On the demonstrative nature of finite complementizers
Camil Staps, Johan Rooryck
August 2023

This article argues that the [+distal] feature of demonstrative 'that' is also present in complementizer 'that', and has not bleached away. In particular, we argue that complementizer 'that' is referential: it refers to an element in the SHARED DISCOURSE SPACE (an extension of the Common Ground) that can be seen as distal. This allows us to explain (i) that direct speech patterns with [−distal] ('Sue said this/#that: “It is raining”') while indirect speech patterns with [+distal] ('Sue said *this/that it is raining'); (ii) the use of 'that' in exclamatives ('That bio industry is still allowed!'); and (iii) that optional 'that' is more frequently used when there is some sort of context between Speaker and Addressee. This last phenomenon has parallels in Romance complementizers derived from Latin 'quod', which can likewise be seen as [+distal]. We propose that [+distal] is a marker of ADDRESSEE INVOLVEMENT, which can account for all these phenomena, and can be extended to demonstrative uses of 'that'. In exophoric contexts, [+distal] additionally marks ACTUAL DISTANCE. The interpretation of Addressee involvement and actual distance depends on context; we propose that it is derived from the interaction between the syntactic DP/CP domain and the pragmatic exophoric/endophoric distinction.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006751
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Linguistics
keywords: proximal/distal, presupposition, common ground, evidentiality, optional 'that', exclamative 'that', main clause 'que'/'că', semantics, syntax
previous versions: v2 [August 2022]
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