Semantics and pragmatics of (not-)at-issueness in Yucatec Maya attitude reports

Scott AnderBois


English attitude reports like ‘x thinks that p’ can be used in two different types of contexts: ones where the Question Under Discussion (QUD) concerns whether or not p is true and ones where the QUD concerns x’s mental state itself. Yucatec Maya (YM) has two different morphosyntactic forms differing superficially in the presence or absence of the morpheme -e’, which serves as a topic marker elsewhere in the language. This paper argues that despite being truth-conditionally equivalent, the use of these two forms is consistently correlated with which sort of QUD is present in the context. To account for these facts, we develop a particular conception of the relationships between QUDs, relevance, at-issueness, and assertion, building on the account of Simons et al. (2011). Given this theory, we propose a semantics where -e’ encodes that the attitudinal predication is parenthetical, i.e. not part of the at-issue proposal (similar to English sentences like “It’s raining, I think.”) and instead contributes to what we dub the ‘basis’ of the proposal. We show that this semantics, together with plausible general pragmatic reasoning, provides an account of the meaning of the two attitude construction in YM and their distribution in discourse.


assertion; at-issueness; Question Under Discussion; topic; Yucatec Maya

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ISSN: 1937-8912

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