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LINGUIST List 22.2560

Mon Jun 20 2011

Diss: Pragmatics: Eilam: 'Explorations in the Informational Component'

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        1.     Aviad Eilam , Explorations in the Informational Component

Message 1: Explorations in the Informational Component
Date: 19-Jun-2011
From: Aviad Eilam <eilamavigmail.com>
Subject: Explorations in the Informational Component
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Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Aviad Eilam

Dissertation Title: Explorations in the Informational Component

Dissertation URL: http://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/328/

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics

Dissertation Director(s):
David Embick

Dissertation Abstract:

Most current work in linguistics acknowledges that the organization of
linguistic information in a sentence is sensitive to the speaker's assumptions
regarding his hearer's knowledge state. What is less clear, however, is how and
where the organization of information - information structure (IS) - is carried
out in the grammar, and precisely what role it plays in shaping the output of
the grammar. In this study I argue that IS is an independent component of the
grammar, whose primitives combine to form IS representations in accordance with
a set of well-formedness conditions. These representations not only determine if
a given output is licit or not, but also feed the semantic and phonological
representations, thus regulating inter alia the predication relations in the
sentence and the placement of prosodic prominence.

The main claims of this study are supported by an in-depth analysis of two
phenomena, which I maintain are information structural in nature: focus
intervention and weak crossover effects. In both cases, non-IS analyses are
shown to fall short in capturing the available data, while an IS approach
manages to weave a range of seemingly unrelated observations into a
descriptively and explanatorily adequate account. The case study of focus
intervention provides a window into the well-formedness conditions on IS
representations, while weak crossover helps us understand the internal
composition of these representations and their relationship to other levels of
representation in the grammar. The two phenomena also establish the import of
implicit contextualization, i.e. the fact that speakers impose a context on
sentences given in isolation, which guides the mapping to IS categories. In the
course of the investigation of these phenomena,
significant insight is gained into a variety of topics, ranging from the status
of focus in the grammar to the interpretation of quantificational expressions in
natural language.

The findings of the case studies justify a reassessment of current grammatical
architectures. I propose an architecture in which much of the burden is shifted
to the IS component, resulting in a simple, truly autonomous computational
system, in line with the original model of the grammar in the generative
tradition and with Minimalist assumptions.

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