From Cognitive Semantics to Lexical Pragmatics: The Functional Polysemy of Discourse Particles

From Cognitive Semantics to Lexical Pragmatics: The Functional Polysemy of Discourse Particles

From Cognitive Semantics to Lexical Pragmatics: The Functional Polysemy of Discourse Particles

From Cognitive Semantics to Lexical Pragmatics: The Functional Polysemy of Discourse Particles

Excerpt

1.1 Aims

This study concerns English and German discourse particles, small items such as German ja, also, ne, oh or ach and English yes, yeah, oh or well which predominantly occur in spontaneous spoken language. Discourse particles are “grammatically peripheral” (Fraser 1990: 391), that is, they do not enter any grammatical relationships with other parts of utterances, and they may fulfil such a broad range of functions that Hentschel and Weydt (1989) suggest the context-dependency of their meanings to be their most prominent feature, thus defining discourse particles as essentially syncategorematic. The current investigation addresses the problem of polysemy, “the occurrence of more-or-less discrete and more-or-less unitary bundles of semantic properties associated with particular word forms” (Cruse 1992: 2); since the most important contribution of discourse particles is in the pragmatic domain, particularly their functional polysemy, that is, the occurrence of more-or-less discrete and more-or-less unitary bundles of functional properties associated with particular word forms, will be investigated. In other words, this study attempts to account for the fact that a particular discourse particle lexeme may get different interpretations which are perceived as related in some way. Consider the following examples:

The examples are from the Verbmobil corpus described in section 1.3.

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