Perspective-shifting and free indirect discourse: Experimental investigations

Elsi Kaiser


The psycholinguistic experiments reported in this paper explore the question of who gets to be the ‘judge’ according to whom we interpret linguistic expressions that seem to require some kind of epistemic anchor, such as epithets (e.g. that jerk). Experiments 1a and 1b corroborate Harris and Potts’ (2009) findings that epithets and appositives can receive non-speaker-oriented readings. Experiments 2 and 3 compare sentences with and without epithets and epistemic adverbs, and show that the presence of these elements can in fact boost the rate of non-speaker-oriented interpretations, at least in contexts that allow the text to be interpreted as fiction/narrative. We suggest this is because, in such contexts, expressions like epithets and epistemic adverbs can signal free indirect discourse.

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