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Pragmatic demotion and clause dependency

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Abstract

Despite the wealth of subordinators in Hiw and Lo-Toga (Oceanic, north Vanuatu), two of their Tense-Aspect-Mood categories &#8211; the <i>Subjunctive</i> and the <i>Background Perfect</i> &#8211; can do without them, and encode clause dependency by themselves. A pragmatic hypothesis is proposed to account for this clause-linking faculty. The Subjunctive differs from other irrealis categories insofar as it lacks any specific illocutionary force; the Background Perfect labels its predicate as informationally back grounded. In both cases, the clause lacks certain key properties (illocutionary force; informational weight) which are normally required in pragmatically well-formed utterances. This <i>pragmatic demotion</i> makes the clause dependent on external predications, which naturally results in syntactic subordination. This case study illustrates how syntax can be reshaped by the pragmatic parameters of discourse.

References

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