 2017). The same phrasal movement analysis for adnominal pronouns is proposed by Choi (2014). Given that both pronouns and demonstratives both move internal to DP, they are phrasal projections, and the landing position for phrasal projections are typically specifier positions.
Finally, reinforced demonstratives can co-occur with the definite article, as would be expected if they were phrasal elements in [Spec, DxP]; note that afto ‘this’ is in fact a distance-neutral demonstrative, hence can occur with both edho ‘here’ or eci ‘there’ as reinforcers (Alexiadou et al. 2007: p. 103):
Furthermore, when demonstratives co-occur with definite articles, demonstratives typically occur outside of definite articles (Choi 2014; Höhn 2017; Hsu & Syed 2020).13 This observation is a challenge for the proposal that idxP is generally located below DP (Hanink 2018; Simonenko 2014), though they may move from such a low position, as discussed above. Another analysis compatible with the proposal here is that there is an additional functional projection above D which hosts D/idxP in its specifier (e.g. Patel-Grosz & Grosz 2017; Šimík 2016; Hsu & Syed 2020).
While there is good evidence that overt demonstratives and pronouns are often in [Spec, DP], there do seem to be languages where indexed definiteness can be realized with a morphologically distinct Dx head, which can also be a demonstrative. For example, German and Lakhota make a distinction between strong (anaphoric) and weak (unique) definite articles (discussed in Schwarz 2009; 2013), and in Thai and Mandarin, demonstratives mark anaphoric definites and have been analyzed as Dx heads (Jenks 2015; 2018). In such languages, the D/idxP in specifier position can be null.
German strong or anaphoric definite articles are characterized by the inability of definite articles to contract with preceding prepositions. Schwarz (2009) proposes that it is the presence of the index between D and P which blocks contraction.14
- Plain definite: von dem Studenten → vom Studenten
- Anaphoric definite: von D/idxP dem Studenten → contraction impossible, blocked by idxP
If P-D contraction occurs at PF, as an instance of Lowering, restricted to directly adjacent heads (Embick & Noyer 2001), the German facts provide a direct argument that idxP must be present in the syntax to block adjacency.15
The observation that demonstratives function as D heads in some languages can help make sense of the fact that in Kayardild (23) and Mandarin (24), adnominal pronouns co-occur with demonstratives:
- Pronoun + Demonstrative in Mandarin (Huang et al. 2009: 298)
- ‘I like you good kids.’
- ‘I do not have impressions of them/those vagrants.’
In both languages, the pronoun occurs before the demonstrative; this is the general cross-linguistic pattern (Höhn 2017; Hsu & Syed 2020). In Jenks (2018); Bi & Jenks (2019), it was proposed that Mandarin na ‘that’ was a Dx head, and the overt pronoun before the demonstrative is a D/idxP. A similar analysis could be extended to Kayardild, which shares several similarities with Mandarin: it lacks a definite article, bare nouns can be used for unique definite contexts or in indefinite contexts (Evans 1995: p. 239), and distal demonstratives are used for anaphoric reference (Evans 1995: p. 209).
In summary, there seems to be good syntactic evidence for a phrasal category consistent with D/idxP which occurs in [Spec, DxP] in many languages. We also saw that demonstratives realize Dx heads in Mandarin and Kayardild. From a historical perspective, the claim that demonstratives occur in both positions is unsurprising: the most common historical source of definite articles across languages is as demonstratives (Greenberg 1978; Heine & Kuteva 2002), and specifier-to-head reanalysis is an established grammaticalization pathway (e.g. van Gelderen 2004).
4.2 The semantics of indexed definiteness
This section begins by laying out a semantics for indexed definiteness. It then illustrates how this semantics derives the requirement that demonstratives must be referential, blocking predicative or situation-based covarying uses. Pronominal definites are then shown to display similar restrictions on their interpretation.
Definite articles are typically analyzed as functions from predicates to individuals of type ⟨⟨e,t⟩,e⟩. Indexed definite articles (Dx) are of type ⟨⟨e,t⟩,⟨e,e⟩⟩.
- Plain definite article:
- ⟦the⟧ = λP⟨e,t⟩. :|P|≤ 1.ι x.P(x)
- Indexed definite article:
- ⟦Dx⟧ = λP⟨e,t⟩.λye.ιx.[P(x) ∧ Rc(x,y)].
The first argument of Dx is its NP complement, of type ⟨e,t⟩. The second argument of Dx is a type e variable, the interpretation of D/idxP. This basic semantics was proposed for anaphoric/strong definite articles in German Schwarz (2009) and has been extended to anaphoric definites in Thai (Jenks 2015) and Mandarin (Jenks 2018), demonstrative pronouns in German Patel-Grosz & Grosz (2017), strong pronouns in Tswefap (Grassfields Bantu; Cameroon) (Clem 2017), and overt pronouns in Mandarin (Bi & Jenks 2019).
The lexical entry in (25b) is underspecified compared to earlier analyses because the denotation of idxP is related to the unique definite by a contextually supplied relation Rc. It seems that the default interpretation of Rc is identity, i.e., Rc(x,y) in (25b) would be x=y, which is the lexical entry assumed in most of the work above. However, other contextually supplied relations are necessary and available, such as a ‘depiction’ relation when referring to someone by pointing at their picture, or cases of deferred ostention, such as pointing at someone’s office door to refer to them (see Nunberg 1993; Elbourne 2008; Šimík 2016 for discussion). We will stick to the case of identity for simplicity.
