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Abstract

This paper investigates hitherto unnoticed variation in the linguistic coding of spatial anaphora in locative PPs in Hungarian. While Hungarian primarily employs reflexives in these configurations, it is well-known that pronouns are the default strategy in English, and the reflexive anaphor is allowed in locative PPs only in the presence of certain licensing factors. One such factor is the availability of body-oriented readings (Rooryck & Vanden Wyngaerd 2007, 2011), and we argue here that this plays an important role in Hungarian, too. The paper reports the findings of a corpus study and an online questionnaire study and shows that pronouns are not only acceptable in Hungarian spatial anaphora, but either outperform or form a viable alternative to reflexives when the location denoted by the PP is not close to the referent of the antecedent. A secondary effect of structure building is also observable in two configurations of the extended PP. We argue that the employment of a possessive structure in certain PPs, and moving a P-element to a CPPP cap may also contribute to saving pronouns in contexts of spatial anaphora.

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In a number of languages, children have problems with the interpretation of pronouns if a potential local antecedent is present. There is an intensive debate on whether this effect is due to a delayed acquisition of Principle B, or it is the result of pragmatic or processing difficulties that children face in interpretation tasks. We conducted two experiments involving a picture-sentence verification task to investigate whether the Pronoun Interpretation Problem exists in Hungarian child language. We found that the Problem is present if the test sentences are given in isolation, but it disappears if a minimally coherent discourse is created. We argue that our results support the view that the binding principles are innate and do not need to be acquired, but children have problems with computing coreference options in certain contexts (Reinhart 2004; 2006; 2011). Coherent discourse allows children to accommodate pronouns with close to adult-like success because in this case they do not calculate local coreference possibilities for pronouns.

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