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What does it take to be a copula?

Abstract

This paper argues that copular sentences without an overt copular predicate do project a VP with a phonologically null head, hence so-called “verbless” copular sentences are illusory. Data from Standard Arabic, Spanish, Maltese, Russian, Jamaican Creole, Finnish and Hungarian copular sentences are used to support this claim. It is also claimed here that variation between the habitual property vs. ad hoc property interpretations (traditionally called the individual level vs. stage level distinction) of non-verbal predicates found in copular sentences is closely related to the choice of the copula in multiple BE-system languages. Whilst the current accounts explain this variation by introducing an abstract aspectual operator or an incorporated abstract preposition in the functional layer of the copular predicate, the present proposal derives these interpretive differences from the presence or absence of an OPalt alternative state operator, which can bind the temporal variable of non-verbal predicates in two ways.

Negation and temporal adverbials show scope ambiguity in copular sentences. They either take scope over the whole proposition or only over the non-verbal predicate. Such interpretive differences are demonstrated in Russian and Hungarian in Section 4 of this paper, however, they are taken to be valid cross-linguistically. These amibiguities cannot be explained under the “verbless copular sentence” account but fall out naturally from the “zero copula” analysis.

The “alternative state” approach can be extended to dream narratives and other nonveridical contexts, which serve as alternative triggers. The existing analyses have nothing to say about such contexts.

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Laryngeal Relativism predicts Italian

Abstract

Two-way laryngeal systems are classified by Laryngeal Realism into [voice] languages (or “L-systems”, e.g., Slavic, Romance) and [spread glottis] ([sg]; or aspiration) languages (or “H-systems”, e.g., the typical Germanic pattern). More recently, Cyran (2014) has proposed Laryngeal Relativism (LR), claiming that phonetic interpretation is arbitrary, and as a result, two phonetically identical systems, even two dialects of a language, may turn out to diverge phonologically. His example is Polish: while Warsaw Polish represents the typical [voice]/L-system, he analyses phonetically identical Cracow Polish as an H-system (counter to Laryngeal Realism’s uniform classification of Slavic languages).

However, in the “classical” version of [sg] languages (e.g., English), no laryngeal activity in the form of any kind of spreading is attested, which suggests the absence of any source element and, instead, a dominant role of obstruency (|h|). We, therefore, arrive at a three-way typology: h-systems, H-systems and L-systems. At the same time, arbitrary phonetic interpretation in LR predicts the existence of, e.g., h-systems with virtually no aspiration in the fortis series. We claim that this is indeed the characterisation of Italian. Using data from potential feature spreading situations, elicited in loanword and foreign accent settings, we show that Italian is an h-system, exhibiting no true laryngeal activity.

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Scaling morphosemantic transparency/opacity: A corpus-linguistic and acquisitionist study of German diminutives

Abstract

The judicious use of electronic corpora allows new possibilities in the study of word formation. In contrast to the usual way of contrasting morphosemantic transparency (or compositionality) and morphosemantic opacity (or non-compositionality) in a dichotomous way, we present a ten-step scale from maximum transparency to total opacity, exemplified with the common German diminutive suffixation in -chen and Austro-Bavarian -erl. Our corpus-linguistic investigation allows new insights into problems of distribution of type and token frequency according to degrees of morphosemantic transparency/ opacity and of the two rivalling diminutive formations. An analysis of diminutive acquisition is added as external evidence for or against previous claims. Acquisition data come from three longitudinal corpora and from 24 children of a transversal quasi-longitudinal study. Here the order of acquisition of diminutives according to the ten-step scale of morphosemantic transparency/opacity and to adult type and token frequency will be presented and the relation between morphosemantic and morphopragmatic meaning will be discussed.

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The acquisition of Hungarian recursive PPs

Abstract

In this study an experiment is presented on how Hungarian children interpret two word orders of recursive PPs (subject-PP-verb and PP-subject-verb order). According to the research of Roeper (2011) and Hollebrandse and Roeper (2014), children tend to give conjunctive interpretation to multiple embedded sentences at the beginning of language acquisition. This interpretation later turns into an adult-like, recursive interpretation. Our aim is to discover (i) whether Hungarian children start with conjunction as well, and whether (ii) the apparently more salient functional head lévő appearing in Hungarian recursive PPs can help them to acquire the correct, recursive interpretation early. We also want to find out whether (iii) the word orders in recursive PPs have an influence on the acquisition of children. In this paper two experiments are presented conducted with 6 and 8-year-olds and adults, in which the participants were asked to choose between two pictures. One of the pictures depicted recursive and the other one depicted conjunctive interpretation of the given sentence. In the first experiment subject-PP-verb order was tested, but in the second one sentences were tested with PP-subject-verb order. We will claim that lévő, which is (arguably) a more salient Hungarian functional element than -i, does not help children to acquire the embedded reading of recursive sentences, because both of them are overt functional heads. However, the two types of word orders affect the acquisition of recursive PPs. PP-subject-verb order is easier to compute because the order of the elements in the sentences and the order of the elements in the pictures matches.

