LINGUIST List 14.790

Tue Mar 18 2003

Review: Semantics/Pragmatics: Guti�rrez-Rexach (2002)

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  1. Andrea Faulstich, From Words to Discourse: Trends in Spanish Semantics and Pragmatics

Message 1: From Words to Discourse: Trends in Spanish Semantics and Pragmatics

Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003 18:14:08 +0000
From: Andrea Faulstich <a.faulstichbusiness-translations.net>
Subject: From Words to Discourse: Trends in Spanish Semantics and Pragmatics

Guti�rrez-Rexach, Javier, ed. (2002) From Words to Discourse:
Trends in Spanish Semantics and Pragmatics. Elsevier Science Ltd,
Current Research in the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface 10.

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-1119.html


Andrea Faulstich, unaffiliated scholar

PURPOSE AND CONTENTS OF THE BOOK

The book contains an introduction and 16 papers exploring problems and
perspectives in the semantics and pragmatics of Spanish from a variety
of theoretical viewpoints. The overall purpose of the volume is to
test the predictive power of theoretical approaches in the
semantics-pragmatics interface by empirical data of an individual
language.

The introduction by Javier Guti�rrez-Rexach gives an overview
of the book's organization and its main topics. The following three
papers by Gennari, Cipria and Laca deal with the tense and aspectual
properties of the Spanish verbal system. Silvia Gennari (''Spanish
Past and Future Tenses: Less (Semantics) Is More'') examines different
interpretations of Spanish simple future and PRET�RITO and
accounts for the difficulties of describing and explaining such
different readings in terms of semantics only. On the basis of
aktionsart properties she distinguishes between stative sentences and
eventive sentences considering their implications for the non-future
reading of simple future and the non-completion reading of
PRET�RITO. She argues that stative sentences, due to their
pragmatic dimension of being true at a larger interval of time,
trigger overlapping readings (''superinterval implication''). In a
more detailed analysis of PRET�RITO and its (non-) completion
reading Gennari explains that the completion reading on the one hand
arises with accomplishment-achievement sentences entailing the
resulting status of the relevant action, and on the other hand with
activities and states as a result of the pragmatic end-point
inference. As she furthermore argues, such completion reading of
stative and eventive sentences, usually contrasting duration or
open-end readings suggested by the use of the IMPERFECTO, can be
cancelled by the superinterval implication inherent to stative
sentences or by the speaker's explicit rectification of his/her
assertion in eventive sentences. With regard to the non-future
readings of simple future she points out that the simple future
necessitates a realistic or factual conversational background (CB),
i.e., that they are not acceptable in non-realistic hypothetical
contexts. Alicia Cipria (''Tensed Complements of Perception Verbs:
Issues in Their Temporal Interpretation'') explores the semantics and
pragmatics of past tense complements of perception verbs such as VER
''to see'', O�R ''to hear'', PALPAR ''feel by touch'' and OLER
''to smell''. Contrasting traditional accounts of this verb category
Cipria maintains that the supposed requirement of simultaneity in
complex clauses with a main perception verb is not always valid for
PRET�RITO complements which may allow a ''backward shifted''
reading when they are embedded under a past main verb of
perception. With regard to IMPERFECTO complements embedded under past
main verbs of perception Cipria infers that the simultaneity
requirement may be outweighed by the interaction of aspect, aktionsart
and pragmatics, and that the sensory contexts of perception can more
accurately be described in terms of evidentiality and actual
occurrence, regardless of tense specification and aktionsart
effects. The contribution by Brenda Laca (''Spanish 'Aspectual'
Periphrases: Ordering Constraints and the Distinction Between
Situation and Viewpoint Aspect'') is dedicated to the relationship
between differences in ordering constraints of Spanish ''aspectual''
periphrases and the semantic and syntactic status of such
constructions as expressions of lexical or syntactic aspectual
categories. Contrary to the research findings by Cinque (1998, 1999,
2000) Laca correlates ordering possibilities with a semantic
distinction between situation aspect and viewpoint aspect as discussed
by Smith (1991) and offers an account of aspectual periphrases that is
based on the differentiation between extrinsic and intrinsic ordering
constraints, as known in the field of morphology where these
categories are used to distinguish between inflectional and
derivational affixes.

