Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

The Assertive Clause Hypothesis, Performative Sentences and the Adjacency Condition on Question Tags

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

The Assertive Clause Hypothesis, Performative Sentences and the Adjacency Condition on Question Tags

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Within the last sixty years, question tags have attracted quite a lot of attention in the literature with a variety of perspectives. At the beginning, studies on question tags dealt primarily with their syntactic and semantic aspects. These include works by O'Connor (1955), Bolinger (1957), Palmer (1965), Arbini (1969), Palmer and Blandford (1969), Huddleston (1970), Langendoen (1970), Armagost (1972), Cattell (1973), Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik (1972), Quirk and Greenbaum (1973), Hudson (1975), Oleksy (1977), Knowles (1980), Hintikka (1982), Kolln and Funk (1998), Huddleston and Pullum (2002), Downing and Locke (2006) and Tabua (2014), which have largely studied question tags within descriptive and transformational generative grammars with respect to rules of formation and response.

However, other studies soon emerged of question tags from the point of view of sociolinguistic variations, as question tags have since started behaving more and more as pragmatic markers. These include works of Lakoff (1972; 1975), Dubois and Crouch (1975), Crosby and Nyquist (1977), Lapadat and Seesahai (1977), McMillan et al. (1977), Dines (1980), O'Barr and Atkins (1980), Cheshire (1981; 1982), Faerch and Kasper (1982), Holmes (1984; 1995), Schiffrin (1987), Algeo (1988), Cameron et al. (1989), Coates (1989), Winefield et al. (1989), Stenstrom (1994), Traugott (1995; 2012), Fraser (1996), Andersen (2001), Cheng and Warren (2001), Tottie and Hoffman (2006) and Pichler (2010; 2013). Most of these have been concerned with the differences between men and women in the use of question tags, and with the use of question tags as discourse pragmatic markers on a par with particles like eh?, right? and okay? or to serve a variety of pragmatic functions, which include attitudinal, epistemic and politeness functions.

In this article, I place my focus on the morpo-syntax and semantics of question tags in English as a continuation of my recent (2015) work, in which I have examined the use of the generalized invariant tag (GIT) isn't it? on declarative sentences in general, and argued that the GIT is based on a truncated assertive matrix (TAM) clause. Specifically, I explore, in the present article, the connection between the GIT and the so-called TAM clause. Thus, in Section 3, I look at the implication of the TAM clause for another such matrix clause, namely, the performative matrix clause first pointed out in Austin (1962) and later explored within the framework of Generative Semantics beginning with Ross's (1970) work. In Section 4, I then present the Adjacency Condition on Question Tags and show how the inappropriateness of appending restrictive tags to holistically treated compound declaratives and other anchor clauses with a compound propositional content corroborates the use of the GIT and therefore further justifies the claim of the presence of the TAM clause that serves as basis for it. To put this into perspective, let me start with a preview of the relevant literature in Section 2 that follows.

2. Subordination and the Idea of a TAM Clause

Following ideas from Huddleston and Pullum (2002), it can be said that a question tag is an elliptical transformation of the same declarative sentence to which the former is appended into a yes/no question, to function as a common device for seeking a confirmation of the assertion of the proposition made in the original sentence based on the expectation, positive or negative, of the questioner. Essentially, the source clause can be known as the anchor (or anchor clause) following Huddleston and Pullum (2002, p. 891)-perhaps because the question tag literally anchors to it. As Downing and Locke (2006, p. 187) point out, a question tag may be appended to a declarative clause as in (1a) below, an exclamative clause (1b), or to an imperative clause (1c), of which the declarative is the most common.

(1) a. The boat hasn't arrived, has it?

b. How quiet it was in the hall, wasn't it? …

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