This research group (led by Lisa Matthewson and Hotze Rullmann) investigates pragmatic phenomena in languages that have so far hardly been studied from this perspective. Until recently, formal theories of pragmatics have been based almost exclusively on English. Our goal is to extend the empirical scope of these theories to languages that are typologically and genetically very different, and to try to determine the nature and range of crosslinguistic variation in pragmatics. Particular issues we work on include evidentiality, discourse particles, presupposition, conversational and conventional implicature, and information packaging (topic and focus).
Currently, the main focus of our group is on evidentials and modals. In recent work, we have argued that modals can vary across languages in whether they are specified for quantificational force (as in English) or for conversational background (as in St’at’imcets). We analyze evidentials (at least in some languages) as modals which are lexically specified as requiring an epistemic conversational background. Members of our group are currently engaged in exploring the ramifications of this account for languages as diverse as Gitksan (Tsimshianic), Nuu-cha-nulth (Wakashan), Blackfoot (Algonquian), Thompson Salish, Quechua, Malagasy, and yes, even Dutch and English.
Many languages across the world have a very rich inventory of discourse and focus particles. Topics we are working on in this area include particles that are sensitive to “at issue” entailments, scalarity, and the interaction with positive and negative polarity.
Workshops and Conferences
Endangered Languages, Autumn 2012