I came across the following contrast while I was studying English syntax about binding theory.

  1. John's[1] mother is proud of his[1] achievements.
  2. *Every boy's[1] teacher is proud of his[1] achievements.

In 1) the possessive pronoun can be coindexed with the antecedent John. However, it is ungrammatical to coindex the antecedent 'every boy' with the possessive pronoun 'his' in sentence 2). Could anyone explain the grammricality of 1) and ungrammaticality of 2) in terms of the binding theory?

  • 5
    I can’t explain the ungrammaticality of 2, because to me it’s perfectly grammatical. I don’t see what the problem with it is supposed to be. It’s ambiguous, of course, since ‘his’ could just as well be coindexed with the teacher himself, but that doesn’t make it ungrammatical. (As a question, it’s also off-topic here, but it would be perfectly on-topic on English Language & Usage.) Aug 4 '21 at 8:55
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    I agree with @JanusBahsJacquet — it’s grammatical for me also.
    – bradrn
    Aug 4 '21 at 10:01
  • I really appreciate your valuable answer. This question was part of a syntax question in an exam. Aug 4 '21 at 11:10
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    The question is asking about the linguistic explanation for the alleged ungrammatically in terms of a specific syntactic theory, not just whether or not the sentence is grammatical in English, and therefore fits perfectly well on this site.
    – lemontree
    Aug 4 '21 at 12:44
  • It's not ungrammatical. It (and sentences like it) appear in grammar books because they're ambiguous, in ways we can explain by the use of quantifiers like every. If it's marked as ungrammatical, check to see whether it's only ungrammatical under a specific reading.
    – jlawler
    Aug 4 '21 at 21:16

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