Extended perspective shift and discourse economy in language processing


Research spanning linguistics, psychology, and philosophy suggests that speakers and hearers are finely attuned to perspectives and viewpoints that are not their own, even though perspectival information is not encoded directly in the morphosyntax of languages like English. While some terms seem to require a perspective or a judge for interpretation (e.g., epithets, evaluative adjectives, locational PPs, etc.), perspective may also be determined on the basis of subtle information spanning multiple sentences, especially in vivid styles of narrative reporting. In this paper, I develop an account of the cues that are involved in evaluating and maintaining non- speaker perspectives, and present an economy-based discourse processing model of perspective that embodies two core principles. First, perspectives are subject to a “speaker-default”, but may shift to a non-speaker perspective if sufficient contextual cues are provided. Second, the processor follows the path of least resistance to maintaining perspective, opting to maintain the current perspective across sentences as long as the shifted perspective continues to be coherent. The predictions of the model are tested in a series of offline and online studies, manipulating the form of an attitude report and the tense of the sentence that follows. Implications for processing perspective and viewpoint in speech and narrative forms are explored.

To appear Frontiers - Special issue on Perspective Taking in Language