The information structure of thetic sentences: ecological semantics Abstract

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In prior tradition there are two ways of describing thetic sentences (Haberland 2006). Either they are described as a particular type of judgment (Sasse 1987, Kuroda 2005, Hansen & Heltoft 2011) or in terms of information structure as all-new sentences (e.g. Kuno 1972, Lambrecht 1994). It is agreed, however, that thetic sentences are topicless and have a broad focus. If one examines thetic sentences in language use that forms a part of an actitivity, discrepancies appear. Thus, there are strong indications they have a topic and a narrow focus. These discrepancies can be traced back to the separation of cognition and action characterizing the epistemologies underpinning the traditional linguistic accounts. In this paper an account based on the epistemology of ecological psychology (Gibson 1979, Reed 1996) is presented. The basic assumption of the alternative account is that the information shared by the use of a linguistic utterance is specifying an affordance. Four concepts form the basis of two new semantic distinctions replacing the subject-predicate distinction: mode-value and sharing-nesting. A value is a specification of an affordance. A mode is an ability to distinguish between different values of a variable that are appropriate to attend to in the performance of an activity. Epistemologically, topic is a pickup mode, i.e. attending to a relevant variable, the value of which is not shared. Focus is a value to be shared. The focus value depends on the ecological unit in which the variation attended to is nested. This unit is specified by values of nesting modes. In so far as the perceptual systems are coordinated, nesting values are shared. This framework allows for an informative and accurate analysis of thetic sentences (see examples below), and serves to explain the relation between linguistic utterances - written as well as spoken - cognition and material actions.
Periode1 jul. 2016
BegivenhedstitelThird International Conference on Interactivity, Language and Cognition: the tactility of thinking and talking
PlaceringLondon, StorbritannienVis på kort
Grad af anerkendelseInternational