In the sentence

John(i) wanted to buy himself(i) a pair of shoes.

With (i) to mark co-indexation.

Is the anaphor "himself" bound in its binding domain? Or is the binder in a separate domain meaning that Principle A has been violated?

Does the infinitive "to" marks a separate clause and thus a separate binding domain?

2 Answers 2


I'd personally say "no," for a few reasons. The first, if you take the idea that it is a different binding domain, and try to see if it could fit with principal B, then "John(i) wanted to buy him(i) a new pair of shoes" would be possible, but it isn't.

The "want" in here is a "control verb" - a verb that has the same actor for both the matrix and subordinate clause, and so if you take that analysis, there is an implied (or moved) John also in the subordinate clause.

Also compare with "John(i) wants Joe(j) to buy him(i) a pair of shoes" vs. "John(i) wants Joe(j) to buy himself(j) a pair of shoes" - with an explicit agent different from the matrix clause's.

  • You didn't mention that "want" is a catenative verb and the infinitival clause "to buy himself a pair of shoes" is its catenative complement.
    – BillJ
    Dec 7, 2019 at 18:34
  • 1
    Are catenative verbs and complements part of Binding Theory?
    – jlawler
    Dec 15, 2019 at 20:18

They are in the same domain: The phrase "to buy himself(i) a pair of shoes" is not a full clause (it has no subject and no tense/finiteness), which you could introduce by a word like "that". Such would stand in C (or S), which is considered a clause boundary. Here, it is assumed that there is no such CP, just the matrix verb subordinating the "to..." TP.

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