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Mirativity and rhetorical structure

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Abstract

This paper studies from a synchronic-diachronic perspective the formal and semantic-discursive properties of adverbial expressions with a negative quantifier + wonder (henceforth ‘no’ wonder). They are used as mirative qualifiers which assess a proposition as ‘not surprising’, typically motivated by an explicit justification. As a result, the ‘no’ wonder adverbials function in a larger rhetorical structure, within which they convey the ‘causally justified expectedness’ of a state-of-affairs. We point out that in Present-day English, there are two types of ‘no’ wonder adverbials that are in different ways ‘outside of the clause’ they assess. On the one hand, there are disjunct uses of ‘no’ wonder, which in our data always occur in sentence-initial position, scoping over the following proposition, with the justification either preceding or following the miratively qualified proposition. On the other hand, there is the anaphoric adverbial ‘no’ wonder, which retrospectively qualifies a proposition in a preceding clause or sentence, but is itself part of a separate complex containing the justification. We argue that historically these two adverbial subtypes are related to different multi-clausal patterns involving clauses with be + no wonder: disjuncts to extraposition constructions and anaphoric adverbials to clauses that qualify a preceding clause. We also show that in Present-day spoken data the anaphoric mirative qualifier is prosodically more independent, while the disjunct uses tend to be prosodically integrated with the proposition.

References

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