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5.2.2.4. Binding of referential possessive pronouns
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This section briefly discusses the binding properties of the referential possessive pronouns. The binding behavior of these pronouns has received much less attention in the literature than that of the referential personal pronouns, which may be due to the fact that the distinction between referential and reflexive personal pronouns is not found with possessive pronouns: whereas the personal pronouns hem and zichzelf differ with respect to the domain in which they can be bound (cf. Section 5.2.1.5, sub III), zijn can be bound by all c-commanding antecedents.

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[+]  I.  The binding domain

As was illustrated in Section 5.2.2.1, sub IV, the possessive pronouns differ from the personal pronouns in allowing an antecedent in the same clause. This is shown again by means of the examples in (434): whereas the third person feminine possessive pronoun haar'her' in (434a) can be interpreted as coreferential with the subject of its minimal clause, this is impossible for the referential personal pronoun haar in (434b); in that example the intended coreferential reading can only be expressed by means of the reflexive personal pronoun zichzelf'herself'. In the examples below, coreference is indicated by italics.

Example 434
a. Marie heeft haar auto verkocht.
  Marie  has  her car  sold
  'Marie has sold her car.'
b. Marie heeft zichzelf/*haar op televisie gezien.
  Marie  has  herself/her  on television  seen
  'Marie saw herself on television.'

The referential possessive pronouns differ from the reflexive pronouns, however, in not requiring an antecedent in the same clause. This will become clear by comparing the two examples in (435).

Example 435
a. Marie zegt dat Peter haar auto gekocht heeft.
  Marie  says  that  Peter  her car  bought  has
  'Marie says that Peter has sold her car.'
b. Marie denkt dat ik haar/*zichzelf op televisie gezien heb.
  Marie  thinks  that  her/herself  on television  seen  have
  'Marie thinks that I saw her on television.'

In fact, the examples in (436) show that the referential possessive, like the personal pronoun, need not have an antecedent within the sentence at all, but can also be used anaphorically, in which case it refers to some active topic in the discourse, or deictically, in which case the referent of the pronoun is present in the situation in which the sentence is uttered.

Example 436
a. Heb je haar boek meegenomen?
Anaphoric: disourse topic
  have  you  her book  prt.-taken
  'Did you bring her book?'
b. Het is allemaal haar schuld.
Deictic: speaker pointing at someone
  it  is  all  her  fault

      The binding properties of the third person pronouns do not change if we substitute the weak form for the strong form: the pronoun can then still be bound in its minimal clause, as in (434a), or remain free in it, as in (435a) and (436a). This is different, however, with the strong and weak form of the plural second person possessive pronoun, jullie and je, which do have different binding properties. The weak form is special in that it can only be used if an antecedent can be found in its minimal clause, as in (437a); if the personal and possessive pronoun are adjacent, as in (437b), the use of the weak form is even strongly preferred, which may be due to the fact that this avoids the repetition of two homophonous words.

Example 437
a. Peter zegt dat jullie volgende week je/jullie auto verkopen.
  Peter says  that  youpl  next week  yourpl car  sell
  'Peter says that you will sell your car next week.'
b. Peter zegt dat jullie je/??jullie auto verkopen.
  Peter says  that  youpl  yourpl car  sell
  'Peter says that youʼll sell your car.'

However, if the pronoun does not have an antecedent in its minimal clause, that is, if the antecedent is in a matrix clause or not expressed within the sentence, as in (438), the use of the weak plural pronoun je gives rise to severely degraded results. Since, to our knowledge, this has not yet been extensively discussed in the literature, we will not digress on this issue any further.

Example 438
a. Jullie vertelden me gisteren dat Peter jullie/*?je auto wil kopen.
  youpl  told  me  yesterday  that  Peter yourpl  car  want  buy
  'Youpl told me yesterday that Peter wants to buy yourpl car.'
b. Peter wil jullie/*?je auto kopen.
  Peter wants  yourpl  car  buy
  'Peter wants to buy yourpl car.'
[+]  II.  Generic and universally quantified antecedents

Just like third person personal pronouns, third person possessive pronouns have special properties with regard to their antecedent. We start with a discussion of zijn'his', which can take the indefinite/generic pronoun men'one' as its antecedent. This is followed by a discussion of third person possessive pronouns that take a quantified or generic antecedent. We will show that the behavior of these third person possessive pronouns is essentially identical to that of the reflexive personal pronoun zichzelf'himself' if the antecedent is in the same clause, and to that of the personal pronoun hem'him' in the remaining cases.

