The Common Syntax of Deixis and Affirmation

George Tsoulas. 2017. The Common Syntax of Deixis and Affirmation. In Laura Bailey and Michelle Sheehan (eds.) Order and structure in syntax, 281-309. Language Science Press, Berlin.

This paper pursues a formal analysis of the idea that affirmative answers to Yes/No questions correspond to a sort of propositional deixis whereby the relevant proposition is pointed at. The empirical case involves an analysis of the deictic particle na in Greek and a comparison of its syntax with that of the affirmative particle nai.

It is shown that both involve an extra head position in the syntax which in the case of the deictic particle is uniformly externalised as the pointing gesture. It is argued that gestural externalisation of syntactic structure should be considered on a par with phonetic externalisation (not only in sign languages). The grammar of the affirmative particle also accounts for the observation about Greek whereby both truth and polarity answering systems appear to coexist.