An different semantics for anaphoric definites is adopted by Ahn (2019: p. 55) and Royer (To appear), where equivalents of D/idxPs are identity functions of type ⟨n,⟨e,e⟩⟩, which check that definite descriptions are identical to some discourse referent g(n). In this view, unrestricted idx features would have the following denotation:
- λn.λx : x=g(n).x
When this denotation combines first with an index and then with a definite description (here ι(x).President(x)), it derives an indexed definite reading (assuming n=3):
- [λn.λx : x = g(n).x](3)(ι(x).President(x))
- = [λx : x = g(3).x](ι(x).President(x))
- = ι(x).President(x) = g(3).ι(x).President(x)
This proposal has the advantage of not treating definite articles as systematically ambiguous, a desirable result languages like Chuj, Greek, or Marka-Dafing where the same definite article occurs in plain and indexed definites; (26) may well be the right semantics for idxPs in such languages. Nevertheless, there are languages such as German or Lakhota where the plain vs. indexed definite distinction is marked on D, indicating that different lexical entries for D vs. Dx is sometimes desirable. It is also unclear how pronoun-demonstrative combinations in Mandarin or Kayardild could be analyzed, where demonstratives seem to the realization of Dx. Additionally, the analysis in (26) would require demonstratives and pronouns to always compose with a referential expression, even in their putatively pronominal uses, unless they are assumed to be ambiguous with individual-denoting denotations.
- λn.λx.x = g(n)
Elbourne (2005), analyzing pronouns as D heads with a deleted NP complement, proposes this semantics for the deleted N, deriving their standard referential use:
- [DP it [NP x3 ]]
- ιx.x = (g3)
Hanink uses the denotation in (28) to derive the semantics of indexed definites without a separate Dx head. In her analysis, the property denotation of idx in (28) is intersected with the type ⟨e,t⟩ denotation of the noun, which then composes with a unique definite article:
- [DP the [NP1 IdxP3 [NP2 president ]]]
- ⟦NP1⟧ = λx.President(x) ∧ x = g(3)
- ⟦DP⟧ = ιx.President(x) ∧ x = g(3)
So the indexed definite meaning is derived from the identificational property analysis of indices. While both ideas work, one question for this proposal is how to account for pronominal uses of demonstratives and pronouns; a definite article would always be expected to be combine with demonstratives and pronouns to derive their referential uses. Furthermore, in languages like Greek, these articles might be expected to be overt. Instead, it seems to be a nearly universal property of pronouns and demonstratives that they allow argumental, type e uses, an observation consistent with the idea that these categories are of type e, as in (11).
Adopting the semantics in (25b), we get meanings like the following (here again assuming that Rc(x,y) is identity, x = y):
- ⟦we7 Dx students⟧g,c = σ x[Student(x) ∧ x = g(7)], if g(7) ∈ De, if | g(7)| ≠ 1, if speakerc ≤ g(7), else undefined.
- ⟦this2 Dx student⟧g,c = ιx[Student(x) ∧ x = g(2)], if g(2) ∈ De, if | g(7)| = 1, if g(2) is at δ near the speaker in c, else undefined.
So in (30a), we7 students picks out the maximal plurality of students (using the σ operator from Link 1983), who are known to be identical to the individual g(7), one subpart of which must be speaker. The demonstrative description this2 student picks out the unique student identical to the individual g(2) and near the speaker.
As indexed definites have a pronominal component, they should share functions with pronouns, and indeed they do: pronouns and complex demonstratives are alike in occurring in exophoric, anaphoric, and donkey anaphoric contexts (cf. Nunberg 1993: p. 3).16. These similarities are most clearly illustrated with demonstratives, where we see parallel behavior in English and Mandarin (the Mandarin data are from Bi & Jenks 2019).
- Exophoric reading
- That lady/she is pretty smart. (pointing)
- / ta1}
- / 3sg
- ‘That1 person/ she1 is pretty smart’
- Narrative sequence
- [One student]1 likes Mary. But Mary doesn’t like that1 student/her1.
- / ta1}.
- / 3sg.
- ‘One student likes Lisi. But Lisi dislikes that student/her.’
- Covarying reading (Donkey anaphoric)
- Every farmer who owns a donkey beats that donkey/it.
- / ta1}.
- / 3sg
- ‘Every farmer who owns a donkey will beat that donkey/it.
In each of these expressions, the complex demonstrative is interpreted as ‘the unique x such that P(x) and identical to g(1)’. Because demonstratives might the most underspecified realizations of idx (Section 3), the contextual restriction is relatively free. When the speaker is pointing, as in (31), the context will include a pointing demonstration and this demonstration suffices to help the listener identify the value of g(1) (Nunberg 1993; Elbourne 2008; Šimík 2016). In (32), the variable picks out a salient discourse referent, and in (33) the variable is dynamically bound by the existential quantifier in the preceding relative clause. Further evidence for the parallel of exophoric uses of pronouns and demonstratives in particular is provided by Ahn & Davidson (2018), who show that speakers treat demonstratives and pronouns alike in both exophoric and anaphoric contexts.
More evidence for the semantics in (25b) comes from the observation that demonstratives are infelicitous in non-referential definite contexts. In particular, they are impossible in the intensional contexts which generally depend on situation-based covariation for plain definites. This is illustrated for English below.
