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SPAGAD Lecture Series: Self-talk as a window into the syntax of Speech acts

Speaker Martina Wiltschko
Affiliaton(s) Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona
Date 01.04.2022
Time 16:00 o'clock
Venue Online (see below)
Link to SPAGAD Lecture Series

Comment                      Anders Holmberg, Newcastle University

Link zum YouTube-Video des Vortrags


When we talk to each other, we modify what we say depending on who we are talking to. This is not only true for what we tell each other but also how we say what we say. For example, in many languages, including German and French the pronominal forms of address differ depending on the social relation between the interlocutors (formal vs. informal), as in (1). Typically, the use of formal vs. informal pronouns also correlates with the forms of address used in corresponding vocatives (title + last name vs. first name, respectively).

(1) a. Herr Professor Krifka, reden Sie mit sich selbst?                    formal

           Mister Professor Krika do you (formal) talk to yourself?

      b. Manfred, redest du mit dir selbst?                                           informal

          Manfred, do you (informal) talk to yourself?

Moreover, there are languages in which a dedicated form is added that co-varies with the gender of the addressee (i.e., allocutive agreement). Data such as these have led syntacticians to include a representation of the addressee at the root-level of the clause.

For the purpose of this talk, I will adopt Wiltschko’s 2021 version of this representation. Specifically, I assume that the propositional/functional structure of clauses and nominals are dominated by an interactional structure. The former is responsible (roughly) for configuring (the expression of) the content of a thought, while the latter is responsible (roughly) for configuring how the thought is integrated in conversational interaction.  Specifically, I assume an articulated grounding layer used to represent the speaker’s and the addressee’s ground (i.e., How does the content expressed relate to my knowledge state? How do I think it relates to yours?). In addition, I assume a Response layer which has a different role in different types of moves: in an initiating move it is used to indicate if the utterance is put on the addressee’s ‘table’; in a reacting move it is used to indicate if the utterance is a response to something that has been on the table. Roughly, the response layer is used to regulate turn-taking. This yields the structure in (2), where S = (propositional) sentence.

(2) Initiation:    [RespPAdr     [GroundAdr     [GroundSpkr [ S ]]]]
       Reaction       [RespPSpkr   [GroundAdr      [GroundSpkr [ S ]]]]

The question I will address in this talk concerns self-talk: given that the identity of the addressee influences aspects of an utterance, we might expect that the absence of another interlocutor has an effect on the utterance as well. Holmberg 2010 shows that there are two different modes of self-talk: I-centered self-talk (I can do this) and you-centered self-talk (you can do this). I argue that the difference in these two modes of self-talk is reflected in the interactional structure, which in turn differs from regular other-oriented conversations as shown in (3) (Ritter & Wiltschko 2021).

(3) Other-oriented talk:      [RespPAdr    [GroundAdr      [GroundSpkr [ S ]]]]
      You-centered self-talk:                           [GroundAdr      [GroundSpkr [ S ]]]]
      I-centered self-talk:                                                                 [GroundSpkr [ S ]]]]

Essentially, no regulation of turn-taking is required in self-talk, hence no RespP, and I-centered self-talk is a form of thinking out loud whereas in you-centered self-talk one is really talking to (addressing) oneself. I will show that the empirical differences we observe between other-oriented talk, and the two forms of self-talk are explained on this analysis. That is, any linguistic form that is directly associated with the GroundAdr is necessarily absent in I-centered self-talk. This is true for vocatives, addressee-oriented discourse markers and particles, imperatives, for example.

If the analysis is correct, we have a novel heuristic for determining if a given element associates with GroundAdr: if it does, it will necessarily be absent in I-centered self-talk. More generally, it will serve as a window into the syntax of speech acts more generally. For example, given that I can ask myself a question (What shall I do?) we have to conclude that the addressee layer is no necessary for a well-formed interrogative (contrary Speas and Tenny 2003).

Time permitting, I will explore consequences of the grammar of self-talk for our understanding of the phenomenon (including inner speech) as well as the relation between language, thought, and communication more generally.

Link: https://hu-berlin.zoom.us/j/65658112731?pwd=dE5hQUNEMHd5NXFmSUtFNkoxeUJEdz09

To get access, please register with walch@leibniz-zas.de.