Cheers to Vera Zu, who successfully defended her dissertation on "Discourse Participants and the Structural Representation of the Context." Her committee was Anna Szabolcsi (chair), Stephanie Harves, Richard Kayne, Idan Landau (Ben-Gurion University), Shigeru Miyagawa (MIT), and Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean Nicod & NYU).
Abstract. The starting point of this dissertation is the observation that the utterance context is essential in the way we understand a great number of expressions in natural languages. With a few exceptions the utterance context does not get the attention it deserves in the theoretical literature. The central claim of this dissertation is that the utterance context, just like the linguistic context, is part of syntax and has an internal structure. Empirically it deals with a wide variety of language data, including materials collected from my own fieldwork in two under-researched Tibeto-Burman languages—Jingpo and Newari. Theoretically it offers a formal account of how syntax and the discourse interact and how this interaction should be represented.
I propose that the structure of the utterance context consists of two tiers. The head of the top tier, the Speech Act Projection (saP), takes the speaker and the addressee as its arguments. The speaker and the addressee are syntactically present in a fixed configuration. They are discourse anchors. This projection is only present in main clauses and is responsible for main clause phenomena across languages. The head of the second tier, the Sentience Projection (SenP), takes a perspective center as its argument. This projection is independent from the saP. In attitude complements it is embedded under an attitude predicate. The SenP is sensitive to the mood of its complement clauses and is responsible for point of view phenomena. Depending on where the SenP is merged to, the perspective center can be anchored to different levels and shift its reference accordingly. The core proposals provide a suitable framework for analyzing context-dependent expressions, including speaker-/addressee-agreement, binding, and control.