Doing grammatical semantics as if it were phonetics

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This paper revisits two articles co-authored with van Heuven which study thesemantics of grammatical signals quantitatively – as if semantics were phonetics.Kirsner & van Heuven (1988) demonstrates that the Dutch demonstrativeadjective deze ‘this/these’ refers back in texts over more sentence boundariesthan die ‘that/those’ does, indicating that its referent is more central in thediscourse. Van Heuven & Kirsner (1999) shows that the perceived forcefulnessof the Dutch verb stem imperative (Doe de deur dicht! ‘Close the door’) is moresensitive to the pitch level of the speaker than the perceived forcefulness of theinfinitivus pro imperativo (De deur dichtdoen) is, suggesting that the verb stemimperative has less semantic content than the infinitivus pro imperativo.


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