Grounding of the meta-informative status of utterances

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In order to represent any kind of linguistic relationship (syntactic, semantic or pragmatic), linguists are keen to borrow the formal definition of predicate from First Order Logic (FOL). We claim however that the etymological sense of predicate (in its original conception made by Aristotle) reflects the pragmatic nature of elementary linguistic declarative sentences. The ASMIC (Associative Semantics and Meta-Informative Centering) theory makes it possible to restore the original meaning of “speaking about” to the term predicate, introducing the notion of information (more specifically, meta-information) into that of predication. Indeed, it is more judicious to use the term information to refer to the semantic content of linguistic utterances rather than to their pragmatic status which should be defined as meta-information. Thus, the semantic validation of linguistic utterances as true or false is indirect (it relies on their semantic interpretation) and goes far beyond the meta-informative (bearing the old or new status of information) formatting of the content they convey. Paradoxically, the old or new status of information is primary whilst the true or false validation is secondary, and not the other way round as might at first sight be thought. In the MIC framework, several different kinds of grounding of the meta-informative old or new status can be distinguished: (1) inter-utterance (speech act bound concepts of anaphora and cataphora), (2) discourse (known vs. unknown) related to the process of knowledge acquisition and (3) ontological representing the speaker’s knowledge as stored in his/her long-term memory. The memorised situations are either abstract (types of situations having such properties as generic, general, habitual or potential) or concrete (instances of situations defined as counterparts of types having such properties as specific, particular, occasional or actual respectively). The first two opposed pairs of concepts (a) generic vs. specific and (b) general vs. particular, concern (whole) situations, whereas the other two oppositions, (c) potential vs. actual and (d) habitual vs. occasional are participant-oriented. Besides its importance for the theory of discourse, the grounding theory of the meta-informative status of utterances sheds new light on the rather puzzling pragmatic usages of some important grammatical categories of human languages such as noun determination (eg. articles and quantifiers) and verb modification (tense and aspect).


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