Pragmatics 22:1

Pragmatics 22:1 (March 2012)


Spyridoula BELLA, Length of residence and intensity of interaction: Modification in Greek L2 requests




This paper investigates the external and internal modification devices used by native speakers and advanced learners of Greek, when making requests in formal and informal situations. The data are drawn from a discourse completion test completed by native speakers and learners of two different groups: one with extended length of residence in Greece but limited opportunities for interaction with native speakers and one with more frequent opportunities for interaction but limited length of residence in the target community. On the basis of the results, it is argued that learners with more opportunities for interaction approximate more closely to the native norm with respect to external modification and some aspects of internal modification of requests. Yet, it is shown that other aspects of internal modification remain underdeveloped, irrespective of frequency of contact with native speakers. This highlights the need for pedagogical intervention in order for the learners’ pragmatic development to be promoted.


Keywords: L2 Greek;requests; Modification; Length of residence; Interaction intensity.


Gerald P. DELAHUNTY, An analysis of The Thing is that S sentences




I refer to the sentences that are the subject of this paper as Thing sentences (TSs), illustrated by The thing is that it’s not my phone. These are copular specificational sentences with a definite singular subject and a finite complement clause. Prior research claimed that TSs focus attention on their complement clauses, are pragmatic or discourse markers, indicate a shift in subtopic or topic, communicate that the proposition represented by the complement clause is in “disconformity” with, or problematic in, its context, and that it represents a cause, reason, justification, or grounds for other propositions; these  interpretations are claimed to be conventionally associated with the construction. I show that these earlier works are descriptively inaccurate and explanatorily incomplete. While the cause, reason, justification, and grounds interpretations have not been explained, some authors have claimed that the problem interpretation is due to the semantic poverty of thing. I demonstrate that the construction presents the complement proposition as both focused and presupposed and consequently as partially discontinuous with the discourse topic as it has developed up to the point at which the TS is uttered, thereby effecting a shift in the development of the current topic, though never a shift to an unrelated topic. I argue against analyzing TSs as discourse or pragmatic markers and I demonstrate that TSs need not communicate that their complements are problematic, that the range of other interpretations is greater than hitherto proposed, that these are due to the operation of general interpretive schemata, and therefore are not conventionally associated with the construction. I show that the presuppositional effects are due to the minimal semantic specification of thing and the fact that it is definite, and that the focusing effects are due to the predicate position of the clause and to the specificationality of the construction which makes the clause an argument of the subject and thus a marked focus. This analysis of Thing sentences demonstrates thatspeakers are attuned to the expectations of their audiences and exploit the lexical and syntactic resources of the language to create expression types to manage such things as topical development, and in the case of Thing sentences to signal an unexpected development of the current topic, leading to a change in its trajectory. The analysis shows that at this point in its history, TS interpretations are due to its linguistic features interacting in context with general pragmatic principles.


Keywords : Compositionality; Definiteness; Focusing; Presupposition; Specificational construction; Thing; Thing sentence; Topical change; Topic management.


Jennifer D. EWALD, “Can you tell me how to get there?”: Naturally-occurring versus role-play data in direction-giving




This study takes up the current debate on natural versus elicited data in investigations on speech acts by comparing both types of data in a particular context, that of asking for and giving driving directions.  An analysis of route-descriptions offered by male and female direction-givers in both natural and role-play settings revealed only one statistically significant sex-related difference: More male than female participants included mileage estimates in the natural setting but not in the role-play setting.  However, when male and female participants’ responses were combined to compare natural with role-play direction-giving, the role-play participants exhibited several significantly different linguistic behaviors in terms of their use of verbal devices (e.g., landmarks, mileage estimates, stoplight estimates) throughout the interactional phases. Direction-givers, when acting in an authentic context that carries real-world consequences, unanimously recognized an indirect request for directions while the direction-givers in the role-play setting generally did not.  Additionally, this study revealed that the cognitive behaviors and the conventionalization evident in “natural” direction-giving were lacking in the role-play exchanges.  Finally, the role-play participants were generally more aware of their role as research participants than as direction-givers, an awareness that affected their linguistic behaviors. 



Keywords:  Direction-giving; Role-play; Natural data; Elicited data; Route-descriptions; Verbal devices.


