Skip to main content
Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Rising declaratives and the semantics-pragmatics interface

March 26, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Rising declaratives provide a challenging test case for theories of the semantics-pragmatics interface that aim to explain why the main clause types are canonically linked to certain discourse functions. For example, declaratives are canonically used to assert, and thus usually commit the speaker to their propositional content and signal the goal of updating the common ground with it. Some argue that declaratives are designated for assertions by an illocutionary force operator or an extra-grammatical convention of use (e.g. Searle 1969, Gunlogson 2003, and Lauer 2013, among others), while others propose that their assertoric function is derivable from their propositional denotation (e.g. Portner 2004, 2018 and Farkas & Roelofsen 2017, among others).
However, produce a declarative with the rising intonation typically used in a polar question in English, and it now seems to be used to ask a question, albeit one with a special pragmatic requirement that there be some contextual bias in favor of the proposition denoted by the clause. Any attempt to explain why clause types have the pragmatic effects they do will need to have some explanation for this exception to the rule.

In this talk, I aim to show that the empirical situation is even more complicated than is typically assumed, and that dealing with this complication teaches us something new about the semantics-pragmatics interface. The complication is that, while rising declaratives are frequently used to ask questions, they can also be used to make assertions much like falling declaratives, and there is reason to believe that these disparate uses deserve a unified account. Articulating a unified account reveals that much of the illocutionary force of utterances must be pragmatically derived. In particular, intonation cannot directly signal whether or not the speaker is committed to the content of the declarative clause (pace Gunlogson 2003, Truckenbrodt 2012, Farkas & Roelofsen 2017, Jeong 2018, and Rudin 2018, among others). Commitment needs to be worked out from the semantic content, the intonational contribution, and the context of utterance. I flesh out how.


March 26, 2021
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Online; Please contact the organizers for a link