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Indexical Shift

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Shifty attitudes: indexical shift vs. perspectival anaphora

Invited contribution (under review). Annual Review of Linguistics. Vol. 7. [draft; PDF]

In cases of indexical-shift, so-called indexical pronouns like ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘here’ and ‘now’ refer to the Speaker, Addressee, Location, and Time of some other context than the utterance-context. In cases of perspectival anaphora, an anaphor tracks the perspective of some other individual than the utterance Speaker (or Addressee). Thus, both phenomena involve referential obviation of a pronoun or anaphor from the utterance- context. Such obviation also occurs under highly similar grammatical conditions, e.g. in the scope of an attitude predicate (e.g. ‘say’, ‘think’, ‘perceive’). Here, I introduce the core properties of both phenomena and show that they actually stand in a subset- superset relation. The availability of indexical-shift in a given environment entails that of perspectival anaphora, but not vice-versa. I describe a plausible way to make sense of these insights within a unified model of attitude shift which in turn helps chart out clear avenues for future research.

Under review. 


This paper motivates and develops a new model of indexical shift based on the following observations. (i) Shift Together (ST) (the restriction that indexicals in a local domain cannot shift independently) is a robust crosslinguistic constraint, but genuine exceptions to ST may obtain under specific conditions. (ii) Indexical shift is an embedded root phenomenon: if indexical shift obtains under a non-speech attitude verb, it must also occur under a speech verb. (i) and (ii) are problematic to both major approaches to indexical shift, involving context-overwriting and contextual binding. I show that these results can be captured under a new model where the shifty operator (or monster is a contextual binder, but: a) the monster is encoded on a species of complementizer, rather than on the attitude verb; b) all contextual binding must be local; c) speech predicates introduce a clausal complement that has a monstrous C head that clausal complements of other attitude verbs lack. Under the new model, all intensional quantification is monstrous, with the nature of intensionality varying simply according to the shape of the monster. The new theory also fulfills several empirical predictions wrt. indexical shift, including that it cannot occur outside of CPs and can occur in the absence of attitude verbs.

2012. Context and (Co)reference in the syntax and its interfaces. Part III: 207-291. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Tromsø/Stuttgart

This final set of the chapters in the dissertation introduces the phenomenon I term "monstrous agreement" in Tamil involving sentences like "John said that himself am sick" where indexical shift is instantiated on verbal agreement triggered in the scope of a (nominative) anaphor. In addition to introducing the empirical properties of this phenomenon in detail, these chapters also lay out the beginnings of a theoretical groundwork for a syntactic treatment of indexical shift. In particular, the fact that indexical shift feeds verbal agreement is taken to show that such shifting must have a narrow syntactic component. 

May 2016. Keynote talk at the STuTs student conference, Universtität Leipzig

The talk looks at two different phenomena involving person mismatch in language, where we have a form that is normally interpreted as being of person x, instead being used to refer to person y, namely: (i) indexical shift involving so-called "monsters" and (ii) imposters. I'll introduce both phenomena from scratch and argue that, despite their similarities, monsters and imposters are actually very different. In particular, only imposters involve a genuine case of form-meaning mismatch. Monsters seem to involve a mismatch (e.g. for person) on the surface, but in fact, if we look deeper, the mismatch is not one of form and meaning, but a different kind of mismatch, specifically one of the context against which the meaning of person is evaluated. 

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