Linguistics Speaker Series Extra: William Croft

A Mental Space Analysis of Tense and Modality

This talk presents a progress report on developing a mental space analysis of tense and modality, based on prior cognitive semantic and typological research in those domains. Mental spaces are a model to represent "alternative realities", including past and future times and unrealized events, the focus of our interest. Mental spaces are evoked by specific grammatical constructions including tense, mood and modality, complement- taking predicates and conditional constructions. Following Cutrer (1994), we analyze these constructions as providing access paths for the hearer from one space (viewpoint) to another space (focus), which may be a new space or one already established in the discourse. We propose a revised (and simplified) version of Cutrer's analysis of tense, based on Comrie's (1981) analyses. We also adopt Fillmore's (1990) analysis of conditionals, treating his concept of epistemic stance as a relation between the hypothetical space and the "reality" (speaker's belief) space. We extend epistemic stance to model epistemic modality, following Boye (2012), and use a mental space analysis of Clark's (1996) theory of common ground (shared knowledge) extended to individual knowledge to model Boye's theory of the relationship between epistemic modality and evidentiality. Finally, we argue that hypothetical and "reality" (speaker belief) spaces are of the same kind, differing only in epistemic stance, and that they should ultimately be embedded in an interactional model of the negotiation of shared knowledge, as indicated by the grouping of epistemic, evidential and (knowledge) interactional categories in a single grammatical category (see Palmer 2001).

Bio: William Croft received his Ph.D. in 1986 at Stanford University under Joseph Greenberg. He has taught at the Universities of Michigan, Manchester (UK) and New Mexico, and has been a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics (Niijmegen, the Netherlands) the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany), and at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has written several books, including Typology and Universals, Explaining Language Change, Radical Construction Grammar, Cognitive Linguistics [with D. Alan Cruse] and Verbs: Aspect and Causal Structure. He is currently working on his next book, Morphosyntax: Constructions of the World’s Languages. His primary research areas are typology, semantics, construction grammar and language change.

Monday, May 14, 2018 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Poulton Hall, 230
1421 37th St., N.W., Washington


Georgetown College, Linguistics

Event Contact Name

Jennifer Brusstar

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