The Effects of Linguistic and Non-Linguistic Context on the Deictic Interpretation of Noun Phrases.
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Definite noun phrases (NP's), proper names, and third person pronouns are not consistently interpreted deictically. Furthermore, these three types and first and second person pronouns, or potentially deictic NP's, whether deictic or not, may be interpreted as pertaining to the universe of discourse that each text creates, the situation of writing in which the text is created, or the attitudes of the writer towards the referent of a particular NP. Universe of discourse NP's include generic and descriptive NP's and those deictic in the most basic sense (i.e. those that point within the spatio-temporal field of the world external to the text). Situation of writing NP's include cases of anaphora, textual deixis, impure textual deixis, and what I term "editorial NP's." Attitudinal NP's subsume cases of social deixis and emotional deixis as well as "group identity deixis." A few definite NP's, in particular, idioms and quantificational expressions, fall outside these categories. Variations in interpretation of (PDNP's) apparently are due to variations in context, since an NP may be deictic in one place and non-deictic in another, or deictic to the universe of discourse in one location and deictic to the situation of writing elsewhere. Linguistic and extra-linguistic factors come into play. Sentence level linguistic factors include the expression of time and the predication of definite actions. So, for instance, I is more likely to be interpreted as deictic to the universe of discourse if it occurs in a sentence expressing definite time, either through tense and aspect or adverbial modification. Discourse level factors include the antecedents of anaphoric NP's. A third person pronoun will be deictic to the universe of discourse if its antecedent introduces an element into the universe of discourse or refers to one already there. Extra-linguistic factors include readers' knowledge of the world and their attitude toward the writer and the subject matter. For instance, you seems more likely to interpreted as referring indefinitely to an ill-defined group if the reader does not believe the subject matter being discussed is personally relevant.
Foster, Daniel George, "The Effects of Linguistic and Non-Linguistic Context on the Deictic Interpretation of Noun Phrases." (1988). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 4498.