Perspectival Anaphora & Perspective 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.

Public lecture on perspective in language

This is a public lecture I recently gave (in German) on my research on the syntax of perspective sensitivity, in general, and perspectival anaphora, in particular, at the award ceremony of the Maria Weber Research Grant.  [PDF] [prezi

The Syntax of Perspectival Anaphora

In Progress. Book. Under Contract. Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics. OUP. 

The main focus of this proposed book is a class of items I term “perspectival anaphora”. The monograph will incorporate core insights from my Ph.D. dissertation (Sundaresan, 2012) with empirical and theoretical research conducted since then, but will build substantially on subsequent empirical and theoretical research and entirely new material based on the results of ongoing fieldwork. The book should primarily appeal to broadly generative morphosyntacticians and semanticists interested in issues pertaining to anaphora and/or perspective, and to linguists working on the syntax-semantics interface and interface issues in general. But given the nature of the empirical and analytical topics covered, it will also be of interest to pragmaticists, philosophers of language, psycholinguists, and cognitive linguists working on issues of attitudes de se/de re and the representation of perspective in language, discourse and the mind; to typol- ogists and sociolinguists interested in the loci for micro- and macro-variation with respect to this phenomenon; and to scholars of Dravidian languages (particularly Tamil).

2018. Perspective is syntactic: evidence from anaphora. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 3(1):   

This paper argues that grammatical perspective, expressed along the spatio-temporal and mental dimensions, has a syntactic component. Evidence for this is provided from non-local anaphora in the Dravidian language Tamil which is perspective-driven: i.e. the antecedent of a successfully bound anaphor in Tamil must denote a mental or spatio-temporal perspective-holder toward some predication containing this anaphor. I will argue that, in Tamil, the agreement marking that obtains on the clausemate verb of the anaphor, when this anaphor occurs in nominative case, seems to be anomalously triggered, not by the anaphor or by its antecedent, but by a silent perspectival pronoun local to the verb. Assuming that agreement is a morphosyntactic process, such a thesis, if correct, then entails that perspective must be syntactically (i.e. structurally and featurally) instantiated. Based on such evidence, I propose that perspectival anaphora is a composite consisting of variable-binding + discourse-pronominal reference at two distinct stages of grammar. Empirical evidence for such a model comes from the (seemingly) schizophrenic pronominal and bound-variable nature of such dependencies, diagnoseable by the usual syntactic and semantic tests. 

2016. Proceedings of Formal Approaches to South Asian Languages 5: 123-142. 

This paper analyzes the nature of the dependency between an anaphor and its antecedent when the two are co-arguments  — using the Dravidian language, Tamil, as a case-study. I will henceforth reserve the term “reflexivity” for this type of relation. Like cases of reflexivity in many languages (see Reinhart and Reuland, 1993; Jayaseelan, 1997; Reuland, 2001b, 2011, for an overview), this dependency is distinguished from other cases of anaphora in the language by being specially marked. This in turn suggests that reflexivity is special and requires recourse to additional grammatical devices than do standard cases of anaphora where the antecedent and anaphor are not co-arguments. Of particular importance here will be the structural interaction between grammatical perspective, represented along the mental and/or spatio-temporal dimensions in a syntactic perspectival phrase or PerspP (Sundaresan, 2012) and reflexivity.

2014. Unpublished Ms., University of Leipzig & ZAS, Berlin. 

Perspectival predicates along the mental dimension (psych/attitude/“taste” predicates) and along the spatial one (locational and path predicates) systematically resemble one another syntactically, semantically, and morphologically. The ways they differ from one another (categorially and crosslinguistically) are also suggestive and set them apart from non-perspectival predicates. But for all their telling similarities/differences, spatial and mental predicates are seldom discussed in the same breath, and the syntactico-semantic conditions regulating the representation of different types of perspective remain poorly understood. Here, we take a first step toward filling this gap. Our empirical starting point is the observation that the antecedents of all perspectival anaphors, including spatial-perspective-driven anaphors, must denote sentient individuals. On the strength of such data, we propose that all perspective is ultimately mental in nature. In particular, we argue that all perspectival predicates quantify over elements of a set that are designated by a sentient entity as candidates for the actual time/location/world of that entity. The difference between spatial, temporal, and attitudinal/psych predicates, lies merely in the choice of this coordinate – a choice that may in turn be parametrized with respect to the nature and category of predication involved.

2013. Talk Handout. CGSW 28. Universität Leipzig. 

The goal of this talk is to argue that certain non-local anaphoric dependencies (NLA) in Icelandic and potentially also Norwegian and Dutch, may receive a unified analysis within a formal model where mental/spatio-temporal perspective is syntactically represented.  Such a model is superior to one where a proper subset of supposedly “well-behaved” NLAs receive a structural treatment while the more problematic ones (involving non- c-commanding antecedents, logophora and the like) are analyzed as purely pragmatic, with no structural component, given the empirical similarities between the two.  I will show, furthermore, that the structural instantiation of perspective is independently supported by empirical evidence from verbal agreement paradigms in a completely different language –- namely Tamil, a non Indo-European language of the Dravidian family. 

2012. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Tromsø and University of Stuttgart.

It is well known that referentially defective nominals fall into two broad categories: pro-forms whose reference seems structurally constrained (local anaphors, OC PRO) and those which are discourse-pragmatically conditioned (logophors, deictic pronouns, indexicals). Nevertheless, a strict binary distinction cannot be maintained because most actually straddle the syntax-discourse divide: e.g. deictic pronouns can be variable-bound, indexicals may be “shifted” under certain intensional operators, and logophors and long-distance anaphors often look and behave alike. The central thesis of this dissertation is that a proper subset of pro- forms can receive a unified analysis under an enriched grammatical model that posits the syntactic representation of mental and/or spatio-temporal perspective. To this end, I present novel evidence from verbal agreement triggered under anaphora to show that even so-called “logophoric” reference involves an indelible syntactic core. I propose that perspective is featurally represented on a silent pronominal operator in the specifier of a Perspectival phrase (PerspP) at the phasal-edge of certain CPs, PPs, DPs, and AspPs and may be exploited to yield a unified account of anaphora and agreement patterns triggered under it. Anaphora involves two distinct dependencies: an Agree relationship between the anaphor and the operator in the [Spec, PerspP] of its minimal phase, which is the equivalent of syntactic binding, and a conceptual relationship between the antecedent and this operator, which is the equivalent of non-obligatory control. Thus, all binding is local and syntactic; all antecedence is non-local and (primarily) non-syntactic. I also illustrate that perspective must be kept conceptually and structurally distinct from the Kaplanian utterance context and the intensional “context” responsible for indexical shift. The main language of investigation is the Dravidian language Tamil but crosslinguistic comparisons are made with: Abe, Aghem, Amharic, Czech, Donna SO, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Malayalam, Mupun, Navajo, North Sami, Norwegian, Romanian, Russian, Slave, Swahili, Telugu, Uyghur, and Zazaki. The Tamil judgments are bolstered by the results of an online survey conducted among 38 native speakers around the world.

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