The Sense of Self: Topics in the Semantics of De Se Expressions

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The Sense of Self: Topics in the Semantics of De Se Expressions

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Title: The Sense of Self: Topics in the Semantics of De Se Expressions
Author: Pearson, Hazel Anne
Citation: Pearson, Hazel Anne. 2012. The Sense of Self: Topics in the Semantics of De Se Expressions. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This work investigates a series of phenomena that shed light on the analysis of attitudes de se. We adopt Lewis’ (1979) proposal that attitudes de se involve self-ascription of a property, and investigate how this view of mental content is reflected in natural language. The implementation favored is a strong version of Lewis’ position: root and embedded clauses are uniformly treated as being of property type. Our approach elaborates Chierchia’s (1990) view that de se construals arise via binding by an abstraction operator in the clausal left periphery. Part I develops an argument that such operators occur in root as well as embedded clauses. This is contrasted with the view that the evaluation index incorporates an individual parameter, a prominent version of which treats the behavior of predicates of taste such as tasty as evidence that truth is relativized to individuals (Lasersohn, 2005; Stephenson, 2007a, 2007b). Chapter 2 argues against this view, defending a semantics for taste predicates that requires no appeal to an individual parameter. Chapter 3 employs an argument from Moore’s Paradox to motivate the proposal that root clauses bear individual abstractors in their left periphery, while Chapter 4 identifies phenomena that the system accounts for. Part II concerns two elements whose distribution is confined to embedded clauses: controlled PRO and the logophoric pronoun in the Niger-Congo language Ewe. Chapters 5 and 6 investigate the semantics of partial control, a variety of control where the controller denotes a proper subset of the understood subject. The view that control complements express properties lends itself to a principled account of which predicates license partial control. Chapter 7 presents novel data regarding the logophoric pronoun in Ewe. We show that, contrary to what had been assumed in the absence of the necessary fieldwork, Ewe logopohors are not obligatorily de se. We propose an account of this finding that is compatible with the implementation of the property view that we favor. Chapter 8 closes the dissertation by considering why it should be that certain expressions, such as PRO, are obligatorily de se while others, like the Ewe logophor, can be de re.
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