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LINGUIST List 20.2955

Tue Sep 01 2009

Diss: Pragmatics: Mayol: 'Pronouns in Catalan: Information,...'

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        1.    Laia Mayol, Pronouns in Catalan: Information, discourse and strategy

Message 1: Pronouns in Catalan: Information, discourse and strategy
Date: 01-Sep-2009
From: Laia Mayol <laiababel.ling.upenn.edu>
Subject: Pronouns in Catalan: Information, discourse and strategy
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Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Laia Mayol

Dissertation Title: Pronouns in Catalan: Information, discourse and strategy

Dissertation URL: http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~laia/papers/phdthesis_mayol.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics

Subject Language(s): Catalan-Valencian-Balear (cat)

Dissertation Director:
Robin Clark

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis investigates the variation between null and overt pronouns in
subject position in Catalan, a null subject language. I argue that null and
overt subject pronouns are two resources that speakers efficiently deploy
to signal their intended interpretation regarding antecedent choice or
semantic meaning, and that communicative agents interact strategically in
order to communicate the desired meaning with the most economical form
possible. The mathematical framework of Game Theory is used to analyze this
variation, since it is particularly suitable for modeling strategic
interaction and choices.

The Position of Antecedent Hypothesis, proposed by Carminati (2002) for
Italian, states that null pronouns have a subject preference, while overt
pronouns have a non-subject preference. I show that Catalan intersentential
data conforms to the PAH whenever the subject is the link of the sentence.
However, the PAH needs to be redefined once the topic-focus articulation of
the sentence is taken into account: null pronouns have a subject preference
regardless of whether the subject is acting as link of the sentence or not,
while overt pronouns have a preference for low salience (non-subject,
non-link) antecedents. These results point to a model in which salience is
composed of several factors and different forms are sensitive to different
factors. This data is modeled using games of partial information, in which
information states represent different levels of salience. This model makes
the prediction that the biases emerging from the PAH should be overridden
if there are powerful enough contextual cues, which is borne out.

The relative rates of null and overt pronouns vary greatly in different
Romance varieties. I present two hypotheses to deal with this variation:
one based on priming effects and the other on a grammatical change in
progress. Finally, the relationship between contrastivity and overt
pronouns is addressed. I argue that all instances of contrastive pronouns
are Contrastive Topic markers, which trigger an uncertainty contrast
interpretation, which can be coerced into an exhaustive contrast if there
is a salient alternative in the discourse or in the context. I offer a game
theoretical analysis of the pairing between forms and contrastive meanings.

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