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LINGUIST List 23.1130

Tue Mar 06 2012

Diss: Semantics/Pragmatics: Zaki: 'The Semantics and Pragmatics of Demonstratives in English and Arabic'

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Date: 02-Mar-2012
From: Mai Zaki <m.zakimdx.ac.uk>
Subject: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Demonstratives in English and Arabic
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Institution: Middlesex University, UK
Program: PhD in Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Mai Zaki

Dissertation Title: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Demonstratives in English and Arabic

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
                            Linguistic Theories
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard (arb)
                            English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Billy Clark

Dissertation Abstract:

This research investigates the semantics and pragmatics of demonstratives
in two languages, English and Arabic, within the framework of relevance
theory. The study applies the fundamental distinction between 'conceptual'
and 'procedural' semantics in an attempt to account for the various
instantiations of such referring expressions in the two languages. I argue
that demonstratives play a crucial role in aligning the discourse models of
the speaker and hearer by encoding procedural semantics instructing the
hearer to maintain or create a joint level of attention to the intended
referent as opposed to other referential candidates. Following Diessel
(2006), I take it that this notion of joint attention subsumes all the
cognitive and functional roles played by demonstratives in discourse. I
also argue that demonstratives encode a (pro)concept of distance which
falls under the scope of the attention-directing procedure, thus creating
the internal contrast between the intended referent and other candidate
referents. Within this proposal, I discuss how demonstratives can
contribute to both the explicit and the implicit levels of meaning by
virtue of the interaction between their encoded semantics and the context
in a relevance-driven framework. Compared to other referring expressions or
no referring expression at all, the role of a demonstrative achieves
relevance on the implicit level. It can either highlight a certain aspect
of the referent, or encourage the creation of weak implicatures, or signal
a certain cognitive/emotional attitude towards the referent. The study is
supported by an analysis of corpus data from both languages in order to
supplement theoretical proposals with attested evidence.

I further extend my analysis to include two areas. First, I discuss cases
of self-repair in spoken English discourse which involves the definite
article and demonstratives. By linking the notion of self-repair to that of
optimal relevance, I shed some light on the semantic and pragmatic
differences between these two referring expressions. Second, I extend my
analysis to include other forms of demonstratives in Arabic and explore
their semantic and pragmatic behaviour in discourse. I propose a procedural
account for the three forms attentional haa, kadhaalik and haakadhaa,
arguing that their contribution goes well beyond that of mere demonstrative
reference to that of being discourse markers encoding procedural
constraints on interpretation. I also investigate some alternative
syntactic structures where demonstratives occur, arguing that the stylistic
effect of emphasis which they give rise to can be explained in terms of
relevant cognitive effects.

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