|Title:||Cognitive Status, Discourse Salience, and Information Structure: Evidence from Irish and Oromo||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||Ann Mulkern||Update Dissertation|
|Email:||click here to access email|
|Institution:||University of Minnesota, Linguistics|
|Linguistic Subfield(s):||Pragmatics; Syntax;|
|Abstract:||This dissertation examines the interaction of syntax and pragmatics, focusing on some specific phenomena in Irish and Oromo. I argue that the best way to account for these phenomena is by assuming the existence of information structure (IS) as a separate component of grammar.
Adopting the framework of Lambrecht (1994), the elements of the IS component represent three types: (i) presupposition and assertion, (ii) identifiability and activation, having to do with the cognitive status of the mental representations of discourse referents, and (iii) the relational elements of topic and focus. In place of the theory of reference used by Lambrecht for (ii), I use the Givenness Hierarchy proposed by Gundel, Hedberg, and Zacharski (1993), which identifies six implicationally related cognitive statuses relevant for explaining the use of different types of nominal expressions in all languages. Using data from naturally occurring Irish discourses, I show that the Givenness Hierarchy can be used to account for the use of referring expressions in Irish.
Based on a proposal by Clamons, Mulkern, and Sanders (1993), I identify two types of relative salience associated with entities in a discourse: inherent salience, determined by the history of the discourse, and imposed salience, indicating the importance or foregrounding the speaker chooses to give to particular discourse entities. The notion of imposed salience is used in developing more precise characterizations of contrast and emphasis. Using these characterizations, three particular pronominal forms in Irish, which signal the same cognitive status for their referents, are shown to differ in what they signal about the relative discourse salience of their referents. I also show that the phenomenon of object preposing in Oromo is a strategy for imposing salience on the object, sensitive to the relative inherent salience of the subject and object.
I argue that analyses of pronoun postposing in Irish appealing exclusively to syntactic processes are inherently inadequate, showing that the phenomenon follows from the association of the syntactic structure with the IS elements of presupposition and assertion. In Oromo, subject-verb agreement is dependent on the information status of the subject; specifically, whether or not it is a topic.