Syntax in the Treetops
A proposal that syntax extends to the domain of discourse in making core syntax link to the conversational context.
In Syntax in the Treetops, Shigeru Miyagawa proposes that syntax extends into the domain of discourse by making linkages between core syntax and the conversational participants. Miyagawa draws on evidence for this extended syntactic structure from a wide variety of languages, including Basque, Japanese, Italian, Magahi, Newari, Romanian, and Spanish, as well as the language of children with autism. His proposal for what happens at the highest level of the tree structure used by linguists to represent the hierarchical relationships within sentences—“in the treetops”—offers a unique contribution to the new area of study sometimes known as “syntacticization of discourse.”
Miyagawa's main point is that syntax provides the basic framework that makes possible the performance of a speech act and the conveyance of meaning; although the role that syntax plays for speech acts is modest, it is critical. He proposes that the speaker-addressee layer and the Commitment Phrase (the speaker's commitment to the addressee of the truthfulness of the proposition) occur together in the syntactic treetops. In each succeeding chapter, Miyagawa examines the working of each layer of the tree and how they interact.