Parentheticality, assertion strength, and discourse

  • Todor Koev


Sentences with so-called SLIFTING PARENTHETICALS (e.g. The dean, Jill said, flirted with the secretary; Ross 1973) grammaticalize an intriguing interaction between speech act function and conventional meaning, one that is not found in regular embedding constructions (e.g. Jill said that the dean flirted with the secretary). In such sentences, the main clause is independently asserted and at the same time is interpreted in the scope of the parenthetical, which typically serves an evidential function. The discourse effect of this pragmasemantic setup is that slifting parentheticals modulate the strength with which the main part of the sentence is asserted (Urmson 1952, Asher 2000, Rooryck 2001, Davis et al. 2007, Simons 2007, Maier and Bary 2015). Building on Davis et al. (2007), this paper proposes a probabilistic discourse model that captures the role of parentheticality as a language tool for qualifying speaker’s commitments. The model also derives two empirical properties that set apart slifting parentheticals from regular embedding constructions, i.e. (i) the fact that slifting parentheticals invariably express upward entailing operators and (ii) the fact that they usually do not occur in subordinate clauses.
How to Cite
Koev, T. (1). Parentheticality, assertion strength, and discourse. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 21(1), 679-694. Retrieved from