- #Scott is that (only) author of Waverly.
- #Scott is not that only author of Waverly.
- #Every Thanksgiving in the United States, that president pardons a turkey.
The complex demonstratives in these examples must pick out a particular individual and do not allow predicative readings or situation-based covariation, in contrast with the plain definite descriptions discussed in Section 2. The rigidity of these expressions follows if the demonstrative is always identifying the individual who satisfies the definite description with a discourse referent.
Jenks (2018) provided evidence for the same effect in Mandarin: while the bare noun allows situation-based covariation as in (35b), the presence of a demonstrative, also used to mark anaphoric definiteness, blocks this reading (35c):
- ‘This year [the president]i comes from the PFP.’
- ‘But next year [the president]??i/j will be from the DPP.’
- ‘But next year [the president]i will be from the DPP.’ (Odd, only allows a ‘changing party’ reading).
While (35b) allows the president this year and last to be two different people as they are from different political parties, this reading is not available for the demonstrative phrase in (35c), which can only mean that this year’s president will change parties to the DPP next year. This restriction is explained by the index introduced by zhè wèi zǒngtǒng ‘this president’ in (35c), whose index must pick out a discourse referent, most plausibly the president from (35a).
Pronominal definites such as you linguists are often taken to provide evidence that pronouns are D heads (e.g. Postal 1969; Elbourne 2005). However, Giusti (2002; 2015) has argued that pronouns in such cases occurs in [Spec, DP] where they introduce a referential index. The idea that pronouns might be idxPs in a DxP is supported by similarities between pronominal definites and indexed definites. For example, pronominal definites, like complex demonstratives, readily support exophoric uses, which are marginal with plain definites in English:
- You linguists are pretty smart. (pointing)
This sentence is compatible with any context where the speaker is talking to more than one linguist. In such contexts, you linguists pick out the maximal set of linguists. This follows from the semantics provided for indexed definites above:
- ⟦you2 ιx linguists⟧g,c = σ x[linguists(x) ∧ x = g(2)], if |g(2)| ≠ 1, if hearerc ≤ g(2), else undefined.
This is an inclusive you; the hearer need only be a subpart of the plurality which is coextensive with the contextually maximal set of linguists. You linguists cannot be used to pick out a subset of the linguists present, and this follows from the fact that the structure includes a definite article separate from the indexical pronoun in its specifier position.
In addition, like demonstratives, for example, pronominal definites are impossible in non-referential definite contexts; for example they are impossible as the predicate of a predicative copular clause, which can be plain definites, as we saw in §2.
- Gladys and I are #us/ #these/the authors of this article.
The problem with (38) is specifically that the pronominal definite is in a predicate position. For example, inverse or specificational copular clauses, where the subject is a predicate and the object a referential argument (Mikkelsen 2005), allow a pronominal description to follow a copula:17
- The problem is us linguists.
So it seems that pronominal definites must be directly referential like indexed definites.
There is one additional argument that pronominal definites are indexed definiteness, based on Simonenko (2014), who observes that complex demonstratives are always DP islands for wh-subextraction (compare (40a-b)). (40c) shows that pronominal definites pattern with complex demonstratives in this regard, as we would expect if pronominal definites were indexed definites.
- Which classes did Mary criticize the instructors of?
- *Which classes did Mary criticize those instructors of?
- *Which classes did Mary criticize you instructors of?
Simonenko (2014; 2015) shows that this contrast is also found in weak vs. strong articles in Austro-Bavarian German, the latter of which are anaphoric, hence indexed, definites (Schwarz 2009). Simonenko’s explanation for why indexed definites are DP islands is that questions are only felicitous in a context where their answer is unknown. Because indexed definites already identify their referent with a particular contextually supplied individual, any wh-question originating from within an indexed definite will necessarily be used in a context in which its answer is already entailed. So the pronominal definite must entail that the identity of the pronominal definite is known.
In conclusion, the fact that local pronouns seem to function as an overt D/idxP provides an argument for indexed definiteness independent of demonstratives and anaphoric definites. While pronouns can have type e meaning on their own, they must have some way of combining with the meaning of the NP, particularly in languages like Greek, where we saw the definite article and pronoun co-occur (18). Treating pronominal definites as indexed definites resolves this puzzle.
5 Anaphoric definites in Dafing as indexed definites
This section turns to a case-study on the distinction between plain and anaphoric definiteness in Marka-Dafing, which provides empirical support for the conception of indexed definites described above. In Marka-Dafing, anaphoric definites are shown to require an overt anaphoric index, which also functions as a pronoun, this anaphoric index can be clearly shown to occupy [Spec, DP] a position distinct from the definite article. Furthermore, the expected semantic contrasts between plain and indexed definiteness arise when this element is present.
5.1 Background on Marka-Dafing
Marka-Dafing ([Glottocode: mark1256]), called either Marka or Dafing,18 is a Mande language spoken by approximately 200,000 people in northwestern Burkina Faso (Harrison & Harrison 2002). Marka-Dafing is closely related to Bambara, the national language of Mali, as well as to Dyula (or Jula, [Glottocode: dyu1238]), a major trade language spoken widely to the south. Prior descriptions of Marka-Dafing exist, and their descriptions are consistent with the data described below, although they focus on different dialects (Prost 1977; Diallo 1988; Traore 1998). The data in this paper represents the Safané dialect of Marka-Dafing, the southernmost variety.19
Mande languages are typologically notable for their S-Aux-O-V word order at the clausal level (Koopman 1984; 1992; Creissels 2005; Nikitina 2011; Sande et al. 2019). The Aux position consists of a complex head marking tense, aspect, negation, and finiteness; it is preceded by the subject. All other VP adjuncts and arguments, including PPs and CPs, follow the verb. A simple clause is given below.
