Degrees of pragmaticalization

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Despite their formal resemblance, the English word &#8216;actually&#8217; and the French word <i>actuellement</i> fulfil very different semantic-pragmatic functions in their present-day usage. In most cases they are &#8216;false friends&#8217;, as they overlap in meaning in a very limited number of contexts only. Since these words can &#8212; directly or indirectly (through borrowing) &#8212; be traced back to the same origin, their present-day meanings indicate that the words have followed different paths of change. It is the aim of the present article to trace the semantic-pragmatic developments of these words through a detailed examination of the discursive contexts in which they have occurred from their first attestations in the languages concerned until the present time. In this way, the subtle transitions from one meaning to another are laid bare. In addition, the cross-linguistic perspective offers insight into how polysemy may develop in different directions. The analyses are based on French and English monolingual corpus data, both synchronic and diachronic. In addition, translation corpus data provide further evidence for the semantics of the two adverbs. The results of the empirical analysis are interpreted within the framework of pragmaticalization and (inter)subjectification.


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