Binding rules & pronouns

Binding rules

Every quantified expression, that is, every determiner phrase whose head isn't , binds a variable. Determiner phrases can optionally be followed by a relative clause, which acts as a restrictor on the domain of the quantifier. When binding a variable this way, the verb following the quantifier becomes the name of the variable. Relative clauses are not part of variable names.

A bound variable can be accessed within the scope of its quantifier in two ways:
by repeating the name of the variable verbatim in the tone
by using a pronoun that shares the variable's pronominal class (see below).

Every variable is bound. If a variable is not bound explicitly (by a determiner phrase), then it is treated as having been bound exophorically, i.e., by the current context, the shared knowledge or cultural background of the interlocutors, or similar.

For the purpose of determining the scope of a variable, the following rule applies:

Every quantified expression is bound in the clause it is in.

This means that if a quantified expression appears in a subordinate clause, it is bound in that clause, and not in the matrix clause.

Here, sa ảrane binds a variable named ảrane, which is reused in the subordinate clause via árane in the tone.


There are two types of pronominals:

Personal pronouns, which do not act as anaphors
Anaphoric pronouns, which do. These are automatically bound whenever a predicate is bound by a quantifier. Which pronoun is bound by a given predicate depends on the predicate’s pronominal class (also “animacy class”, although most of the classes have little to do with animacy)

Pronouns carry the tone by default. When a different tone is used on them, this invokes a covert jeı:

Example: jỉ = + jeı jí

The following table contains the personal pronouns:

Person Pronouns
2 súq
3 nháo
1+2 múy
1+3 míy
2+3 súo
1+2+3 máy

Pronominal classes

Class Pronoun Example
sa pỏq
máq sa jỉo
hóq sa sỉo
sa dẻ
( clauses)
róu dûa jí sıa rảı
kúy lú tảo jí hóa
pó sa gỉ
(Personal pronouns)
fúy nháo

Class I (Animate) includes words referring to living organisms, and words describing actions, i.e. things which living organisms can “do”).

Classes II (Inanimate tangible) and III (Abstract / Intangible) should be self-explanatory.

Class IV (Adjectives) consists of adjectives and similar words which can apply to anything and are therefore not able to be classified as any of the first three classes.

Classes V to VII are tied to specific parts of speech which would otherwise be difficult to repeat.

Classes VIII and IX exist because each occurrence of a personal pronoun or demonstrative can (and often does) have a different referent, even within a single sentence. The dedicated pronouns can be used to access the previously pointed-to referent(s).

Grammatical animacy

The pronominal classes are a system of grammatical animacy, not natural animacy (cf. grammatical gender vs natural gender). Which class something belongs to depends not on the nature of the referent of an expression but on the grammatical animacy class of the expression itself. The Companion Cube in the game Portal would use an inanimate pronominal if bound to the word for “cube”, and an animate pronominal if referred to as “the friend”. Pronominal classes are a lexical feature.


Reflexives and reciprocals

In addition to the personal pronouns and anaphoric pronouns, Toaq has two special pronouns that express reflexivity and reciprocity.

Reflexive Reciprocal
áq chéq

The pronoun áq must be used when it is available. Anaphoric pronouns cannot access variables that can be accessed by áq. Instead, they skip to the next available variable.

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