- wúrú = !ú
- dog = def
- ‘You saw the dog.’
Basic clause structure in Mande has been analyzed elsewhere (Koopman 1992; Nikitina 2011; Sande et al. 2019). Three general observations about the syntax of Mande languages will be relevant below. First, subjects, and, hence, specifiers, occur to the left of their head. Second, with the notable exception of TP, headed by the past auxiliary in (41), heads typically go on the right in Mande. Third, Mande languages are not pro-drop languages; pronouns are obligatory in all contexts.
5.2 The definite article in Marka-Dafing
Dafing has a definite article = ú, which occurs as an DP enclitic. The surface realization of the article depends on the final vowel of the word to which it attaches, as illustrated in Table 1. Words that end in /a/ have their final vowel changed to [ɔ] (e–f). In low-tone roots, the definite article lengthens the final vowel of its host and inserts H tone, which spreads back to the adjacent root vowel (a-b). On the other hand, the H on the article is realized as a downstep if the word already ends in a H (c-d).
|N||N = def|
|a.||jɛ̀||‘fish’||jɛ̀ = ɛ̀||‘the fish’|
|b.||lù||‘house’||lú = ú||‘the house’|
|c.||ljɛ́||‘pig’||ljɛ́ = !ɛ́||‘the pig’|
|d.||só||‘horse’||só = !ó||‘the horse’|
|e.||sámá||‘elephant’||sámɔ́ = !ɔ́||‘the elephant’|
|f.||sá||‘sheep/goat’||sɔ́ = !ɔ́||‘the sheep/goat’|
The definite article below appears at the right edge of the DP, after adjectives (42) and numerals (43).
- ‘a small elephant’
- = í
- = def
- ‘the small elephant’
- ‘three women’
- = !ɔ
- = def
- ‘the three women’
The definite article is in complementary distribution with a small class of determiners, including the exophoric demonstrative mín ‘this, that’—which will be important below—, an indefinite determiner dɔ̀ ‘some’, and vjɛ̀ ‘every.’ All but the last of these determiners can take a plural suffix as well, a point we set aside as it is orthogonal to the realization of definiteness.
The left-branching structure below accounts for the major properties of Marka-Dafing DPs. As adjectives precede numerals and classifiers, they can be analyzed as rightward adjuncts on NP.
This structure captures the distribution observed above for the definite article; D will follow whatever elements are in the DP.
Definite articles in Marka-Dafing are obligatory in all contexts licensed just by uniqueness. First, in the terminology of Hawkins (1978), definite articles must occur in ‘larger situation’ definites such as ‘the sun’ or ‘the chief.’
- = #(!é),
- = def
- ‘The sun is intense.’
- #(= í)
- = def
- ‘Today the chief is happy.’
Second, the Marka-Dafing definite article is required in ‘immediate situation’ definites, where only context licenses uniqueness in the absence of prior mention:
- = #(é)
- = def
- ‘Don’t wake up the baby!’
Similarly, in a procedural narrative about making pottery, the definite article could be used to introduce contextually unique discourse referents such as ‘the clay’ at their first mention:
- è = é
- 2sg = pres
- ‘If you want to make a pot…
- = à
- bɔ́ = !ɔ́
- clay = def
- ‘you start with the clay.’
Bridging contexts, discussed extensively in Schwarz (2009; 2013), were not systematically tested, but the examples above suffice to establish that prior mention is not a necessary criterion to use the definite article in Marka-Dafing, hence it is a plain definite.
5.3 Anaphoric definites in Marka-Dafing as indexed definites
Definite DPs can occur with an element wó, which must occur at the left edge of the DP.
- = ó
- ‘the woman (that we were talking about)’
There is a salient intuition for native speakers of Marka-Dafing that wó must refer to an individual mentioned earlier in the conversation. In other words, the presence of wó turns a plain definite into an anaphoric definite. Historically, wò was a distal demonstrative (Valentin Vydrin, p.c., cf. Zribi-Hertz & Hanne 1995 for Bambara), and in other closely related Mande languages this demonstrative allows exophoric uses. However, in Marka-Dafing, wó cannot be accompanied by a pointing gesture, but can only be anaphoric.20
This section presents evidence that wó is the D/idxP argument for an indexed definite in Marka-Dafing. Rather than carrying ϕ-features or spatial restrictions, however, wó restricts variables to ‘established discourse referents’, making it a ‘pure’ anaphoric definite. We will adopt the idea below that wó is the realization of the features [D,idx,+anaph], with the following interpretation:
- ⟦wo1⟧g,c = g(1), if g(1) is an established discourse referent, else undefined.
Beyond intuitions about prior mention, the semantic distribution of wó clearly shows that it is an anaphorically indexed definite, requiring prior mention and denoting a particular individual when free.
First, wó cannot occur in unique definite contexts, like (45) and (46), whose context precluded prior mention.21
Second, wó is preferred in narrative sequences, although plain definites are possible in such contexts:
- ‘Yesterday, some woman walked into my house.’
