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Abstract

Since its inception in the second part of the 20th century, the science of language evolution has been exerting a growing and formative pressure on linguistics. More obviously, given its interdisciplinary character, the science of language evolution provides a platform on which linguists can meet and discuss a variety of problems pertaining to the nature of language and ways of investigating it with representatives of other disciplines and research traditions. It was largely in this way that the attention of linguists was attracted to the study of emerging sign languages and gestures, as well as to the resultant reflection on the way different modalities impact communicative systems that use them. But linguistics also benefits from the findings made by language evolution researchers in the context of their own research questions and methodologies. The most important of these findings come out of the experimental research on bootstrapping communication systems and the evolution of communicative structure, and from mass comparison studies that correlate linguists data with a wide range of environmental variables.

Abstract

By considering a specific scenario of early language evolution, here I advocate taking into account one of the most obvious players in the evolution of human language capacity: (sexual) selection. The proposal is based both on an internal reconstruction using syntactic theory, and on comparative typological evidence, directly bringing together, formal, typological, and evolutionary considerations. As one possible test case, transitivity is decomposed into evolutionary primitives of syntactic structure, revealing a common denominator and the building blocks for crosslinguistic variation in transitivity. The approximations of this early grammar, identified by such a reconstruction, while not identical constructs, are at least as good proxies of the earliest stages of grammar as one can find among tools, cave paintings, or bird song. One subtype of such “living fossils” interacts directly with biological considerations of survival, aggression, and mate choice, while others clearly distinguish themselves in fMRI experiments. The fMRI findings are consistent with the proposal that the pressures to be able to master ever more and more complex syntax were at least partly responsible for driving the selection processes which gradually increased the connectivity of the Broca’s-basal ganglia network, crucial for syntactic processing, among other important functions.

Abstract

The topic of this paper is the interaction of aspectual verb coding, information content and lengths of verbs, as generally stated in Shannon’s source coding theorem on the interaction between the coding and length of a message. We hypothesize that, based on this interaction, lengths of aspectual verb forms can be predicted from both their aspectual coding and their information. The point of departure is the assumption that each verb has a default aspectual value and that this value can be estimated based on frequency – which has, according to Zipf’s law, a negative correlation with length. Employing a linear mixed-effects model fitted with a random effect for LEMMA, effects of the predictors’ DEFAULT – i.e. the default aspect value of verbs, the Zipfian predictor FREQUENCY and the entropy-based predictor AVERAGE INFORMATION CONTENT – are compared with average aspectual verb form lengths. Data resources are 18 UD treebanks. Significantly differing impacts of the predictors on verb lengths across our test set of languages have come to light and, in addition, the hypothesis of coding asymmetry does not turn out to be true for all languages in focus.

Abstract

The anonymous peer review is an unpublished pre-publication review which evaluates research articles submitted to journals. This type of a review plays a special role in the genre landscape of Anglophone research by ensuring its appropriate quality and ethical standards. By performing this role, the peer review also realizes a didactic potential, as it motivates researchers to improve their investigations. This paper extends the existing research on the anonymous peer review and aims to deepen our understanding of this genre by analysing the overall functional organization of peer review texts and their prominent linguistic features shaped by three communicative functions ‒ “gatekeeping”, evaluative, and didactic. It also attempts to compare the characteristics of peer reviews in two research fields ideologically and epistemologically distant from each other ‒ applied linguistics and applied mathematics. The methodological framework of the study combines Swales’s move analysis and a functional stylistic perspective developed within the East European linguistic context. The analysis has revealed a three-move structure of review texts and disclosed the roles of interpersonal markers, evaluative lexis and four types of directives in the realization of the communicative functions of the genre. The typologies of reviewers’ comments and evaluative acts in reviews have also been suggested. Furthermore, the study has brought to light some quantitative and qualitative differences between the texts in two disciplines. It is anticipated that awareness of the linguistic conventions of anonymous peer reviews analysed in the paper will help researchers to perceive this genre as a valuable source of professional assistance and enlightenment.

Abstract

This paper describes a corpus-based analysis of subject-auxiliary inversion in both spoken and written English. The focus of the analysis is Chen’s (2013) X Auxiliary Subject construction (XASC), where X codes the fronting of a constituent which triggers the inversion of the auxiliary and the subject, as in “Never has trade union loyalty faced a more baffling test” or “What did he do?” On the basis of a statistical analysis using corpora of written and spoken English, it is argued that the distribution of XAS inversion, in the interrogative mood, is related to the degree of an addressor’s involvement in a text. It will be shown that, in the interrogative mood, the more involvement in a text, the more XAS inversions are to be expected. It is also argued that XAS inversions in interrogative clauses can be seen to serve as discourse markers through which an addressor’s involvement is coded in written and spoken English discourse. The analysis will also show that XAS inversions in the declarative mood also serve an interpersonal function, this, however, being inherently tied to the clause-linking function performed by the construction. Furthermore, the data will show that the distribution of XAS inversions in declarative clauses is related to the degree of informational content of the texts in which these inversions occur.

