Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Multiple World Expression

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Multiple World Expression

Article excerpt


Linguists, logicians and literary theorists all have their own ways of explaining the interplay between real and non-real worlds. None of these explanations adequately accounts for the use of language in situations where both real and imagined worlds are manipulated and discussed simultaneously, such as roleplaying and acting. In this paper, I investigate the shortcomings of these theories when applied to referring expressions in these contexts. I suggest an approach to multiple world discourse to address these shortcomings by combining elements of possible worlds as presented by Saul Kripke literary fictional worlds and the mental space theory of Gilles Fauconnier.

Keywords: Mental spaces, Possible worlds, Imaginary worlds

1. Introduction

The nature of the world we live in, and the worlds we think in, is very different depending on what discipline you choose to follow. For logicians, the possible world is the chosen method of study, literary theorists look at the fictional world-although they often try to squeeze their theories into a possible worlds mould (Ronen, 1994). Linguists, while having taken possible worlds and made them their own as well, have added mental space theory to the mix. Even physicists have differing views on the world, and even if it is real (Chown, 2011: 37-38). However, other than possible world (and their bending to various theories), none of them seem to explain certain linguistic phenomena.

If we take sentences such as "Frodo is in a new TV show", we automatically understand that the speaker does not mean Frodo, the character in the Lord of the Rings novels and movies, but Elijah Wood, who portrayed him in the films. The relationship between Frodo and Elijah in this sentence is far different from each discipline's viewpoint. Cognitive linguistics can see Elijah and Frodo sharing a domain (Fauconnier & Sweetser, 1996), allowing them to share a designation or a blend, where the character and actor exist in some form of mutual space (Tea and Lee, 2004). In possible world theory, there should be no relationship, and the sentence should be impossible, as not only are Frodo and Elijah in different worlds, but Frodo and television do not exist in the same world (Kripke, 1979).

In the following paper, I will be putting forward a new method of analysis. By combining elements of mental space and possible world theories, this new framework is designed to map and interpret discourse in situations where both real and fictional worlds are manipulated and discussed simultaneously. I will be doing this from a linguistic perspective, using preliminary data from a larger study investigating the linguistic building of worlds in roleplaying games.

The data used in this study is from recordings of natural language taken during typical roleplaying sessions. This paper presents the preliminary framework for a larger study on language use in roleplay.

A roleplaying game is played by a group of people (typically 3-7) using a form of group storytelling. Using dice and statistically generated characters, players use their characters to participate in a fictional world, controlled and created by a single storyteller (or Game Master). In this fictional world, players negotiate obstacles such as traps, monsters and political intrigue, using their character's abilities as constrained by the rules. The game involves elements of strategy and chance, as the success or failure of an action is determined by the roll of polyhedral dice and the statistics of the character. The functions of the game and the roleplaying session proper are performed on three world-levels; the real, the game and the fictional (Fine, 1983: 3-4).

In the following section, I outline the main theories I intend to use in my solution, each coming from a slightly different discipline. These descriptions also detail some of the shortcomings of each theory in relation to roleplaying and acting based activities, using examples from the collected data. …

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