- = ó
- = def
- ‘I’d never seen that woman before.’
The availability of wó in narrative sequences is consistent with the idea that wó refers to an established discourse referent.
Finally, wó is incompatible with situation-based covariation, which we have seen requires a unique definite:
- Context: It is well known that chiefs are mean and grumpy people.
- = !í
- = def
- = !ù
- = def.pl
- ‘In all the villages, the people don’t like the chief.’
- In every sʹ,x, sʹ a situation in some village x, the people in sʹ don’t like the chief in sʹ.
Because it forces reference to a particular individual, wó is impossible in these contexts. When wó is present, it forces reference to a particular chief who has been mentioned previously, as expected:
- Context: There is a chief, Musaa, who is mean to everybody; nobody anywhere likes him.
- zú = ù
- village= pl
- = !í
- = def
- = !ú
- = def.pl
- ‘In all the villages, the people don’t like that particular chief.’
- In every sʹ,x, sʹ a situation in some village x, the people in sʹ don’t like the chief in sʹ identical to the established discourse referent g(2).
Additionall, wó can be used as a donkey anaphor, though the plain definite can be used in this context as well:
- pé = !í
- donkey = def
- ‘If a man buys some donkey, he hits that donkey.’
While wó allows covarying readings, its presence also brings to mind readings where wó pé = !í refers to some specific donkey, say Bob, who gets hit any time any farmer buys any other donkey. In such a case, Bob would be an established discourse referent.
However, covarying readings with wó are clause-bound, whereas situation-dependent covariation is possible even across clause boundaries:22
- Context: Suppose chiefs are selected each year in an election, but that chiefs quickly become unpopular after they are elected.
- zú = ù
- village = pl
- ‘In every village, the people pick a chief.’
- = !í
- = def
- ‘After one month, nobody likes the/that chief.’
- Comment: If you use wo in the second sentence it doesn’t make sense, as the first sentence doesn’t specify a chief. People would probably reply, “What chief are you referring to?”
The contrast above shows clearly that wó picks out a particular individual unless it is clause-internally bound as as donkey anaphor.23
The meanings above are expected if wó realizes the D/idxP of a DxP:
- Structure of (49)
- ⟦(56a)⟧ = ιx[woman(x) ∧ x = g(2)], if g(2) is an established discourse referent, else undefined.
So Marka-Dafing definite articles must be ambiguous between a plain definite D and Dx. In other words, the definite enclitic is just an exponent of the features [D,+definite]; the distinction between plain and indexed definiteness on D is not expressed morphologically in Marka-Dafing.
There is good evidence supporting the claim first that wó is in [Spec, DxP] and second that wó is essentially a pronoun. First, the structure in (56) accounts for the word order facts: =u is a phrase-final head while wó occurs on the left edge of the DP, the position that specifiers (such as subjects) typically occupy in Mande languages; adjuncts and heads occur to the right.
Second, wó cannot occur on indefinite DPs; this follows if it is an argument of the definite article:
Third, wó is in complementary distribution with other phrasal specifiers in the noun phrase, namely possessors. in (58) we see instances of a pronominal possessor and a phrasal possessor, both of which are possessive. This illustrates that the leftmost position is phrasal.
- = !ɔ́
- = def
- ‘my sheep’
- = !ɔ́
- = def
- ‘Musa’s sheep’
However, wó cannot co-occur with such possessors, suggesting it is a phrase.
- = !ɔ́
- = def
- = !ɔ́
- = def
There is no obvious semantic explanation for the ungrammaticality of (59). It is simple to write a semantics which both encodes possession and includes identity to a discourse referent:
- ιx[sheep(x)∧Poss(m,x)∧x=g(1) (hypothesized meaning for (59b))
This could be the interpretation of an English noun phrase like that sheep of Musa’s. So the ungrammaticality of (59) must be syntactic. We can account for its ungrammaticality if both possessives and wó are competing for [Spec, DP], the position assumed by standard DP analyses of possessives (Abney 1987; Szabolcsi 1994).
As D/idx is essentially a pronoun, it is important to note that wó also has a pronominal function, where it retains its anaphoric properties.
- Context: In Ghana, nobody likes the president(s) who died.
- nó = ó (/ní wó/)
- past = idx:ana
- ‘I met him.’
- nó = órú (/ní wórú/)
- past = idx:ana.pl
- ‘I met them.’
Additionally, wó can occur as an anaphoric possessive pronoun:
- músó = !ó
- wife = def
- ‘Everybody likes his (=that president’s) wife.’
- ‘Nobody1 said they1/2 are full’
- ‘Nobody1 said they*1/2 are full’
Whereas the weak pronoun á in (63a) allows a bound variable reading, a bound reading is not available for wó in (63b). The inability of wó to be bound might arise because of the contextual restriction on wó: because it is restricted to established discourse referents, it presumably prefers extra-sentential reference. This restriction does not apply to the third person personal pronoun á, an unrestricted variable, which can be bound.
In summary, then, there is evidence that wó is a pronoun in [Spec, DP] which restricts the denotation of the DP to a particular contextually salient individual. This makes anaphoric DPs in Marka-Dafing indexed DPs in support of the general proposal advanced above.
