The syntax of confirmationals

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This paper explores the form, function and distribution of certain discourse markers which seem to occur outside traditional clause boundaries and are used to request confirmation. These ‘confirmationals’ differ according to what is expected to be confirmed. Some confirmationals trigger a response from the addressee to confirm that the proposition is true; others require a response to confirm that the addressee knows that the proposition is true. This variation is reminiscent of scope effects and suggests that confirmationals should be analysed in syntactic terms despite their peripheral position. For our analysis, we adopt the Universal Spine Hypothesis (Wiltschko 2014), which promotes a hierarchically organized series of core functional projections. We propose that the highest functional projection of a clause is dedicated to a ‘grounding’ layer, which in turn consists of a speaker-oriented and an addressee-oriented structure. The topmost layer is dedicated to regulate response and consists of a position that encodes the call on the addressee. Our analysis of speech act structure is an updated version of Ross’ (1970) performative hypothesis. We explore the predictions and implications of this hypothesis for the syntax-pragmatics interface.


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