Super monsters II Role Shift, iconicity and quotation in sign language

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Philippe Schlenker


While sign language ‘Role Shift’ can be analyzed as an overt instance of context shift, we argue that it has two broad properties that require a special treatment. First, Role Shift used to report attitudes (‘Attitude Role Shift’) has a quotational component which does not follow from a simple context-shifting analysis. Second, Role Shift used to report actions (‘Action Role Shift’) has a strong iconic component: properties of signs that can be assigned to the reported situation (e.g. a happy face) must be so interpreted. We argue that both varieties of Role Shift should be analyzed as context shift, but with an important addition: the expressions that appear under Role Shift should be interpreted maximally iconically, i.e. so as to maximize the possibilities of projection between the signs used and the situation they make reference to (Role Shift is thus a ‘super monster’ not just in that it can shift the context outside of attitude reports, as was argued in Part I, but also in that it has an iconic and thus hyperintensional component). This accounts both for the quotational character of Attitude Role Shift (in this case, maximal iconicity reduces to quotation), and for the fact that Action Role Shift has a strong iconic component. Finally, this analysis vindicates the view that some expressions may be simultaneously used and mentioned/demonstrated, as argued for instance in Recanati 2001.


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