6 The Single Index Constraint
We will zoom back out now to try and understand the kinds of referential indices in indexed definites in a more general sense. We have seen evidence for the following three kinds of restrictions provided by idxPs:
- Local personal pronouns identify individuals with speaker or hearer as parts
- Demonstrative pronouns identify individuals in space
- Anaphoric pronouns locate individuals in the discourse
All three restrictions point to some element of the context. Local personal pronouns point directly to the speaker or hearer in a particular context (Sudo 2012), demonstrative pronouns point to different parts of the context: location, in the case of spatial demonstratives, and reference in time in the case of anaphoric demonstratives.25
When we try to combine these restrictions, we find that it is impossible. Instead, languages must select only one kind of deictic restriction per indexed definite, even when there is good reason to think that multiple kinds of deixis should be possible. More generally, this section suggests that there evidence for the following generalization:
- The Single Index Constraint: Indexed definites and deictic pronouns can only rely on a single referential index to refer.
This principle can be derived from the requirement that indexed definite DPs have only a single D/idxP specifier, and each D/idxP is always restricted along a single deictic dimension, whether by referring directly to the conversational participants, to the location of an individual in space, or in time. This constraint accounts for the generalization by Hsu & Syed (2020) that markers of identifiability (roughly, anaphoric definiteness) and deixis (roughly, exophoric demonstratives) never seem to co-occur in the same DP. We will review several cases below where this constraint is in effect.26
First, regarding the co-occurrence of local pronominal D/idxPs and demonstrative D/idxPs, there simply do not seem to be any such cases, which would look like the following:
- *we these students
- *you those students
Apparent counterexamples come from cases of demonstrative-pronoun co-occurrence in (23) and (24). But if the demonstratives in these languages are Dx heads, then the pronoun can be analyzed as the D/idxP.
The evidence for the incompatibility of exophoric and anaphoric reference is clearer, particularly when we look at Marka-Dafing. In exophoric contexts, Marka-Dafing makes use of a distinct demonstrative determiner míi which occurs in the DP-final head position and is restricted to pointing, or exophoric, reference:
- ‘this/that dog’ (pointing)
There is good evidence that míi is a D head, as not only is it DP-final but it is in complementary distribution with definite = ú:
- *wúrú = !ú
- dog = the
The puzzle is just that, despite occurring in different syntactic positions, deictic míi and anaphoric wó cannot co-occur:
Simple syntactic and semantic explanations for the ungrammaticality of (69) fail. Syntactically, wó and míi occupy different positions: wó is in [Spec, DP], while míi is a D head. In both a general pragmatic as well as in purely logical terms, the meanings of the two demonstrative elements are compatible: there is no reason that a speaker could not be pointing at some dog, satisfying the exophoric requirement of míi, and that the same dog could also be an established discourse referent, satisfying the anaphoric requirement of wó.
The simple theory of indexed definiteness described above, however, provides a natural account for this restriction. Suppose exophoric indexed definite míi always contains a phonologically null idxP in its specifier position, restricted to the individual being pointed at by the speaker. Call this specifier idx:exo. Because indexed definites only have a single specifier, wó is blocked by idx:exo, which is required in the context of míi.
Other languages in the literature where exophoric and anaphoric demonstratives both exist show the same restriction. For example, in Limbum (Grassfields Bantu, Becker 2018, which has an anaphoric article and an exophoric demonstrative pronoun (the opposite of Dafing), the two elements also cannot co-occur:
- / *fɔ̄
- ‘Do you know that woman over there? (pointing)’ Becker (2018: p. 49)
Another illustration of the Single Index Constraint comes from Korean. Korean has three demonstrative determiners, two of which are strictly exophoric and one of which is strictly anaphoric Ahn (2017). Unlike in Marka-Dafing and Limbum, such demonstratives are in paradigmatic opposition as D heads (Chang 2009), and again are blocked from co-occurring.27
It is possible to demonstrate the effect of the Single Index Constraint in English, lending support to the idea that it is a universal constraint. However, its effect is apparent not in terms of the incompatibility of distinct demonstratives, but rather in restricting that, which generally is capable of both anaphoric and exophoric reference, to pick just one of these deictic restrictions. To see that this restriction holds, one needs to set up an context where anaphoric reference is felicitous, and then to point at an referent with an exophoric demonstrative. Assuming a bias towards the immediate context, i.e., pointing, it should be impossible for the individual being pointed at and the one being referred to anaphorically to be the same individual. This kind of setup is illustrated in the following example, adapted from Wolter (2007: ex. 11, p. 612):
- [You are telling me about Mary.] “Mary has been telling me that she thinks that there has been a dog digging up her flower beds.” [Then Barky the dog wanders in.] “In fact, she thinks that that dog [pointing at Barky] ruined her garden.”
In this discourse the two dogs—Barky and the one Mary believes to have ruined her garden—cannot be the same, although context would seem to strongly prefer such an interpretation. Somehow the final sentence still feels like a non sequitur; to get the intended interpretation, the presupposition cleft that is the dog that ruined her garden would be necessary. The restriction observed above follows from the Single Index Constraint, exactly as in Marka-Dafing: the exophoric use of the demonstrative in the final sentence blocks an anaphoric interpretation.28
In the following example the effect of the Single Index Constraint is perhaps even clearer:
- Context: A couple minutes ago, a creepy guy walks into the room and hides behind a large potted plant. You walk in, and I tell you in confidence:
- Watch out! [A creepy dude]1 walked into the room a couple minutes ago.
