Project A2 (Krifka, Repp)

Information structure in non-assertive speech acts


For assertive speech acts IS phenomena have been investigated in detail and with considerable success. For non-assertive speech acts there are markedly fewer investigations and hardly any standard analyses. There are rather more programmatic approaches like Jacobs (1984 ), which assume for all illocutionary operators that they associate with focus but apart from interrogatives this hypothesis has not been substantiated. Most recent analyses of IS phenomena build on the truth-conditional character of assertives (e.g. Rooth's alternative semantics, Schwarz­schild's givenness account). This also holds for Krifka's pragmatic concept of common ground manage­ment, which operates on sets of propositional objects. Although there is some agreement that the meaning of interrogatives, and of the clause types imperative and exclamative, can be modelled in terms of (sets of) propositions, for the speech acts imperative and exclamative it is unclear whether this reduction can explain the characteristics of IS categories or whether there should an interaction with the illocutionary level be assumed.

For interrogatives, approaches especially within the framework of alternative semantics have shown that the focus meaning of a clause interacts in a specific way with the question operator (= the semantic correlate of the illocutionary operator). Syntactically the role of focus movement in constituent questions has been suggested to be crucial on the one hand for the explanation of certain superiority patterns, and on the other hand for the cross-linguistic availability of coordination for certain question words. As far as imperatives are concerned there are sporadic observations with respect to the role of IS but no systematic investigations. For exclamatives and other speech act types characteristic prosodic patterns have been identified but the relevance of these in terms of IS is unclear.

The envisaged project is set up to examine IS phenomena in non-assertive speech acts and to deliver a theoretical analysis of them. There are two main parts. In the first part all main speech act types that hitherto have not been investigated systematically will be investigated with a special emphasis on common characteristics and a cross-speech-act analysis of them in particular with respect to an interaction on or with the illocutionary level. The second part consists of a detailed analysis of interrogatives and exclamatives – two speech acts whose associated clause types in many languages show great similarities – with respect to the specific grammar of IS categories. Here it is the specifics of the two speech acts that are of particular interest so that the precise contribution of IS can be brought out. Overall, the empirical basis will be provided by examination of previous literature, systematic interviewing of informants and experimental work.

Full description 3rd phase SFB 632 / A2 (extract from the proposal)  pdficon small


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