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LINGUIST List 21.4863

Fri Dec 03 2010

Diss: Semantics: Murray: 'Evidentiality and the Structure of Speech...'

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        1.     Sarah Murray , Evidentiality and the Structure of Speech Acts

Message 1: Evidentiality and the Structure of Speech Acts
Date: 01-Dec-2010
From: Sarah Murray <sarah.murraycornell.edu>
Subject: Evidentiality and the Structure of Speech Acts
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Institution: Rutgers University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Sarah Elizabeth Murray

Dissertation Title: Evidentiality and the Structure of Speech Acts

Dissertation URL: http://conf.ling.cornell.edu/sem/Murray_Thesis-Rutgers-2010.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Subject Language(s): Cheyenne (chy)

Dissertation Director:
Maria Bittner
Jeroen Groenendijk
Matthew Stone
Roger Schwarzschild

Dissertation Abstract:

Many languages grammatically mark evidentiality, i.e., the source of
information. In assertions, evidentials indicate the source of information
of the speaker while in questions they can indicate the expected source of
information of the addressee. This dissertation examines the semantics and
pragmatics of evidentiality and illocutionary mood, set within formal
theories of meaning and discourse. The empirical focus is the evidential
system of Cheyenne (Algonquian: Montana), which is analyzed based on
several years of fieldwork by the author.

In Cheyenne, evidentials are part of the illocutionary mood paradigm. Based
on this grammatical system and crosslinguistic data in the literature, I
propose a new theory of evidentials. I argue that evidentials contribute
not-at-issue content, which cannot be directly challenged or denied. This
content is added directly to the common ground, without negotiation. In
contrast, at-issue content, the main point of a sentence, is proposed to
the common ground, up for negotiation.

This analysis of evidentials implies a more articulated theory of assertion
and other speech acts. In particular, I argue that all speech acts are
structured into three components: presentation of the at-issue proposition,
a non-negotiable update that directly restricts the common ground, and a
negotiable update that imposes structure on the common ground. I implement
this proposal in an update semantics with individual, modal, and
propositional discourse referents. The distinction between at-issue and
not-at-issue information comes out as an instance of grammatical centering
in the modal domain. The presentation of the at-issue proposition is
modeled as the introduction of a propositional discourse referent. This
predicts that only the at-issue proposition can be referred to in
subsequent discourse, and the non-challengeability of the evidential falls
out as a special case of propositional anaphora.

The proposed analysis can be extended to evidentials and related phenomena
in other languages. While there are real crosslinguistic differences in the
behavior of evidentials, there are also many commonalities. The proposed
analysis captures the properties that all evidential systems share, but is
fine-grained enough to account for variation. On this analysis, evidentials
crosslinguistically form a natural semantic class.

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