- [That man/he]1 is [that man]2 (pointing).
- *[That man]1,2 (pointing) is really creepy.
(72a) can felicitously be followed by (72b), where the subject is an anaphoric definite and the object is exophoric, each making use of separate (restrictions on) indices. The demonstrative subject of (72c) attempts to utilize simultaneous anaphoric and exophoric reference, but as long as the speaker is pointing to the man behind the pot, the sentence again feels non sequitur in the context of (72a): there must be two creepy men in the room. This effect follows in English if simultaneous anaphoric and exophoric features indices are not allowed. This restriction likely follows because exophoric indices serve to establish reference, hence are new, whereas anaphoric indices must be part of the context. But crucially, only one index is allowed per DP.
This paper has argued that indexed definites are definite noun phrases which contain a specifier which is a projection of an idx head, interpreted as a variable. This category defines the class of pronominal elements in language, including demonstratives, which can occur in [Spec, DP], or more generally occur as anaphoric elements. Plain definiteness in contrast only conveys uniqueness, and need not be referential, allowing covariation by situation as well as predicative readings.
It seems likely that correlates of indexed definiteness should occur in every language, particularly as demonstratives have been claimed to be a universal of human language (Diessel 1999; Diessel & Coventry 2020). On the other hand, it seems unlikely that plain definiteness is a universal of human language. That is, not all languages have ways of marking uniqueness. This is particularly clear for languages where putative definiteness correspond to bare nouns, such as Russian or Mandarin. Recently, Šimík & Demian (2020) have shown that uniqueness and maximality effects are not detectable in Russian. In addition, indices might also be extended to referential uses of demonstratives in some indefinite contexts (Ionin 2006; Šimík 2016). So the class of referential expressions this paper has attempted to characterize as indexed definiteness might actually just be a slightly more general category of indexed referentiality, which would stand in opposition to a larger class of non-indexed, not-necessarily-referential noun phrases, which include plain definites and bare nouns.
Finally, returning to the theme of the introduction, referential indices do seem to play a central role in the structure and meaning of certain noun phrases contrary to the expectations of Chomsky (1995). However, the fact that indices occur only some of the time, and in particular that they seem to be absent on plain definites, indicates that the standard generative approach to indexing all potentially referential noun phrases is likely not the right model of grammar. Yet it remains to be seen what role, if any, indices may play in the traditional domain of (co-)indexation and binding.
1 = first person, 2 = second person, 3 = third person, ana = anaphoric, art = article, clf = numeral classifier, def = definite, dem = demonstrative, exo = exophoric, dist = distal, idx = index, imp = imperative, inf = infinitive, mod = modification marker, neg = negation, nom = nominative case, pl = plural, pfv = perfective, poss = possessive, pres = present tense, q = question sg = singular
- Though see Bombi (2018) for a reassessment. [^]
- See also Ahn (2019); Maroney (2021) for recent refinements of this typology, as well as discussion of bare noun languages which do not make such a distinction. [^]
- To simplify some of the discussion below we will assume that English that is unmarked for [±prox], and achieves its distal effect pragmatically, by competition with this. [^]
- A connection can be made between the category-neutral distribution of idx features and the the category neutral distribution of Aʹ-features such as [Topic], [Focus], and [Wh]. However, idx and Aʹ features should not be conflated; instead, Aʹ-features seem to ‘live’ on idx projections. See Leffel et al. (2014) for an index-based analysis of Basaá focus and contrastive topic, Romero & Meertens (2022) for a focus index-based analysis of Sinhala Q-particles, and Šimík (2021a) for a more general framework. Another connection between Aʹ features and idx is that pronouns include wh-phrases, topic-oriented null pronouns (Huang 1982; Sigurðson 2011), and focused bound pronouns (Sauerland 2000; Mayr 2012), all of which could be seen as Aʹ sub-features on an idx head. [^]
- This system is similar in many ways to Ahn (2019), especially in treating the variable as an argument of idx, and in treating idxP as a specifier of DP. There are several differences as well: Ahn does not analyze pronouns as idxPs, and ϕ-features for her are located between DP and NP. In addition, Ahn proposes that idxP is of type ⟨e,e⟩, and is hence able to combine with any referential noun phrase, as discussed below. [^]
- These lexical entries are simplified, and ignore for example the extent to which these features should be seen as binary or privative (Bobaljik 2008; Harbour 2016), whether the referent of the index has a contextually supplied relation to the DP referent (Elbourne 2008; Šimík 2016), and whether all of the relevant presuppositions, for example of person and gender, are of the same kind (Sudo 2012). [^]
- Some citations include Geach 1962; Karttunen 1969; Partee 1970; 1975; Evans 1977; Chierchia 1995; Elbourne 2001; 2005 and Recanati 2005. The term “descriptive pronoun” is used by (at least) Recanati. [^]
An alternative analysis of descriptive pronouns is as hidden functions or relations, pragmatically supplied, that derive descriptive behaviors Cooper (1979); Engdahl (1986); Chierchia (1995); Jacobson (2000; 2012). Under such a view, he in (12) might be analyzed as a variable with a concealed ‘president’ function from situations to unique presidents, of type ⟨s,e⟩; Recanati (2005) argues that in cases similar to (12), deixis is to a particular contextually salient ‘role’. an example of such an analysis is given below:
- ⟦he4⟧g,c = λs.R4(s), where g(R4) = λsʹ.ιx.President(x,sʹ)
