The Syntax of (In)dependence

From Linguistic Inquiry Monographs

The Syntax of (In)dependence

By Kenneth J. Safir





One of the most important discoveries of modern linguistic theory is that abstract structural properties of utterances place subtle restrictions on how we can use a given form or description. For the past thirty years, these restrictions have been explored for possible clues to the exact nature of the structural properties in question. In The Syntax of (In)dependence Ken Safir explores these structural properties and develops a theory of dependent identity interpretations that also leads to new empirical generalizations. These generalizations range across a wide class of empirical phenomena, including the distribution of crossover effects, bound variables in ellipsis, functional answers to questions, resumptive pronoun constructions, (anti-) reconstruction effects, and proxy readings. Safir approaches these interpretive issues from the perspective that the structural properties of all natural languages reflect an innate linguistic capacity, as embodied in Universal Grammar (UG). This monograph explores the way a particular syntactic restriction imposed by UG limits the range of dependent identity interpretations that a sentence can have and hence the range of possible entailments it can have on the basis of these anaphoric interpretations. Although certain of these interpretations may be favored by manipulating a discourse, the work focuses on interpretive restrictions that cannot be repaired by discourse accommodation. More specifically, Safir's main proposal is dependent identity interpretations are restricted by a c-command prohibition and not by a c-command licensing condition—that c-command does not license dependencies but plays a role in ruling them out. Although cross-linguisitic discussion in the main text is very limited, Safir adds an appendix on scrambling and reconstruction that focuses on scrambling in Hindi.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262195003 206 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262693004 206 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • The Syntax of (In)dependence is a very impressive piece of work, offering a fresh and illuminating perspective on many of the central problems in the theory of anaphora and variable binding. It provides a good summary of the relevant literature over the past twenty-five years and moves beyond that literature with a comprehensive and compelling new approach. Scholars who have worked on these problems will find much that is new here, including a few vigorous challenges to some long-held factual generalizations. Students encountering these issues for the first time will find this a challenging but definitely rewarding read, and a good entree into the field.

    Tim Stowell

    Department of Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles

  • The Syntax of (In)dependence is an extraordinarily careful and thoroughly argued view of pronominal anaphora, attentive to all of the major lines of research over the past thirty-five years or so. The author is scrupulous about the data, and equally scrupulous in his discussions and criticisms of these approaches. Work at this level of both detail and theory is valuable and rare, and crucial for further progress in the subject.

    James Higginbotham

    University of Southern California