Dialogue-grammar correspondence in Dynamic Syntax

In this paper we argue, contra a trend to classify fragments in terms of sub-types specific to dialogue, that despite their diversity of usage in conversation, such ellipses are analysable in terms of general structure building mechanisms for interpretation growth that have motivation elsewhere in the grammar. The framework adopted is Dynamic Syntax (DS, Kempson et al. (2001); Cann et al. (2005)). The fragment types addressed include reformulations, clarification requests, extensions, corrections and acknowledgements which receive analyses that do not extend the basic apparatus of the model. We argue that incremental use of fragments serves a specific role in dialogue, namely, a means of incrementally narrowing down the otherwise mushrooming structural/interpretational alternatives, a problem known to constitute a major challenge to any parsing system. We conclude that a grammar with inbuilt parsing dynamics can explain dialogue phenomena without constituting a grammar of conversation. On the other hand, these results contribute to the general programme pursued by DS of providing a unitary basis for characterising all elliptical phenomena as indeed context-dependent interpretation fixing; in our view, this becomes possible if a grammar formalism is adopted in which ``syntax'' is defined as the progressive building up of representations of content reflecting real-time processing.
Research areas:
Type of Publication:
In Proceedings
Book title:
Proceedings of ESSLLI 2008 Workshop: What Syntax Feeds Semantics
Hamburg, Germany
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