The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MIT Colloquium 3/9: Sandhya Sundaresan

Speaker: Sandhya Sundaresan (Leipzig)
Title: An Alternative Treatment of Indexical Shift: Modelling Shift Together Exceptions, Dual Contexts, and Selectional Variation
Date and time: Friday March 9, 3:30-5:00pm
Location: 32-155

I present the following three types of evidence that challenge both context-overwriting and quantifier-binding approaches to indexical shift (the phenomenon where the denotation of an indexical is interpreted, not against the utterance context, but against the index associated with an intensional verb). (I) Systematic exceptions to Shift Together (the constraint that all shiftable indexicals in a local intensional domain must shift together) in Tamil, varieties of Zazaki and Turkish, and potentially also Late Egyptian; (II) novel evidence from imperatives in Korean and supporting secondary data from imperatives in Slovenian, showing that the utterance context continues to be instantiated even in putatively shifted environments; and (III) results from personal fieldwork in Tamil dialects and secondary data from 26 languages (from 19 distinct language families) showing that there is structured selectional variation in the intensional environments in which indexical shift obtains and, furthermore, that such variation is one-way implicational. The following desiderata emerge: 1. Shift Together holds whenever possible, but systematic exceptions may nevertheless obtain; 2. the utterance-context is never overwritten; 3. indexical shift is an embedded root phenomenon that privileges speech predicates. To capture these, I develop an alternative model of indexical shift with the following properties. The context-shifter is not a context-overwriting operator, but a contextual quantifier. At the same time, unlike with standard quantificational approaches to shifting, this contextual quantifier (or “monster”) is a distinct grammatical entity severed from the attitude verb. Specifically, I present evidence from nominalization patterns and complementizer deletion to show that the monster is encoded on the complementizer selected by the attitude verb. I then propose that selectional variation for indexical shift ensues as the result of the monster being encoded on structurally distinct types of complementizer head, each selected by a different class of attitude verb (as has also been recently proposed in the literature).