The dynamics of particles

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McCready, Eric Scott

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This dissertation examines several issues at the semantics-pragmatics interface in Japanese and English: modal subordination, particles and adverbials. Chapter 2 presents the framework that will be used throughout, and applies it to English modal subordination. In Chapter 3, the realization of modal subordination is shown to be quite different in Japanese than in European languages; in particular, the construction of discourse structure plays a much greater role. This chapter discusses the semantics of the Japanese modals and the realization of evidentiality within them. Modal subordination in Japanese can be licensed by certain discourse particles. In Chapter 4, I turn to these particles, showing that the dynamic system developed in Chapter 1 can be extended to their analysis, although extensions involving deontic modality, underspecification and revision of information states are required. After making the necessary extensions, a semantics is formulated that accounts not only for the particles’ ability to license modal subordination but also for other aspects of their meaning that have been noted in the literature: insistence, restriction to new information, and others. Chapter 5 continues the discussion of particles, concentrating on English man. Man exhibits quite different properties when it appears sentence-initially and sentence-finally; sentence-final man is semantically much like the Japanese yo, even licensing modal subordination in certain contexts. Sentence-initial particles and expletives are shown to exhibit semantic restrictions on their distribution and also clear truth-conditional effects on the sentences they appear in. Their interpretation is shown to depend a great deal on intonational factors in two senses. The semantics of degree constructions are also shown to be affected by the particles in certain circumstances. Chapter 6, the final chapter, steps away from particles to consider several complex adverbials in Japanese, each of which has an emotive component to its meaning. First, a pair of related adverbials, yoku and yokumo, are considered; they exhibit clear interactions with interpreter knowledge and the common ground. The final part of the dissertation turns to another adverbial, sekkaku, which is very context-dependent in that certain aspects of its meaning depend on world knowledge.