Linguistics and English Language

Linguistic Circle

Speaker: Amir Anvari (Institut Jean Nicod, ENS - Paris)

Title: The variable-based account of indexical shift redux

Abstract: In some languages indexicals can shift, i.e., can refer to objects other than those that make up the actual speech event. Schlenker (1999) took this observation to be pointing to a view of language on which attitudinal predicates quantify over contexts, and indexicals involve variables that, when bound by attitudes, shift. On this view, indexical and anaphoric expressions are both governed by the same quantificational logic with explicit variables. However, subsequent work (Anand 2006 and Deal 2017) uncovered a host of cross-linguistic generalizations that suggest a tight typology of shifty indexicals, one that does not seem to justify the massive expressive power of Schlenker's "extensional" proposal. Therefore an "intensional" analysis of the facts was proposed, one in which context-shifting operators, chained by an array of syntactic stipulations, may overwrite the context parameter and shift indexicals in the process, but in a manner restricted enough to handle the typology. As always, this empirical gain is balanced by a theoretical cost: on this proposal, anaphoric expressions are governed by quantificational logic as before but indexical expressions are governed by modal logic with semantic parameters, instead of syntactically realised variables. In this talk, I will sketch the core typological generalizations and the operator-based analysis, basing the discussion on Deal 2017. I will then focus on the domain of temporal reference. Building on data from Farsi, I will distinguish three classes of expressions: anaphoric (e.g. "two days later" in English), indexical (e.g. "the day after tomorrow" in English), and a third class which is instantiated in Farsi by  "do duz dige" (Lit. two days other, similar to "in two days" in English). I will argue that the operator-based approach does not have the resources to provide a suitable account of the latter. On this basis, I propose a return to the variable-based analysis. My proposal, unlike its predecessors (Schlenker 1999, 2003, von Stechow 2002), matches the predictions of the operator-based approach (and therefore is not susceptible to the over-generation criticism) while at the same leaving enough for an analysis of "do ruz dige", and a symmetric analysis of indexical and anaphoric expressions.

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Linguistic Circle committee

Oct 01 2020 -

Linguistic Circle

2020-10-01:The variable-based account of indexical shift redux

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