The next four papers by Rosales Sequeiros, Alonso-Ovalle, Aliaga / de
Bustos and Mej�as-Bikandi deal with the interpretation of
infinitives, imperatives and the subjunctive in Spanish. Xos�
Rosales Sequeiros (''Non-declarative Sentences in Spanish: The Case of
the Infinitive'') examines the semantics and pragmatics of imperative
uses of the infinitive in Spanish within a revised theoretical
framework of relevance theory as proposed by Wilson and Sperber
(1988). Starting from the well known fact that infinitival
constructions in Spanish (as well as in other Romance and non-Romance
languages) convey the same sense as the imperative the author tries to
analyze whether this equivalence is semantic or pragmatic, i.e.,
whether infinitives are semantically ambiguous between ''possibility''
(infinitive) and ''potentiality'' or ''desirability'' (imperative) or
whether they merely encode ''possibility'' and are then pragmatically
interpreted as imperatives. The analysis shows that Spanish
infinitives can convey an imperative import when contextual factors
(e.g. when used at cashpoints, in manuals, in hospitals) support such
imperative reading. This would suggest that the imperative dimension
of Spanish infinitives is not semantic but rather pragmatic in nature.
Furthermore, the author points out that, in contrast to what has been
found out about Spanish infinitives, English infinitives do not encode
such ''procedural instructions'' for the addressee to seek
potentiality or desirability readings from the context. The paper of
Luis Alonso-Ovalle (''Aspect and Situations: A Situation semantics
Account of the Semantic Variability of Spanish 'AL-Clauses''')
examines the semantic variability of Spanish AL-Clauses, i.e., of
infinitives in adjunct clauses headed by the prepositional
complementizer AL, on the basis of the Kratzerian situation semantics
(Kratzer: 1989, 1990). Francisco Aliaga and Eduardo de Bustos
(''Mental Spaces and Epistemic Attitudes: On the Spanish
Subjunctive/Indicative alternation'') account for the
indicative/subjunctive alternation in Spanish, revising the respective
approach by Mej�as-Bikandi (1996). Essentially, they argue for
the inclusion of an epistemic attitudes model into the theory of
mental spaces whereas Errapel Mej�as-Bikandi (''Space
Accessibility and the Pragmatic Status of Propositions'') proposes an
amendment of his 1996's approach in the light of the Information
Structure framework elaborated by Lambrecht (1994). Basically, he
claims that mood in Spanish is a grammatical marker of the pragmatic
status of a proposition, i.e., indicative and subjunctive are
correlated with the pragmatic status (presupposition and activation)
of a proposition within a mental space.

The following four papers by Escandell-Vidal / Leonetti, Zuber,
Guti�rrez-Rexach and Guti�rrez-Rexach / Schwenter are
devoted to the exploration of semantic aspects of predicates,
modifiers, demonstratives, polarity expressions and deixis in
Spanish. Victoria Escandell-Vidal and Manuel Leonetti (''Coercion and
the Stage/Individual Distinction'') examine the distinction between
''individual-level predicates'' (ILPs) and ''stage-level predicates''
(SLPs) and explore the syntactic environments in which ILP appears
where SLP would be expected without rendering the sentence
ungrammatical. The authors provide a systematic account of this
unexpected and exceptional shift arguing that the reinterpretation of
ILPs as SLPs can be explained in terms of coercion. Richard Zuber's
paper (''Some Spanish Quantifier Modifiers'') analyzes Spanish
quantifier modifiers within the framework of a generalized quantifier
theory. The author studies noun phrases modified by connectors such as
SALVO, EXCEPTO, ADEM�S, APARTE DE accounting for the categorial
polyvalence of such connectors and their behaviour in declarative
sentences and in interrogative sentences. The contribution of Javier
Guti�rrez-Rexach (''Demonstratives in Context'') examines the
semantics of Spanish demonstratives as contextually restricted
determiner and generalized quantifier functions. The author gives an
overview over current theories of demonstratives and provides a
detailed characterization of Spanish demonstratives exploring the
interactions between demonstratives and other deictic (spatial and
temporal) elements, figurative deixis, discourse deixis and the
interpretation of cases in which more than one demonstrative
occur. Basically, it is argued that contextual restriction has to be
seen as a dynamic process reacting to discourse information,
background shifts and changes of the intentions of the discourse
participants. The paper of Javier Guti�rrez-Rexach and Scot
Schwenter (''Propositional NPIs and the Scalar Nature of Polarity'')
offers an analysis of the specific semantic and pragmatic implications
propositional NPIs (''negative polarity items'') transmit to the
sentence in which they appear. Special attention is paid to the
propositional NPI QUE DIGAMOS. The authors argue that this is a scalar
NPI conveying an attenuating instead of an emphatic meaning.

