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Michaela Zemková

Abstract

Although language is something deeply embedded in our nature, the question of its origin is of the same order as the misty question of the origin of life. I point out that the core of the problem can be rooted in the dichotomy between language and speech, similar to the dichotomy of genotype and phenotype in biology. Following the ontogeny–phylogeny framework, I propose that studies of language ontogeny, especially its early stages, can bring a new understanding to language, same as the study of communication in non-human primates..

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Tiago da Costa e Silva

Abstract

The aim of this article is to offer a reading of the poetic experience through the scope of the semiotics and pragmatism of Chares S. Peirce. Such a reading through semiotics and pragmatism unveils deeper levels of the process of interpretation involving abduction, an inference through which new meanings implied in the semantic tensions arise. Methodologically, the article begins with Roman Jakobson’s realisation that only a broader semiotical context, which breaches the boundaries of the dyadic components of significant and signified scope of structuralism, enables the access to deeper levels of poetic events. The article’s author then discusses the limitations of the dyadic relations of structuralism and, as a broader processual framework to assess poeticity, sets out to discuss the poetic experience from the perspective of pragmatism and its all-encompassing logic of abduction...

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Susan F. Schmerling

Abstract

This paper introduces rhetorical meaning to semantic theory; we use the term by analogy to tropes like metonymy in classical rhetoric, which yields ‘the American president’ from the White House—that is, it substitutes one referential meaning for another. Here we focus on two rhetorical meanings: intensification and attenuation. Intensification is expressed in English and many other languages by total reduplication (an old old man); attenuation is exemplified by Spanish ‘synthetic’ diminutive forms (hombrecito ‘little man’; cf. hombre ‘man’) and English and French ‘analytic’ formations (My Little Chickadee (film); petit caporal ‘Little Corporal’ (Napoléon Bonaparte)). Formally, a rhetorical meaning is a relation with one referential meaning as its domain and, as its codomain, a set of related referential meanings, the particular set specified by the rhetorical meaning at hand. The selection from among elements of the codomain, which can even seem contradictory out of context, is in fact highly context-dependent and indicates a critical role for pragmatics in an overall account of this meaning type.

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Vilém Uhlíř

Abstract

Following the conclusions of the previous paper (Uhlir, this issue), this paper adopts a theory that is based on the notion that the essence of language is uniquely human, with no homologue elsewhere in nature, and advances the possibility that human language is discontinuous not only within communication systems but also within representational systems. Linguistic data from disparate sources in Homo sapiens are contrasted with evidence from animals. After briefly discussing the dialectics between the mosaic approach to language and the holistic approach to an integrated left hemisphere, the paper culminates in a proposal of a general zoosemiotic theory of “Representational Systems” and a special anthroposemiotic theory of “Meta-representational Systems”.

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Vilém Uhlíř

Abstract

This paper offers a brief critical review of some of the so-called “Talking Animals” projects. The findings from the projects are compared with linguistic data from Homo sapiens and with newer evidence gleaned from experiments on animal syntactic skills. The question concerning what had the so-called “Talking Animals” really done is broken down into two categories – words and (recursive) syntax. The (relative) failure of the animal projects in both categories points mainly to the fact that the core feature of language – hierarchical recursive syntax – is missing in the pseudo-linguistic feats of the animals.

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Sebastian Hoffmann, Merja Kytö, Terttu Nevalainen and Irma Taavitsainen

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Matti Rissanen

Abstract

In compiling and testing the diachronic part of the Helsinki Corpus of English Texts, our project group has come across three problems which arise from the use of computer corpora in studies of syntax and vocabulary. While these problems are mainly associated with work on diachronic corpora, they may be universal enough to deserve somewhat more general consideration. They could be called “The philologist’s dilemma”, “God’s truth fallacy”, and “The mystery of vanishing reliability”. The first could be described as pedagogical, the second methodological and the third pragmatic.

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Paula Rautionaho, Sandra C. Deshors and Lea Meriläinen

Abstract

This study focuses on the progressive vs. non-progressive alternation to revisit the debate on the ENL-ESL-EFL continuum (i.e. whether native (ENL) and nonnative (ESL/EFL) Englishes are dichotomous types of English or form a gradient continuum). While progressive marking is traditionally studied independently of its unmarked counterpart, we examine (i) how the grammatical contexts of both constructions systematically affect speakers’ constructional choices in ENL (American, British), ESL (Indian, Nigerian and Singaporean) and EFL (Finnish, French and Polish learner Englishes) and (ii) what light speakers’ varying constructional choices bring to the continuum debate. Methodologically, we use a clustering technique to group together individual varieties of English (i.e. to identify similarities and differences between those varieties) based on linguistic contextual features such as AKTIONSART, ANIMACY, SEMANTIC DOMAIN (of aspect-bearing lexical verb), TENSE, MODALITY and VOICE to assess the validity of the ENL-ESL-EFL classification for our data. Then, we conduct a logistic regression analysis (based on lemmas observed in both progressive and non-progressive constructions) to explore how grammatical contexts influence speakers’ constructional choices differently across English types. While, overall, our cluster analysis supports the ENL-ESL-EFL classification as a useful theoretical framework to explore cross-variety variation, the regression shows that, when we start digging into the specific linguistic contexts of (non-)progressive constructions, this classification does not systematically transpire in the data in a uniform manner. Ultimately, by including more than one statistical technique into their exploration of the continuum, scholars could avoid potential methodological biases.