LINGUIST List 2.695

Tue 22 Oct 1991

Disc: Rhetorical Questions and Textual Meaning

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , essays on language
  2. , rhetorical questions (2.635)
  3. Niko Besnier, Textual meaning

Message 1: essays on language

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 91 14:58:12 CST
From: <>
Subject: essays on language
In response to the query in LINGUIST 2.668: there may be essays useful for your
purposes in Paul A. Eschholz, Alfred F. Rosa, and Virginia P. Clark, eds.,
_Language Awareness_ (NY: St. Martin's Press). The edition I have is the 2nd
ed., 1978; there may well be later ones. It includes Orwell. A rather
different sort of collection is Clark, Eschholz and Rosa, _Language:
Introductory Readings_, same publisher; 2nd ed. is 1977, but I think there are
later eds.
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Message 2: rhetorical questions (2.635)

Date: Thu, 17 Oct 91 09:21:03 CST
From: <>
Subject: rhetorical questions (2.635)
 In response to Niko Besnier's query:
 James F. Park, "Paragraph in Djuka deliberative discourse" in Stephen
 H. Levinsohn, ed., _Discourse studies in Djuka and Saramaccan_
 (_Languages of the Guianas_, Vol. III) (SIL: Paramaribo, 1981), pp.
 1-30 has a little on rhetorical questions in Ndjuka, studied in
 reference to discourse function etc. Although the comments are brief,
 they may be of special interest to your colleague in Kenya since the
 genre analyzed is the article is a _kuutu_ or palaver / town meeting.
 Since most of SIL's work in translation has been Bible translation, a
 number of our members have looked at rhetorical questions (RQs) in
 various "target" languages as well as in biblical languages. The
 following may be of interest:
 LARSON, Mildred. 1984. _Meaning-based Translation_ Lanham, MD:
 University Press of America. Overview of functions of RQ's on pp.
 _Notes on Translation_ #44 (June 1972) has articles on RQ's in
 languages of the Philippines (Manobo), India (Korku), Mexico (Otomi,
 Trique) and Ghana (Vagla). The article on Manobo compares RQ's in that
 language and in English. An article on Inga of Colombia deals with
 questions generally, including RQ's, again dealing with discourse
 function. The volume also contains 2 brief anecdotal contributions
 illustrating differences between pragmatic function of questions in
 various cultures.
 _Notes on Translation_ #87 (2/82) and #89 (6/82) are given entirely to
 RQ's in Romans (#87) and 1 Corinthians and Galatians (#89); pp. 3-33 of
 #97 (10/1983) handles RQ's in 19 other New Testament books. #104
 (12/84), pp. 15-25 has "RQ's in Ese Ejja of Bolivia" by Joyce Prettol;
 #113 (6/86), pp. 25-27 has "What shall we say then? RQ's used as a
 linking device in Romans" by Glyn Griffiths, which includes something
 on RQ's in Kadiweu of Brazil.
 Since around 1987, _Notes on Translation_ has been appearing quarterly,
 with a new numbering sequence. Vol. 2, No. 1 (1988) has Richard Speece,
 "RQ's in Angave" (Papua New Guinea) on pp. 47-53; Vol. 3, No. 4 (1989)
 has Tom Phinnemore, "Questions: You might get a lot more than you
 asked for" on pp. 1-17, dealing with differing pragmatic functions of
 RQ's and other questions in various cultures.
 All of the above can be ordered from International Academic Bookstore,
 Box C, 7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236. Phone (214)
 709-2404, FAX (214) 709-2433. Many of the older _Notes_ are out of
 print in hard copy, but can be ordered in microfiche or, in most cases,
 photocopy. In Kenya, SIL at P.O. Box 44456, Nairobi, probably has a
 number of these available in their library.
 George Huttar (
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Message 3: Textual meaning

Date: Wed, 16 Oct 91 11:35:55 EDT
Subject: Textual meaning
Someone asked recently about `covert/overt' levels of meaning in
texts. (I deleted the message before I got a chance to note down
the requester's name.) More than ever a timely topic in this
country, with the sort of textual manipulations for political
purposes that went on in the supreme-court nomination hearings that
just ended!
There is no single school that has focused on this sort of thing.
Rather, many people with many different approaches have looked at
the topic at different time. Perhaps the group that comes closest
to having made a concerted contribution to this area of discourse
is the group clustering around Gunter Kress and colleagues at the
U of Sydney and Macquarie U, who align themselves with Halliday's
systemic linguistics. They've written about representation and
point of view in newspaper headlines and press reportage, e.g. the
difference between `Picketing curtailed coal production' and `Coal
production was disrupted by picketing miners'. I'd suggest the
requester take a look at the following:
 G. Kress & R. Hodge. 1979. Language as Ideology. London:
 Routledge & Kegan Paul.
 D. Birch & M. O'Toole. eds. 1988. Functions of Style. London:
 R. Fowler, R. Hodge, G. Kress, & T. Trew. 1979. Language and
 Control. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Some of the literature on political language in various societies
can also be relevant. See:
 R. Paine. ed. 1981. Politically Speaking. Philadelphia: ISHI.
 D. Parkin. 1984. Political language. Annual Review of
 Anthropology 13:345-65.
 J. Wilson. 1990. Politically Speaking. Oxford: Blackwell.
A lot of the questions that come up when one looks at this sort of
discourse fall under the general rubric of `affect on language'.
The reason why some textual meaning appears `covert' is that they
take place at the level of affective meaning, which is typically
indexical in nature, and thus hard to pin down because of the
semiotic characteristics of indexes. The following review
discusses this rubric and provides a mere 450 references on the
 N. Besnier. 1990. Language and Affect. Annual Review of
 Anthropology 19:419-51.
Hope this helps.
Niko Besnier
Department of Anthropology
Yale University
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