Linguistics and English Language

Meaning and grammar seminar

Speakers: Katsumasa Ito (National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics) and Alex Lorson (University of Edinburgh)

Speaker: Katsumasa Ito (National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics)

Title: Quotation marks as a judge-shifting operator: Evidence from Japanese

Abstract: Use-mention distinction is a long-standing theme in philosophy of language. When you say ‘Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland.’, the word ‘Edinburgh’ is used. When you say ‘Edinburgh has nine letters.’, the word ‘Edinburgh’ is not used, but mentioned. Use-mention distinction is often made via quotation marks—they often suggest that the quoted expression is mentioned. However, there are cases where it is unclear whether the quoted expression is used or mentioned. For example, in (1), the word ‘debate’ seems to be both used and mentioned.

(1) The ‘debate’ resulted in three cracked heads and two broken noses. Furthermore, (1) has an additional interpretation that the speaker thinks the word ‘debate’ is inappropriate. This kind of quotation is called ‘scare quotation’ in the literature and has drawn more attention recently not only in philosophical contexts but also in linguistic contexts (cf. Predelli 2003, Brendel, Meibauer & Steinbach 2011). In this talk, I observe interactions of scare quotations and discourse particles in Japanese and propose a novel theory of scare quotations. I treat quotation marks in some types of scare quotations as a judge-shifting operator à la Lasersohn (2005) and show that the theory correctly predicts semantic/pragmatic behavior of scare quotations and discourse particles in Japanese.

Speaker: Alex Lorson (University of Edinburgh)

Title: When objecting to presupposed content comes easily

Abstract: New content can be introduced into dialogue via presupposition as well as by assertion, but on traditional accounts presupposed information is expected to be less addressable in the subsequent dialogue. An alternative approach is to argue that addressability is more closely connected to whether content is at-issue with respect to the current Question Under Discussion. This paper investigates which of these factors is dominant. We report the results of a dialogue-based experiment designed to test whether and how false at-issue content is responded to in an ongoing discourse, and whether this is affected by its status as asserted or presupposed. Our findings suggest that when material is at-issue it can be challenged directly, independently of whether it is presupposed or asserted. However, relevant information introduced by a presupposition was found to be more likely to escape the participants’ attention.


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Oct 29 2019 -

Meaning and grammar seminar

2019-10-29: Katsumasa Ito (National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics) and Alex Lorson (University of Edinburgh)

Room 1.1, Lister Learning and Teaching Centre, 5 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU