1887
Volume 22, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238

Abstract

I refer to the sentences that are the subject of this paper as sentences (TSs), illustrated by . These are copular specificational sentences with a definite singular subject and a finite complement clause. Prior research claimed that TSs focus attention on their complement clauses, are pragmatic or discourse markers, indicate a shift in subtopic or topic, communicate that the proposition represented by the complement clause is in “disconformity” with, or problematic in, its context, and that it represents a cause, reason, justification, or grounds for other propositions; these interpretations are claimed to be conventionally associated with the construction. I show that these earlier works are descriptively inaccurate and explanatorily incomplete. While the cause, reason, justification, and grounds interpretations have not been explained, some authors have claimed that the problem interpretation is due to the semantic poverty of . I demonstrate that the construction presents the complement proposition as both focused and presupposed and consequently as partially discontinuous with the discourse topic as it has developed up to the point at which the TS is uttered, thereby effecting a shift in the development of the current topic, though never a shift to an unrelated topic. I argue against analyzing TSs as discourse or pragmatic markers and I demonstrate that TSs need not communicate that their complements are problematic, that the range of other interpretations is greater than hitherto proposed, that these are due to the operation of general interpretive schemata, and therefore are not conventionally associated with the construction. I show that the presuppositional effects are due to the minimal semantic specification of and the fact that it is definite, and that the focusing effects are due to the predicate position of the clause and to the specificationality of the construction which makes the clause an argument of the subject and thus a marked focus. This analysis of sentences demonstrates that speakers are attuned to the expectations of their audiences and exploit the lexical and syntactic resources of the language to create expression types to manage such things as topical development, and in the case of sentences to signal an unexpected development of the current topic, leading to a change in its trajectory. The analysis shows that at this point in its history, TS interpretations are due to its linguistic features interacting in context with general pragmatic principles.

Loading

Article metrics loading...

/content/journals/10.1075/prag.22.1.02del
2012-01-01
2019-12-13
Loading full text...

Full text loading...