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Textual meaning and its place in a theory of language

Abstract

Following the development of a framework for critical stylistics (Jeffries 2010) and the explication of some of the theoretical assumptions behind this framework (Jeffries 2014a, 2014b, 2015a, 2015b), the present article attempts to put this framework into a larger theoretical context as a way to approach textual meaning. Using examples from the popular U.S. television show, The Big Bang Theory, I examine the evidence that there is a kind of textual meaning which can be distinguished from the core propositional meaning on the one hand and from contextual, interpersonal meaning on the other. The specific aim, to demonstrate a layer of meaning belonging to text specifically, is set within an argument which claims that progress in linguistics can better be served by adherence to a rigorous scientific discipline.

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But, you see, the problem is … Perception verbs in courtroom talk: Focus on you see

Abstract

This article seeks to contribute to the body of research on the use of perception verbs in interaction and, more specifically, to enhance the understanding of how participants in courtroom proceedings exploit you see to manage the discourse as it unfolds and to negotiate stance. Against the background of earlier work on vision words in interaction, the study looks at parenthetical and non-parenthetical you see to reveal both perceptual and cognitive uses, and to identify their local pragmatic effect. As the analysis indicates, in the data at hand, lexical you see is more readily recruited than non-lexical you see, and it is found chiefly in grammatical and declarative questions. At the same time, it is the clause-initial you see that visibly brings out the epistemic tensions between the speakers and serves to contest the addressee’s position. The study corroborates the claim that you see is an argumentative marker, whose meaning (and force) depends on its formal properties (position, complementation) and the relationship between the speakers.

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The ‘indisciplinarity’ of stylistics

Abstract

This paper aims at showing why the stylistician can be construed as a prolific “impostor” in a most positive sense: pledged to no specific linguistic prophet, she can opt for different theoretical linguistic tools (in the sphere of pragmatics, critical discourse analysis, cognitive grammar, etc.) depending on her object of study and what her research question is. The liberty claimed by the stylistician explains why stylistics is the “undisciplined” child of linguistics, shirking any clear definition of its boundaries. It will be argued that stylistics can only exist as a cross-disciplinary field given its conception of language as fundamentally contextualized. If it was a discipline determined by clear-cut pre-established boundaries, stylistics would be far more “disciplined” but would run the risk of serving only itself. The broad goal of this paper is thus to evince that the “indisciplinarity” of stylistics constitutes its very defining essence. With this aim in mind, it will demonstrate what stylistics owes to other disciplines, what it shares with similar language-based disciplines and what it can offer to other fields or practices of knowledge.

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Cross-Cultural Variation in the Use of Hedges and Boosters in Academic Discourse

Language Writing 6 (1997), 183-205. Print. Hyland, Ken and Polly Tse. “Metadiscourse in academic writing: A reappraisal.” Applied Linguistics 25 (2004), 156-177. Print. Ivanič, Roz. Writing and Identity: The Discoursal Construction of Identity in Academic Writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1998. Print. Martin-Martin, Pedro. “The mitigation of scientific claims in research papers: A comparative study.” IJES 8/2 (2008), 133-152. Print Mauranen, Anna. “Contrastive ESP Rhetoric: Metatext in Finnish

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Literature and Learning in Marilynne Robinson’s Novel Gilead

Abstract

Literature and learning play an important role in Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead (2004). By focusing on the author’s many references to books, literature and learning, the present paper attempts to study their individual contextual occurrences and explores how they saturate the discursive substratum of the novel’s major themes. The paper claims that a special role attributed to books and learning, and particularly to the Greek New Testament, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine and The Essence of Christianity, sheds significant light on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the meaning of life, one of the novel’s central concerns.

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Landscapes of History in the Novels of Lawrence Norfolk

Abstract

This article deals with novels by Lawrence Norfolk which are read with a focus on their visual quality and the way they depict history. It is argued that Norfolk’s historical novels are unique in their portrayal of “landscapes of history”, large canvases in which individual characters play marginal, or a rather insignificant role. This approach distinguishes Norfolk from much of contemporary historical fiction, albeit at times this strategy might not be wholly satisfactory from a critical perspective. However, the article claims that Norfolk’s novels are intellectually inspiring since, similar to landscape, they invite a certain gaze, yet deny us the possibility of naming, of conceptualising. They provide readers with impressive vistas on history, which is seen as something too large to understand and penetrate. In this the novels are anti-humanistic. Individual characters (and their actions) are insignificant, or significant only to such an extent that they subscribe to some mythical framework, as Norfolk shows in, arguably, his best novel, In the Shape of a Boar (2000).

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