[+]  A.  The indefinite/generic pronoun men

Example (439a) shows that the singular third person possessive pronoun zijn/zʼn'his' can take the indefinite/generic personal pronoun men'one' as its antecedent. This requires, however, that the antecedent of the possessive pronoun be in the same clause; if it is more deeply embedded, as in (439b), the possessive pronoun can only refer to a contextually determined referent. Note that the translation in (439b) is the intended interpretation, and not the actual one with zijn referring to some contextually determined person.

Example 439
a. Men moet zijn ouders eren.
  one  must his parents  honor
  'One has to honor his parents.'
b. * Men is hier zeer gastvrij, zodat je altijd in zijn huis kan slapen.
  one  is here  very hospitable  so that  you  always  in his house  can  sleep
  'People are very hospitable here, so that you can always sleep in their house.'

We can observe that the possessive pronouns behave in a way similar to the reflexive and personal pronouns in this respect. The reflexive pronoun zich(zelf) in (440a) must have an antecedent in its own clause, and men is possible as an antecedent. The personal pronoun hij'he' in (440b), on the other hand, cannot take an antecedent in its own clause, and men is not possible as an antecedent; (440b) is only acceptable if hij'he' refers to a contextually determined referent. The translation in (440b) is the intended interpretation, and not the actual one with hij referring to some contextually determined person.

Example 440
a. Men moet zich(zelf) goed verzorgen.
  one  must  himself  well  look after
  'One must look well after oneself.'
b. * Men is hier zeer gastvrij, zodat hij je graag zal ontvangen.
  one  is here  very hospitable  so that  he  you  gladly  will  receive
  'People are very hospitable here, so that they will gladly receive you.'
[+]  B.  Universally quantified antecedents

The examples in (441) show that if the antecedent of the personal pronoun is quantified, a third person referential possessive pronoun is used. In what follows we will focus on the cases with a universally quantified antecedent.

Example 441
a. Er is iemand met zijn huiswerk bezig.
  there  is someone  with his homework  busy
  'There is someone working on his homework.'
b. Iedereen/Iedere leerling is met zijn huiswerk bezig.
  everyone/every pupil  is with his homework  busy
  'Everyone/Every pupil is working on his homework.'

If the antecedent is universally quantified, the number of the possessive pronoun depends on the syntactic relation between the pronoun and its antecedent. If the antecedent is the subject of the clause, and the possessive pronoun is part of a noun phrase in the same clause, as in (442a), the possessive pronoun is singular. The same thing holds if the noun phrase containing the possessive pronoun is more deeply embedded, as in (442b). However, if the antecedent and the possessive pronoun are not part of the same sentence, as in (442c), the plural pronoun must be used. The examples contain the universally quantified personal pronoun iedereen, but the same results arise if a universally quantified noun phrase like iedere leerling'every pupil' is used.

Example 442
a. Iedereen moet zijn/*hun huiswerk maken.
  everyone  must  his/their homework  make
  'Everyone has to do his homework.'
b. Iedereen denkt dat zijn/*hun leraar te veel huiswerk geeft.
  everyone  thinks  that  his/their teacher  too much homework  gives
  'Everyone thinks that his teacher gives too much homework.'
c. Iedereen had een huisdier mee naar school genomen. Hun/*Zijn leraar vertelde iets over elk dier.
  everyone  had a pet  prt.  to school  taken their/his teacher  told  something  about each animal
  'Every pupil brought a pet to school.'
  'Their/His teacher told something about each animal.'

The examples in (442) show that singular agreement requires that the pronoun be bound, hence c-commanded, by the quantified antecedent. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the examples in (442a&b) receive the so-called bound variable reading, in which the possessive pronoun acts as a variable bound by the universal operator expressed by the quantifier; example (442a), for example, has the interpretation that for each person x in domain D, it holds that x must do xʼs homework. In (442c), on the other hand, the personal pronoun refers to the relevant entities as a group. In Section 5.2.1.1, sub IIC, we saw that similar observations could be made with the personal pronouns. We illustrate this here again by means of the examples in (443); since referential personal pronouns cannot have an antecedent in their own clause, we have used the reflexive pronoun zichzelf in (443a).