Further three contributions by Bosque, Garc�a C�rdoba
and Maci� deal with the integration of semantic and pragmatic
import into the theory of Logical Form as a level of linguistic
representation. Ignacio Bosque (''Degree Quantification and Modal
Operators in Spanish'') discusses aspects of modality in the grammar
of Spanish and offers a way of integrating the modal properties of
some degree quantifiers and quasi-quantifiers into the restrictive
concept of grammar proposed by the generative approach to the
syntax-semantics-pragmatics interface. Namely, he examines degree
quantifiers denoting ''excess'' (DEMASIADO(S), DESMESURADO, EXCESIVO
and their respective adverbs) and their interaction with modal
structures. The author identifies ''excess'' as a modal concept which,
as such, introduces an intensional context, i.e., ''a reference
framework by which the quantified elements are filtered through a
propositional assessment'' (p. 286), and provides a syntactic (Logical
Form) translation of this idea. Rosa J. Garc�a C�rdoba
(''The Shifted Reading of the Spanish Past Tenses as Dependent on
Presupposition Accomodation'') analyzes the interpretation of
indicative simple past tenses (PRET�RITO and COPRET�RITO
or IMPERFECTO) in verbal complement clauses in Mexican Spanish. The
respective Logical Form representations follow and at the same time
revise Stowell's approach to the analysis of tenses as temporal
predicates. The contribution by Josep Maci� (''On the
Interaction of Syntax-Semantics-Pragmatics: A Case Study'') offers a
revision of binding theory elaborating an alternative to the
principles (B) and (C) of the Standard Binding Theory in which these
principles are semantic principles.

The concluding two papers by Colantoni and Vann / Busquets / Koike
study aspects of linguistic variation promted by pragmatic
factors. Laura Colantoni (''Clitic Doubling, Null Objects and Clitic
Climbing in the Spanish of Corrientes'') explores the phenomena of
clitic doubling (CD), null objects (NO) and clitic climbing (CC) in
the Spanish of Corrientes (Argentina) in the light of
discourse-pragmatic factors such as the degree of animacy of the
respective referent, topicalization / focalization and
emphasis. Furthermore, she suggests the consideration of two
extra-linguistic factors for future research: sex and the contact with
Guaran�. Robert E. Vann, Joan Busquets and Dale A. Koike
(''Spanish NO, S�: A Particle of Politeness'') analyze
discourse structures in which the combination of NO, S�
occurs. The analysis is based on conversations between a linguistic
researcher and Spanish speakers in Barcelona dealing with the topic of
language use. On the basis of the identified discourse structures, the
authors explore the pragmatic functions the NO, S� particle can
assume (e.g. explanation, correction, acceptance).

CRITICAL EVALUATION

The papers presented in this volume comprise a variety of novel or
newly tested research approaches to different aspects of the semantics
and pragmatics of Spanish. All papers are well written and the book as
a whole is well-structured grouping papers according to five main
topics / linguistic sub-disciplines. The volume is of course highly
interesting to anyone working in the field of Spanish Linguistics. As
several contributions provide cross-linguistic references the edition
will also be of interest to scholars and students in the field of
General and Romance Linguistics. Altogether, the papers contained in
this book illustrate the difficulties of theory forming in the
semantics-pragmatics interface. At the same time, and this is the
overall merit of the edition, they offer a valuable contribution to
the consolidation, revision and/or rejection of existing theoretical
frameworks on the basis of empirical data of an individual
language. Given the variety of theoretical approaches presented in
this edition a detailed evaluation of single contributions must of
course be left to the respective specialized fields of linguistic
research.

REFERENCES

Cinque, G. (1998): '''Restructuring' and the Order of Aspectual and
Root Modal Heads.'' Univ. of Venice Working Papers in Linguistics 8.

Cinque, G. (1999): Adverbs and Functional Heads. New York: Oxford
University Press.

Cinque, G. 2000): ''Restructuring'' and Functional Structure. Ms.,
University of Venice.

Kratzer, A. (1989): ''An Investigation of the Lumps of Thought.'' In:
Linguistics and Philosophy 12, 607-653.

Kratzer, A. (1990): ''How Specific is a Fact?'' In: Proceedings of the
1990 Conference on Theories of Partial Information. Center for
Cognitive Science and College of Liberal Arts at the University of
Texas at Austin.

Lambrecht, K. (1994): Information Structure and Sentence
Form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mej�as-Bikandi, E. (1996): ''Space Accessibility and Mood in
Spanish.'' In: Spaces, Worlds and Grammar. Ed. by Fauconnier, G. and
E. Sweetser, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 157-178.

Smith, C.S. (1991): The Parameter of Aspect. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Stowell, T. (1993): ''Syntax of Tense.''. Ms., UCLA.

Wilson, D. / D. Sperber (1988): ''Mood and the Analysis of
Non-declarative Sentences.'' In: Human Agency: Language, Duty and
Value. Ed. by Dancy, J., Moravcsik, J. and C. Taylor, Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press, 77-101.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Andrea Faulstich, economist and translator, received her PhD in
Romance Linguistics from the University of Potsdam in 2001 and is
currently working as a financial and legal translator.
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