References

  1. Aijmer, Karin
    (2007) The interface between discourse and grammar: The fact is that . In Agnes Celle , and Ruth Huart (eds.), Connectives as discourse landmarks. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.31–46. doi: 10.1075/pbns.161.05aij
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.161.05aij [Google Scholar]
  2. Bar-Lev, Zev , and A. Palacas
    (1980) Semantic command over pragmatic priority. Lingua51: 137–146. doi: 10.1016/0024‑3841(80)90004‑2
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0024-3841(80)90004-2 [Google Scholar]
  3. Bergh, Gunnar
    (2005) Min(d)ing the English language data on the Web: What can Google tell us?ICAME Journal29: 25–46.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Beyssade, C. , and C. Dobrovie-Sorin
    (2008) Copular sentences, lifetime effect, and identity. webs2002.uab.es/clt/activitats/Bare%20Singulars/BeyssadeDobrovieSorin.pdf (accessed 4 June 2011 ).
  5. Biber, D. , S. Johansson , G. Leech , S. Conrad , and E. Finegan
    (1999) Longman grammar of spoken and written English. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Blakemore, Diane
    (1987) Semantic constraints on relevance. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. (1989) Denial and contrast: A relevance theoretic analysis of but . Linguistics and Philosophy12: 15–38. doi: 10.1007/BF00627397
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00627397 [Google Scholar]
  8. (1997) Restatement and exemplification: A relevance theoretic re-assessment of elaboration. Pragmatics and Cognition5.1: 1–19. doi: 10.1075/pc.5.1.04bla
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/pc.5.1.04bla [Google Scholar]
  9. (2001) Discourse and relevance theory. In Deborah Schiffrin , Deborah Tannen , and Heidi E. Hamilton (eds.), The handbook of discourse analysis. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp.100–118.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. (2004) Discourse markers. In Laurence Horn , and Gregory Ward (eds.), The handbook of pragmatics. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, pp.221–240.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Brenier, Jason , and Laura A. Michaelis
    (2005) Optimization via syntactic amalgam: Syntax-prosody mismatch and copula doubling. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory1.1: 45–88.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Brown, Penelope , and Stephen C. Levinson
    (1978) Some universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena. In E.N. Goody (ed.), Questions and politeness. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Calude, Andreea S. , and Gerald Delahunty
    (2011) Inferentials in spoken English. International Journal of Pragmatics21.3: 307–340.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Carston, Robyn
    (1992) Conjunction, explanation and relevance. Lingua90.1/2: 23–48.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. (2002) Thoughts and utterances: The pragmatics of explicit communication. Malden, MA: Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9780470754603
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470754603 [Google Scholar]
  16. Carter, Ronald , and Michael McCarthy
    (2006) Cambridge grammar of English. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Chafe, Wallace
    (1976) Givenness, contrastiveness, definiteness, subjects, topics and point of view. In Charles Li (ed.), Word order and word order change. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp.25–55.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Delahunty, Gerald
    (1995) The inferential construction. International Journal of Pragmatics5.3: 341–364.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. (1997) ‘Oh, it’s I’m not pretty enough ‘ Expletive structure and relevance. In Anders Ahlqvist , and Věra Čapková (eds.), Dán do oide: Essays in memory of Conn R. Ó Cléirigh. Dublin: Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann, pp.115–122.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. (2001) Discourse functions of inferential sentences. Linguistics39.3: 517–545. doi: 10.1515/ling.2001.022
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/ling.2001.022 [Google Scholar]
  21. (2006) The pragmatics of Not that sentences: “Not that there is anything wrong with that .” International Journal of Pragmatics16.2/3: 213–245.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. (2008)  Thing sentences, markedness, topic, register, and mode. Paper presented atFirst North American Conference on Pragmatics (I NAWPRA), York University, Toronto.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. (2009) Relevance theory, “loose talk,” and speaking/writing relations. Paper presented at7th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, Honolulu, HI.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. (2011a) Contextually determined fixity and flexibility in thing sentence matrixes. In Koenraad Kuiper (ed.), Yearbook of Phraseology 2. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp.109–135.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. (2011b) Loose talk and “loose thought”: Relevance theory, style and the indication of context. Presented atInternational Pragmatics Association Conference, Manchester, UK, July 2011.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Delahunty, Gerald , and Laura Gatzkiewicz
    (2000) On the Spanish inferential construction Ser que . International Journal of Pragmatics10.3: 301–322.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Delahunty, Gerald , and Maura Velazquez-Castillo
    (2002)  The X is that S: A lexico-grammatical device for local discourse management. In James F. Lee , Kimberly L. Geeslin , and J. Clancy Clements (eds.), Structure, meaning, and acquisition in Spanish: Papers from the 4th Hispanic linguistics symposium. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press, pp.46–64.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Francis, Gill
    (1994) Labelling discourse: An aspect of nominal-group lexical cohesion. In Malcolm Coulthard (ed.), Advances in written text analysis. London: Routledge, pp.83–101.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Fraser, Bruce
    (2005) Toward a theory of discourse markers. people.bu.edu/bfraser/ (accessed 4 June 2011 ).
  30. Günthner, Susanne
    (2012) N be that-constructions in everyday German conversations: A reanalysis of ‘die Sache ist/das Ding ist’ (‘the thing is’)-clauses as projector phrases. In Ritva Laury , and Ryoko Suzuki (eds.), Subordination in conversation. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/slsi.24.03gun
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slsi.24.03gun [Google Scholar]
  31. Halliday, M.A.K. , and Ruqaiya Hasan
    (1976) Cohesion in English. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Higgins, F.R.
    (1976) The pseudo-cleft construction in English. Indiana University Linguistics Club.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Hopper, Paul , and Sandra A. Thompson
    (2008) Projectability and clause combining in interaction. In Ritva Laury (ed.), Crosslinguistic studies of clause combining: The multifunctionality of conjunctions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.99–123. doi: 10.1075/tsl.80.06hop
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.80.06hop [Google Scholar]
  34. Huddleston, Rodney , and Geoffrey K. Pullum
    (2002) The Cambridge grammar of the English language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Lambrecht, Knud
    (1994) Information structure and sentence form: Topic, focus and the mental representations of discourse referents (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 71). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511620607
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511620607 [Google Scholar]
  36. Lerner, Gene H.
    (2004) Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/pbns.125
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/pbns.125 [Google Scholar]
  37. Levinson, Stephen C.
    (1983) Pragmatics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Lewis, David
    (2004) [1979] Scorekeeping in a language game. In Steven Davis and Brendan S. Gillon (eds.), Semantics: A reader. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp.803–816.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Lyons, Christopher
    (1999) Definiteness. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511605789
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511605789 [Google Scholar]
  40. Massam, Diane
    (1999) Thing is constructions: The thing is, is what’s the right analysis?English Language and Linguistics3.2: 335–352. doi: 10.1017/S136067439900026X
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S136067439900026X [Google Scholar]
  41. McConvell, Patrick
    (1988) To be or double be? Current changes in the English copula. Australian Journal of Linguistics8: 287–305. doi: 10.1080/07268608808599401
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07268608808599401 [Google Scholar]
  42. Mikkelsen, Line
    (2005) Copular clauses: Specification, predication, and equation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/la.85
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.85 [Google Scholar]
  43. Miller, Jim , and Regina Weinert
    (1998) Spontaneous spoken language: Syntax and discourse. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Prince, Ellen
    (1978) A comparison of wh-clefts and it-clefts in discourse. Language54: 883–906. doi: 10.2307/413238
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/413238 [Google Scholar]
  45. Pusch, Claus
    (2003) Die es que/c’est que-Konstruktion und ihre kommunikativen Dimensionen. In G. Held (ed.), Partikelen und Höflichkeit. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp.295–317.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. (2006) Marqueurs discursifs et subordination syntaxique: La construction inférentielle en français et dans d’autres langues romanes. In M. Drescher , and B. Frank-Job (eds.), Les marqueurs discursifs dans les langues Romanes: Approches théoriques et méthodologiques. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp.173–188.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. (2007) Propositional pragmatic markers in Romance: Do they structure discourse or comment on it?Paper presented atInternational Pragmatics Association conference, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 12, 2007.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Rankin, Ian
    (1997) Black and blue. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. (2000) Set in darkness. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. (2003) A question of blood. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Co.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. (2004) Resurrection men. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Co.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. (2005) Fleshmarket alley. New York: Time Warner.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Schmid, Hans-Jörg
    (2000) English abstract nouns as conceptual shells: From corpus to cognition. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Sirr, Peter
    (2009) The thing is. InThe thing is. Loughcrew, Ireland: The Gallery Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Sperber, Dan , and Deirdre Wilson
    (1995) Relevance: Communication and cognition. 2nd Edition. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Terasaki, Alene Kiku
    (2004) [1976] Pre-announcement sequences in conversation. In Gene H. Lerner (ed.), Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.171–224. doi: 10.1075/pbns.125.11ter
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.125.11ter [Google Scholar]
  57. Tuggy, David
    (1996) The thing is is that people talk that way. The question is is Why?In E.H. Casad (ed.), Cognitive linguistics in the redwoods: The expansion of a new paradigm in linguistics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp.713–752.
    [Google Scholar]
http://instance.metastore.ingenta.com/content/journals/10.1075/prag.22.1.02del
Loading
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error