Bound variable pronoun

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A bound variable pronoun is one which has a quantified determiner phrase (DP) as its antecedent.[1]

Bound variable pronouns in English[edit]

An example of the use of a bound variable pronoun in English is given by Steven Pinker in The Language Instinct:[2]

  • "Everyone returned to their seats."

Here "everyone" is not an antecedent referring to a specific person but a quantifier, and "they" (appropriately inflected) is not a normal pronoun referring to an antecedent but the equivalent of a bound variable. The sentence corresponds to

  • "For all X, X returned to X's seat."

Another example given by Pinker is:[2]

  • "Mary saw everyone before John noticed them."

which makes it even clearer that "they" does not refer to an antecedent in the same way as a pronoun does when it refers to a specific person, as is shown if one tries to replace "them" by "him".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hendrick (2005): 103
  2. ^ a b Pinker, Steven (1995) [1994]. The Language Instinct. Penguin. pp. 378–379. ISBN 0-14-017529-6.