Talk: Anaphor backward binding in German

It has long been observed that in many languages, experiencer objects can bind into the subject, thus seemingly violating Binding Condition A:

Pictures of [each other]i annoy [the politicians]i .
(Pesetsky 1987)

Since Belletti and Rizzi’s (1988) influential analysis, such cases of backward binding are widely assumed to be evidence for the fact that experiencer objects are generated in a position higher than the subject, thus c-commanding the anaphor as required by Condition A.

So far, there has been consensus in the literature that German does not allow for backward binding. I will present new experimental evidence challenging this view: Speakers judge sentences involving a) anaphors embedded in subject position and b) antecedents in object position as significantly more acceptable if those sentences contain EO psych verbs, offering evidence that backward binding is indeed possible in German.

However, if backward-bound anaphors are in fact locally bound, this raises the question why such sentences in German are of only intermediate acceptability and are rejected by a subset of speakers. I discuss the hypothesis that backward binding might incur additional processing costs, compare backward binding and backward coreference and propose some directions future psycholinguistic research might take.


Belletti, Adriana, and Luigi Rizzi. 1988. Psych-Verbs and θ-Theory. Natural language and linguistic theory 6(3): 291–352.
Pesetsky, David. 1987. Binding Problem with Experiencer Verbs. Linguistic Inquiry 18(1): 126–140.


Day: 2020-11-21
Start time: 19:15
Duration: 00:30
Room: Agathe Lasch
Track: Theoretical Linguistics
Language: en



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