LINGUIST List 16.854

Mon Mar 21 2005

Diss: Pragmatics: Cohen: 'Intensive Reflexives ...'

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        1.    Dana Cohen, Intensive Reflexives from Sentence to Discourse

Message 1: Intensive Reflexives from Sentence to Discourse

Date: 18-Mar-2005
From: Dana Cohen <>
Subject: Intensive Reflexives from Sentence to Discourse

Institution: Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Program: Program in Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Dana Cohen

Dissertation Title: Intensive Reflexives from Sentence to Discourse

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics

Subject Language(s): English (ENG)

Dissertation Director:
Yael Ziv

Dissertation Abstract:

This study examines the function of the English intensive reflexive (IR),
which occur in several sentence positions and display a variety of
interpretations. The distribution and interpretation of IRs are examined in
detail, in an effort to uncover the factors that affect their use and
distinguish them from other -self forms.

Most analyses of IRs assume polysemy and attempt to correlate
interpretation with syntactic position. The primary goal of this
dissertation is to propose a unified analysis of IRs which can generate the
range of interpretations noted, while systematically accounting for the
various distributional distinctions between the syntactic positions.
Specifically, it is shown that the core function of the IR is to trigger a
comparison set of alternatives against which the referent is evaluated. The
choice of appropriate set and the relevant parameters for comparison are
determined by the linguistic and extra linguistic context and affected by
the scope of the IR in the different positions.

This analysis draws on the similarity between IRs and focus particles (e.g.
only, even). IRs differ from other focus particles discussed in two
respects: the predictability of focus and scope and the underdeterminacy of
the result of evaluation. Unlike other focus particles, the IR itself does
not predetermine or require the inclusion or exclusion of the set of
alternatives, nor does it impose a scale on them. These aspects of the
interpretation are conversational implicatures triggered by the particular
linguistic and extra-linguistic context.

The position of the IR is shown to be essential for its interpretation. The
IR takes scope over the immediately preceding segment. The differences in
scope impose restrictions constraining the processing required in the
construction of the relevant sets for comparison and indicate a subtle
change in grounding to the prior context, thus affecting information

The unified, position-sensitive, analysis proposed in this study accounts
for the range of interpretations, explaining a wide range of naturally
occurring data in a rigorous and predictive way, and incorporating
seemingly arbitrary restrictions on the IR. These restrictions are shown to
follow naturally from the interaction of the core analysis of the IR with
scope effects. Furthermore, a variety of otherwise idiosyncratic
distributional and syntactic phenomena, previously taken to be incidental,
are shown to follow naturally from the analysis presented here,
specifically from the interaction of the scope effects of the various
positions with the core function of the IR.

In the final chapter of this study, the relation between IRs and other uses
of -self forms in English is examined, specifically the referential uses of
anaphors and logophors. This leads to a proposal of a unified analysis of
-self forms, allowing their major differences to fall out as facets of the
same core element, based on general organizational principles.
Specifically, it is proposed that -self forms encode a procedural
instruction, directing the addressee to retrieve a particularly highly
accessible referent, already activated in the discourse model and link it
to an additional role in the context. The application of this basic
instruction is affected by discourse factors and syntactic factors to
derive the range of functions discussed.

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