Example 443
a. Iedereen moet zichzelf voorstellen.
  everyone  must  himself  introduce
  'Everyone must introduce himself.'
b. Iedereen denkt dat hij te veel huiswerk heeft.
  everyone  thinks  that  he  too much homework  has
  'Everyone thinks that he has too much homework.'
c. Iedereen had een huisdier mee naar school genomen. Zij lieten/*Hij liet het allemaal aan de leraar zien.
  everyone  had a pet  prt.  to school  taken they let/he let  it  all  to the teacher  see
  'Everyone brought a pet to school.'
  'They all showed it to the teacher.'
[+]  C.  Generic antecedents

Since generically used noun phrases also express a kind of universal quantification (cf. Section 5.1.1.5), we might expect that the number features of personal pronouns referring to such noun phrases also depend on the syntactic context. This expectation is, however, not borne out. The number of the possessive pronoun is fully determined by the syntactic number of the generic noun phrase.

Example 444
a. Een leeuw jaagt ʼs nachts op zijn prooi.
  a lion  hunts  at night  at his prey
b. Leeuwen jagen ʼs nachts op hun prooi.
  lions  hunt  at night  at their prey
c. De leeuw jaagt ʼs nachts op zijn prooi.
  the lion  hunts  at night  at its prey
Example 445
a. Een leeuw is een vervaarlijk jager. Zijn prooi is machteloos tegen zijn klauwen.
  a lion  is a frightful hunter  his prey  is defenseless against his claws
b. Leeuwen zijn vervaarlijke jagers. Hun prooi is machteloos tegen hun klauwen.
  lions  are frightful hunters  their prey is defenseless against their claws
c. De leeuw is een vervaarlijk jager. Zijn prooi is machteloos tegen zijn klauwen.
  the lion  is a frightful hunter  his prey  is defenseless against his claws

The examples in (446) show that the personal pronouns behave in a similar way.

Example 446
a. Een leeuw is een vervaarlijk jager. Hij ligt in een hinderlaag en ...
  a lion  is a frightful hunter  he lies in an ambush and
b. Leeuwen zijn vervaarlijke jagers. Zij liggen in een hinderlaag en ...
  lions  are  frightful hunters  they lie in an ambush and
c. De leeuw is een vervaarlijk jager. Hij ligt in een hinderlaag en ...
  the lion  is a frightful hunter  he lies in an ambush and
[+]  III.  A note on the modifier eigen'own'

In some cases, bound possessive pronouns can be modified by the element eigen. Consider the examples in (447): the addition of eigen to the bound pronoun zijn leads to a weird result in (447a&b), whereas the addition is fully acceptable in (447c). This seems to be related to the interpretation of these examples when eigen is absent: examples (447a&b) without eigen must be construed with the noun phrase acting as the possessor of the body parts mentioned in the PPs, whereas (447b) is ambiguous between this reading and a reading in which it is a body part of some other person. Unstressed eigen can be used to disambiguate the latter example.

Example 447
a. Marie trok Jan een haar uit zijn (*eigen) baard.
  Marie pulled  Jan a hair  out.of  his     own  beard
b. Jan klapte enthousiast in zijn (*eigen) handen.
  Jan clapped  enthusiastically  in her own hands
b. Jan deed zalf op zijn (eigen) neus.
  Jan  put  ointment  on his own nose

Nevertheless, it seems impossible to fully account for the insertion of eigen by appealing to the desire to avoid ambiguity; the examples in (448) are both unambiguous without eigen, but still a contrast similar to that found in (447) can be observed. Perhaps the difference is related to the fact that the PP in (448a) can be left implicit, whereas the one in (448b) cannot.

Example 448
a. Ik klapte enthousiast in mijn (*eigen) handen.
  clapped  enthusiastically  in my own hands
b. Ik deed zalf op mijn (eigen) neus.
  put  ointment  on my own nose

Occasionally, eigen can even be used to make a reading available that is not available without it. In example (449a), for example, the possessive pronoun is normally interpreted not as referring to the subject of the clause, but to some other person in domain D. The addition of unstressed eigen blocks this reading in favor of a reading in which the subject of the clause does act as the antecedent of the possessive pronoun.

Example 449
a. Jani is zijnj/*i arts.
  Jan  is his  physician
b. Jani is zijni/*j eigen arts.
  Jan  is his  own physician
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