Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Natural Syntax: English Reported Speech

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Natural Syntax: English Reported Speech

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Natural Syntax is a developing deductive theory, a branch of Naturalness Theory. The naturalness judgements are couched in naturalness scales, which proceed from the basic parameters (or "axioms") listed at the beginning of this paper. The predictions of the theory are calculated in the deductions, whose chief components are a pair of naturalness scales and the rules governing the alignment of corresponding naturalness values. Parallel and chiastic alignments are distinguished, in complementary distribution. Chiastic alignment is mandatory in deductions limited to unnatural environments.

This paper exemplifies Natural Syntax using language data associated with reported speech in Standard English. Some of the deductions compare direct and indirect speech, and some operate within direct speech or within indirect speech. Special attention is directed toward the verbal nucleus of the reporting clause and on frequency phenomena as defined under 1 below in criteria (d) and (e).

1. Introduction

Natural Syntax is a (developing) deductive linguistic theory that determines the presuppositions on the basis of which a (morpho)syntactic state of affairs can be made predictable, and thus synchronically explained. The two basic kinds of presuppositions are naturalness scales and rules of alignment among corresponding values of any two scales. Every (morpho)syntactic state of affairs is represented by two comparable variants. Natural Syntax contains no generative component.

I begin by listing the criteria with which Natural Syntax substantiates naturalness scales:

a) The parameter of favourable for the speaker and of favourable for the hearer. What is favourable for the speaker is more natural, the speaker being the centre of communication. This view of naturalness is commonplace in linguistics (Havers 1931: 171), under the names of tendency to economise (utilized first of all by the speaker) and tendency to be accurate (mainly in the hearer's interest).

b) The principle of least effort (Havers 1931: 171). What conforms better to this principle is more natural for the speaker. What is cognitively simple (for the speaker) is easy to produce, easy to retrieve from memory, etc.

c) Degree of integration into the construction. What is better integrated into its construction is more natural for the speaker.

d) Frequency. What is more frequent tokenwise is more natural for the speaker. What is cognitively simpler (for the speaker) is used more. (However, the reverse does not obtain: what is natural for the speaker is not necessarily more frequent.)

e) Small vs. large class. The use of (a unit pertaining to) a small class is more natural for the speaker than the use of (a unit pertaining to) a large class. During speech, small classes are easier for the speaker to choose from than are large classes.

f) The process criterion. Any process is natural; only movement requires special comment. Given a construction, the movement of a unit to the left is more natural for the speaker than the movement of a unit to the right. (Movement to the left is more natural than non-movement; movement to the right is less natural than non-movement.)

g) Acceptable vs. non-acceptable use. What is acceptable is more natural for the speaker than what is not acceptable. The very reason for the acceptability of a syntactic unit is its greater naturalness for the speaker with respect to any corresponding non-acceptable unit.

h) What is more widespread in the languages of the world is more natural for the speaker (the typological criterion). What is cognitively simpler (for the speaker) is realized in more languages.

The basic format of the naturalness scales is >nat (A, B), in which A is favourable for the speaker and B is favourable for the hearer. A and B are the "values" of the scale. …

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