- In many languages with null pronouns, additional non-pronominal readings are available which seem to necessitate NP-ellipsis in addition to the need for null pronouns which allow sloppy readings (Saito et al. 2008; Li 2014). We set such cases aside. [^]
- From http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/appalachianenglish/node/796, accessed February 14, 2021. [^]
- From https://social.shorthand.com/SCSYXL/nyS4prnNJ3/texas-secession-2020, accessed February 14, 2021. [^]
- A reviewer points out that the availability of expressions like this man here or we children here—possible in many varieties of English—is problematic for the idea that the reinforcer and demonstrative form a constituent. Such cases must involve extraposition of the locative PP reinforcer away from the demonstrative pronoun. This idea is appealing as extraposition of phrasal modifiers is obligatory in many varieties of English (e.g. Sheehan 2017). Supporting evidence for the extraposition analysis comes from the independent availability of this here (‘This here is cool!’) and ‘we here’ (‘We here are hungry!’) with no intervening noun. [^]
- Roberts (2017) discusses several languages where demonstratives do not raise to [Spec, DP]. Whether such languages are compatible with the ideas presented here is unclear. [^]
- See Hanink 2018 for a detailed analysis of contraction blocking which is consistent with the proposal that the index is below DP. [^]
- The availability of a null D/idxP might also provide an account of the apparent ambiguity of English definite articles between plain and anaphoric uses. Another perspective would be to simply claim that English lacks an anaphoric definite altogether, and that uniqueness suffices in some anaphoric contexts because of the lack of any pragmatic motivation for using a demonstrative. See Ahn (2019) for a theory of competition between anaphoric forms with this general shape. [^]
- Not all pronouns have all three uses. English it, for example, cannot be used exophorically. ‘It’, then, must be a weak pronoun in English, licensed by ellipsis, as in the discussion in Section 3, consistent with its felicity as a descriptive pronoun. [^]
- Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out. [^]
- The names Marka and Dafing reflect distinct ethnic identities within the Marka-Dafing speaking community. [^]
- The data in this paper represent the speech and intuitions of the second author, working collaboratively with the first author for a five-year period from 2016–2021. Marka-Dafing is the second author’s primary language, and is spoken at home with her family, along with Dyula. Marka-Dafing is also the language of her ancestral village which she visits regularly. The second author was actively using this language in Burkina Faso during various stages of the collaboration. Nevertheless, it is an acknowledged limitation of these data that they are primarily based on the judgments of a single native speaker. [^]
- Diallo (1988: p. 151–153) notes that there is a demonstrative ó in the Zaba dialect of Marka-Daing, with the same distribution as Safané wó, and which contrasts with an exophoric ɲí, equivalent to Safané mín. Diallo focuses on the syntactic distribution and phonological behaviour of ó, rather than its semantics. [^]
- Bombi (2018) reports very similar observations for the demonstrative+article combination in Akan from example (19), showing that the article previously claimed by Arkoh & Matthewson (2013) to be an anaphoric definite article may in fact be a plain definite (in the terms of this paper). Interestingly, Akan is a language where there is an additional alternation between a plain definite article and the possibility of a bare noun, which is impossible in Marka-Dafing. [^]
- Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this additional test. [^]
- This is essentially an attempt to use wó in a context similar to what was labeled telescoping by Roberts (1987). See Neale (1990) for an analysis of such cases as unique definites; unsuprisingly such cases are incompatible with anaphoric definiteness. [^]
- This kind of contrast holds for null versus overt pronouns in many Romance languages as well Montalbetti (1984), where only null subjects can function as bound variables. [^]
- The possible semantic content of demonstratives across languages is quite rich. For example, Malagasy demonstratives encode a visibility distinction (Paul 2009). Such demonstrative content could be encoded as additional presuppositions on the denotation of the index as proposed above. [^]
- This constraint does not apply to cases where both DP and NP contain separate indices, for example in expressions such as that2 one3, where one3 is discourse anaphoric to an NP antecedent. [^]
- These could also be D/idxPs; Chang’s main argument comes from the compatibility of these demonstrative determiners with possessives, which are taken to occupy [Spec, DP]. But possessives co-occur with demonstratives in many languages, and there is no clear relationship between possession and definiteness across languages (Haspelmath 1999; Alexiadou 2005). [^]
- Wolter’s paper is a response to King (2001), who argues for a quantificational analysis of demonstratives. Wolter’s account of this distinction relies on the situation variable which restricts the domain of the demonstrative: Wolter claims situation variables introduced by demonstratives must take sentence-level scope. In the theory outlined in this paper, following Nunberg (1993); Elbourne (2008), sentence-level scope follows from the index itself. [^]
The first author (Peter Jenks) contributed the theoretical proposal, the analysis of the data, and wrote the paper. The second author (Rassidatou Konate) contributed the Marka-Dafing data and the complex semantic judgments related to it. Thanks to Carla Bombi, Elizabeth Coppock, Justin Royer, and Radek Šimík for discussion, as well as audiences at UC Berkeley, Cornell, McGill, and the workshop on “Sorting out the Concepts Behind Definiteness” at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft 2019, organized by Carla Bombi and Radek Šimík. All errors of judgment, math, theory, transcription, are the sole responsibility of the first author.
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
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