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Prof. Haiping Long: A radical dualistic framework of discourse grammar and its implications


Prof. Haiping Long, Sun Yat-Sen University, China:


A radical dualistic framework of discourse grammar consists of clause grammar and pragmatic grammar. The latter deals with expressions that tend to be (a) semantically and syntactically independent from their environment, (b) functionally meta-textual, being anchored in the situation of discourse and serving the organization of texts, the attitudes of the speaker, and/or speaker-hearer interaction.

According to this radical framework, all the parentheticals, sentence adverbials (e.g., possibly, admittedly, etc.), epistemic modal verbs (e.g., may, might, etc.), sentence connectives (e.g., but, in general, etc.) and clause-final particles (e.g., isn’t it, etc.) belong to pragmatic grammar; most of the clause-taking predicates (e.g., I think, you see, etc.) also belong to pragmatic grammar. The framework has the following implications:

(I) Some parenthetical predicates (PPs; e.g., English you see, Italian guarda), sentence adverbials (SAs; e.g., Chinese guǒ rán ‘it really happens (that)’), discourse structuring markers (DSMs; e.g., Chinese kě shì ‘but’, Spanish eso sí ‘but’) may have developed from separate clauses.

(II) The development of some PPs, SAs, and DSMs may be explained as having followed a hypothetical conjoining pathway (as from you see, he has no horns to you see he has no horns). The development of some PPs and SAs may also be explained as having followed a hypothetical initial-to-medial pathway (as from perhaps Horatio lost his mind to Horatio perhaps lost his mind).

(III) Positional mobility of PPs and SAs may be generalized as the ability to occupy a clause-initial position, a clause-medial position between the subject and the main predicate, and occasionally a clause-final position. A clause-initial DSM with subjective/intersubjective meaning tends to break the Relator Principle (Dik 1997) and occupy a clause-medial position.

(IV) Three hypothetical changes need to be distinguished: (a) pure discourse structuring adverbial > pure DSM; (b) discourse structuring adverbial with subjective/intersubjective meaning > DSM/SA; (c) pure subjective/intersubjective adverbial > pure SA. At least the first two changes should be accounted for in the context of clause compounds, instead of individual clauses.

The framework may bring some new insights to natural language processing, studies of children’s language, etc


21.06.2023, 10:30 Uhr - 12:00 Uhr
Institut für Amerikanistik und Anglistik, English Language and Linguistics