Abstract

In doing a critical reading of news commentary headlines drawn from a corpus, this study uses critical stylistics as an initial tool for delineating the headlines’ textual, ideational and interpersonal features and also for categorizing them according to the main type of triggering located in their respective textual-conceptual functions. Presuppositions are found to be a key device in constructing the headlines’ ideational “text-worlds”, which can strategically activate readers’ “belief systems knowledge” and rapidly validate or shape their attitudes regarding social reality, even when a headline is being scanned and read autonomously on a mobile device platform. To better understand the contextual and representational role of these news commentary headlines in contemporary journalistic knowledge production and reception, this research examines their stylistic and syntactic design, identifying accompanying characteristics such as embedded ideological perspectives and propositional interpretive frameworks, while noting the headlines’ specialized positioning as cohesive interpolating texts in the digital news ecosystem.

Abstract

This paper gives a critical overview of the analytical approaches dominating the field of discourse studies in the last three decades, from the perspective of their philosophical and formative bases: social constructionism and linguistics. It explores different conceptions of the theoretical nexus between these two bases leading to the emergence of three distinct yet complementary strands of thought (i-iii). The paper starts with poststructuralist views of discourse salient in (i) Laclau and Mouffe’s Discourse Theory. Laclau and Mouffe’s assumption that no discourse is a closed entity but rather transformed through contact with other discourses is taken as the introductory premise to present a large family of (ii) critical discourse studies, characterized as text-analytical practices explaining how discourse partakes in the production and negotiations of ideological meanings. Finally, the paper discusses (iii) three recent discourse analytical models: Discourse Space Theory, Critical Metaphor Analysis and the Legitimization-Proximization Model. These new theories take a further (and thus far final) step towards consolidation of the social-theoretical and linguistic bases in contemporary discourse studies. The empirical benefits of this consolidation are discussed in the last part of the paper, which includes a case study where the new models are used in the analysis of Polish anti-immigration discourse.

Abstract

This paper explores the form and function of the initial part of a sentence, the “Theme zone” (Hannay, 1994; Fetzer, 2008), in the genre of research articles, with a threefold purpose. First, it deals with a comparative analysis of Theme zone patterns (i.e. employment of simple and multiple Themes – the latter being several different configurations of topical, interpersonal and textual Themes) in a corpus of research articles written by English authors and Czech EAL writers. The aim is to determine to what extent these writers differ in thematization and trace possible reasons for the differences. Second, the study offers an intercultural comparison of the realizations of topical, interpersonal and textual Themes, and finally, it looks into thematic progression in two excerpts from the corpus and how the Theme zone contributes to the construal of textual, interpersonal and topical coherence. In all three parts, intercultural variation can be observed, be it Czech authors’ preference for the [textual Theme] [topical Theme] configuration, their more frequent use of exclusive we and abstract rhetors in topical Themes and higher employment of textual Themes in the Theme zone, or their inclination to build coherence on a local rather than a more global level.

Abstract

Aesthetic theory, as reflected in both contemporary cognitive (Patrick Colm Hogan) and more traditional structuralist criticism (H.G. Widdowson), points to the dynamics between familiarity and surprise as the driving force behind the pleasure we derive from reading fiction. This paper explains how Neil Gaiman’s works, particularly his novel Neverwhere, utilize genre expectations and reinvent mythologies in order to captivate audiences in the current age of unprecedented access to information and a rather superficial intertextuality. The paper draws on Brian Attebery’s analyses of the literature of the fantastic to place Gaiman within the context of both modernist and postmodernist legacies, while proposing that his works could be best understood as representative of the current cultural paradigm, sometimes labelled as the pseudo-modern or post-postmodernism. The discussion of the shifting paradigm is used as a backdrop for the scrutiny of the devices employed in Gaiman’s writing: the pre-modern focus on storytelling, prototypicality, modernist “mythic principle”, postmodernist textual strategies, and utilization of current technologies and mass-communication media.

Abstract

Alienation is a recurring literary subject in the United States. Its peculiarity is occasioned by the phenomenon of racial segregation, among others, with which the society is characterized. Thus, considerable critical attention has been given to the causes as well as the attendant socio-political, economic and psychological imports on the victims. From a psychological perspective, specifically, this paper engages in a comparative analysis of the effects of alienation on characters of African American and Native American origins produced by the same system in two novels which have African American and Native American roots – Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, respectively. In order to understand the variance and/or convergence in the personality formations of the African American and Native American characters in the narratives, consequent upon the racially alienating system, the paper adopts Carl Jung’s psychological theory of personality typology, labelled introversion and extraversion, with a view to assessing how, typically, persons of these origins are more likely to react to the socio-political, cultural and economic situations affecting them as minority ethnic groups in the United States.