Samir Omar JARBOU, Medial deictic demonstratives in Arabic: Fact or fallacy




This paper investigates two different views concerning the number of deictic degrees of demonstratives in Classical Arabic (CA) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). The first view claims that CA has a medial category of demonstratives in addition to proximals and distals; the second view postulates that there are only proximals and distals in CA. The study examines the dialectal origin of singular and dual CA demonstratives based on writings of ancient grammarians in addition to investigating the Semitic origin of these demonstratives. It is argued that the demonstrative system in CA is the result of a combination of two dialectal demonstrative systems: one of these had been used in Old ijaazi, while the other had been used in Old Tamiimi Arabic. Each of these dialects had only proximals and distals but no medials. Demonstratives in these dialects had dissimilar forms for distals. ijaazi distals had two suffixes attached to the proximal base, while Tamiimi ones had one suffix only. The presence of these different forms led grammarians representing the first view to the fallacy that demonstratives with one suffix are medials, while those with two suffixes are distals. However, the supposed medials are in fact the distals that were used in Old Tamiimi; their distance value is the same as that of Old Hijaazi distals.  


Keywords: Deictic demonstrative degrees; Medial demonstratives; Classical Arabic;  Spoken Old Ara-

bic; Semitic.


Leelo KEEVALLIK, Compromising progressivity: ‘No’-prefacing in Estonian




Negative polar particles have generally been characterized as items for expressing disagreement or responding negatively to polar questions. What has been lacking in these accounts is attention to embodied activities. This paper studies the usage of the Estonian negative particle ei as a preface in real-time activities, showing that it halts the ongoing action, often for the sake of achieving intersubjective understanding and establishing epistemic authority. The paper shows how other matters besides logic and truth-conditions define the meaning of the negative particle. Analysis of linguistic function demands transgressing the boundaries of language and scrutiny of co-present interaction in its temporal emergence. The paper argues that several discourse functions of ei are also more accurately described from the vantage point of its usage in multimodal face-to-face settings than from the logical properties that the item happens to display in limited sequential contexts after yes/no interrogatives.


Keywords : Interactional linguistics; Conversation analysis; Progressivity ; Epistemic authority; Epistemic primacy; Negative polar particle; Estonian.


Michael MEEUWIS and Koen STROEKEN, Non-situational functions of demonstrative noun phrases in Lingala (Bantu)




This paper examines the non-situational (i.e., non-exophoric) pragmatic functions of the three adnominal demonstratives, óyo, wâná, and yangó in the Bantu language Lingala. An examination of natural language corpora reveals that, although native-speaker intuitions sanction the use of óyo as an anaphor in demonstrative NPs, this demonstrative is hardly ever used in that role. It also reveals that wâná, which has both situational and discourse-referential capacities, is used more frequently than the exclusively anaphoric demonstrative yangó. It is explained that wâná appears in a wide range of non-coreferential expression types, in coreferential expression types involving low-salience referents, and in coreferential expression types that both involve highly salient referents and include the speaker’s desire to signal a shift in the mental representation of the referent towards a pejorative reading. The use of yangó, on the other hand, is only licensed in cases of coreferentiality involving highly salient referents and implying continuation of the same mental representation of the referent. A specific section is devoted to charting the possible grammaticalization paths followed by the demonstratives. Conclusions are drawn for pragmatic theory formation in terms of the relation between form (yangó vs. wâná) and function (coreferentiality vs. non-coreferentiality).


Keywords: Demonstratives; Anaphora; Deixis; Bantu languages; Grammaticalization .


Juan Luis RODRIGUEZ, The interplay of greetings and promises: Political encounters between the Warao and the new indigenous leadership in the Orinoco Delta, Venezuela




This paper addresses the use of greetings and the importance of promises in political speeches performed by Warao and non-Warao indigenous politicians to Warao audiences in the Orinoco Delta, Venezuela. It shows that lack of promises can jeopardize the rhetorical effectiveness of their performance regardless of their use of discursive framings, such as greetings in indigenous languages, and of traditional genres of speech. Promises are important for the Warao because they link political speech with other meaningful events, especially political gift distribution. Promises create trans-semiotic links between events and index the possibility of a continuous relationship with political representatives.


Keywords: Political Discourse; Warao; Orinoco Delta.