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Auteur: Regine ECKARDT

Speaker Commentary Items

Abstract/Résumé: I investigate expressions like German ja, doch, leider or English alas, subjective epistemic modals etc. which I call Speaker Commentary Items (SCI). SCIs are characterized by specific semantic and embedding properties. (a) They express commentaries by the speaker. It’s raining, alas! (speaker’s regret) (b) In passages of indirect speech they are oriented towards the speaker of indirect speech. (c)They are not acceptable in hypothetical clauses (if, in case that…) or other quantificational subordinate clauses (always when… ). (d) In the main clause of complex sentences like conditionals, they take scope over the whole proposition expressed. (c) and (d) together seem to suggest that SCIs are excluded from embedded clauses and always take scope at the root level. This is however not so: (e) SCIs can occur in the finite complement clause of verbs of saying/thinking. They are then oriented towards the referent of the subject of the matrix clause (the agent of saying). Quantificational subject DPs can take scope over the SCI in embedded clauses: Each girl reported that, alas, her shoes were soaked. There is to date no account of indexicals, evaluatives, subjective predicates or CI content which predicts the facts in (a) – (e). In particular, their specific pattern of speaker orientation and (non-)embeddability is hard to reconcile with either an exclusively pragmatic or semantic (control) account. I propose a semantic/pragmatic analysis which rests on the following parts: i. An account for shifting indexicals in the spirit of Schlenker (2004) where sentences S can be semantically interpreted relative to a single (“normal”) context ν or a pair of contexts <ν, θ> which together manage the interpretation of indexical expressions, including SCIs. ν fixes the external “true” speaker, θ specifies the internal, ficticious speaker. ii. Context shift principles: Normal narration is interpreted relative to ν, and interpretation shifts to <ν,θ> at the root level of sentences in free indirect discourse, or at the CP level of complements of verbs of saying. This shift is obligatory when the complement is in subjunctive mood, otherwise optional. iii. CPs are called quasi-root if they are root CPs or CPs where interpretation shifts from ν to <ν,θ>. iv. SCIs are interpreted locally, at the CP level of their host clause. v. SCIs can only be interpreted at quasi root CPs. The assumptions predict the observations in (a)-(e). The narrow scope examples can be analysed by making use of the particular version of context shift. The shiftable speaker parameter is represented at LF. It can be identified with other discourse referents in the sentence by ordinary anaphor resolution, specifically the subject of the matrix clause, and we can derive quantificational readings on pragmatic grounds.