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Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics

Exhaustivity Everywhere
Gregory Ward, Northwestern University

Thursday, November 16, 3.30pm
Harper 140
University of Chicago

In this talk, I analyze two English equative constructions --- deferred equatives and epistemic would equatives --- as illustrated in (1)-(2), respectively:

  1. A: Who ordered what?
    B: IÕm the Pad Thai.
    OP=X corresponds to Y
  2. A: What did Chris order?
    B: That would be the Pad Thai.
    OP=Chris ordered X

I argue that these two types of equatives are focus-presuppositional constructions in that they each require that an OPEN PROPOSITION (in the sense of Prince 1986) be contextually salient (i.e., evoked or inferrable) at the time of utterance. They differ, however, in the number of variables being instantiated as foci within that open proposition (OP). The deferred equative in (1) instantiates the two variables in the OP 'X corresponds to Y' (Ward 2004), while the epistemic would equative in (2) instantiates the single variable in the OP 'Chris ordered X', with the demonstrative subject being used to refer deictically to the instantiation of the variable in the OP (Ward, Birner, & Kaplan 2003; Birner, Kaplan, & Ward ms.), as a type of discourse deixis (Lyons 1977). Unlike marked syntactic constructions that employ noncanonical word order to signal the OP requirement (e.g, clefts, gappings, preposings, inversions), these equatives perform this discourse function by other means, through, e.g., a non-literal equative (as in (1)) or the presence of epistemic would (as in (2)).