Comment clauses and null complement anaphora: Some theoretical implications
Ph.D. Dissertation, 2001
This thesis is concerned with the interpretation of the missing complement
in English parenthetical clauses. Based on examination of a wide range
of parenthetical data, it offers an analysis for parenthetical sentences,
using the semantic interpretation approach supplemented with insights
from Speech Act Theory as the theoretical framework. It provides a preliminary
classification of parenthetical expressions according to syntactic forms
and functions and defines parenthetical clauses as expressing the speaker's
comment on the content of the host clause. Previous analyses of sentences
containing a parenthetical clause (e.g. This car
needs a tune-up, I think) are examined and transformational approaches
are found to be empirically inadequate. The key to understanding complicated
parenthetical sentences is to establish a semantic interpretation theory
that specifies how to link the missing complement to the host clause.
A unified account of gap-containing parenthetical clauses and interpretation
of their missing complement is presented. The missing complement to a
parenthetical predicate corresponds to the core proposition expressed
in the host clause. This proposal is capable of accounting for all unresolved
problems in previous approaches. Parenthetical predicates are defined
as precisely as possible, and it is argued that predicates that occur
in parentheticals fall under the category of Hooper's (1975) "assertive
predicates." It is further shown that negative parenthetical predicates
are a subset of Hooper's weak assertive predicates and neg-raising predicates.
The applicability of root transformations in subordinate clauses is explored
from a semantic point of view. It is found that Hooper's claim that the
assertive feature of the main clause is responsible for syntactic operations
in embedded clauses is justified. In support the Assertivity Principle
is proposed. This states assertive predicates permit not only embedded
root transformations, but also wh-extraction. Finally, whether the principle
holds for embedded topicalization and long-distance scrambling in Japanese
is examined to see whether or not the semantic constraint is universal.
The main findings and proposals for future research are presented. It
is suggested that the semantic notion of "assertivity"; opens
up new possibilities for embedded root transformations and extraction
phenomena, and allows for maximal reduction of previous accounts based
only on syntax.
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