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

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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 these two forms being truth-conditionally equivalent, their use is consistently correlated with which sort of QUD is present in the context. To account for these facts, I 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, I propose a semantics where -e’ encodes that the attitudinal predication is parenthetical — that is, not part of the at-issue proposal (similar to English sentences like “It’s raining, I think”) and instead contributes to what I dub the basis of the proposal. I show that this semantics, together with plausible general pragmatic reasoning, provides an account of the meaning of the two attitude constructions in YM and their distribution in discourse.

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Scott AnderBois, Brown University

Assistant Professor, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences