Volume 19, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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This paper is concerned with the relation between semantics and non-linguistic practice and with change in that relation. The particular case involves two classes of clausal constructions that have as their verb and are used in initiating bets. One class involves and the other involves . Associated with the use of these constructions are a number of practices that have to do with what is done with the stakes of the bet. The crucial distinction among these practices in terms of the semantics of is whether or not stakes are physically laid down. If they are, then is interpretable as naming the physical action. Otherwise, some other interpretation must be sought for . I show that, over three centuries, there is a decline in the practice of laying stakes down when is used. With there is no significant change. The result of the changing use of is that is increasingly interpreted as having a metaphoric or abstract meaning. Where the new meaning is metaphoric, this is due not to a deliberate expressive choice on the part of the speaker – as is usually assumed for metaphoric use – but to change in non-linguistic practice.


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