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Martina Wiltschko: “Nominal speech act structure. A personal view.”
January 19, 2018 @ 1:20 pm - 3:20 pm | Stevenson Fireside LoungeFree
The concept of person is in many ways tied to speech acts. This is obvious just by exploring the interpretation of
pronouns: 1st person pronouns are used to refer to the speaker, 2nd person pronouns are used to refer to the addressee,
and 3rd person is used for individuals other than the speech act participants. Another way in which person plays a
role for speech acts has to with the fact that in much of the current literature that seeks to “syntacticize speech acts”
(Ross 1970, Speas and Tenny 2003, Zu 2013, Miyagawa 2017, a.o.) speech act participants are part of the syntactic
representation of sentences, as evidenced, for example, by speaker or addressee-agreement. However, 1st and
2nd person pronouns can receive an impersonal interpretation (Gruber 2013, Zobel 2014) while still triggering
grammatical agreement for 1st and 2nd person. This suggests that there are at least two notions of person: one purely
grammatical and the other pragmatic in nature.
In this talk I examine yet another way in which person may be tied to speech acts. In particular, assuming the well-
established parallel between the functional architecture of clauses and nominal projections (Chomsky 1970, Abney
1987, Grimshaw 2005, Rijkhoff 2008), we might expect that – just as clauses – nominal projections too are
dominated by a dedicated speech act structure. Specifically, I will argue that the arguments of (clausal and nominal)
speech act structure do not correspond to speech act participants directly, but instead they correspond to each speech
act participant’s ‘ground’ – hence I assume a speaker- and addressee-oriented projection. The function of this layer
of structure is to encode the mutual process of grounding – the joint activity which allows interlocutors to establish
common ground. To support this hypothesis, I review literature from dialogue based frameworks according to which
referring to an individual is a collaborative effort between speaker and addressee (Clark and Wilkes-Gibbs 1986,
Clark and Bangerter 2004). With this as my background assumption, I discuss the implications of the nominal
speech act hypothesis for a number of empirical phenomena including: impersonals, logophors, and social deixis.
Martina Wiltschko is Professor of Linguistics at the University of British Columbia.