Monday, October 26, 2009

Ivano Caponigro colloquium

I'm happy to announce that Ivano Caponigro from UCSD is giving a colloquium talk this Friday 10/30 at 2PM in MMH1304. The title of the talk is 'Ask, and Tell as Well: Question-Answer Clauses in American Sign Language'.


A construction is found in American Sign Language that we call a Question-Answer Clause. It is made of two parts: the first part looks like an interrogative clause conveying a question, while the second part resembles a declarative clause that can be used to answer that question. The very same signer has to sign both, and the entire construction is interpreted as truth-conditionally equivalent to a declarative sentence. In this talk, we discuss these and other properties of Question-Answer Clauses and provide a syntactic, semantic and pragmatic account. In particular, we argue that Question-Answer Clauses are copular clauses consisting of a silent copula of identity connecting an interrogative clause in the precopular position with a declarative clause in the postcopular position. Pragmatically, they instantiate a topic/comment structure, with the first part expressing a sub-question under discussion and the second part expressing the answer to that sub-question. We discuss broader implications of our analysis for the Question Under Discussion Theory of discourse-structuring, for a popular analysis of pseudoclefts in spoken languages, and for recent proposals about the existence of exhaustivity operators in the grammar and the consequences for the syntax/semantics/pragmatics interface.

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