LINGUIST List 5.957

Sun 04 Sep 1994

Qs: In other words, Semantics and pragmatics, French prolepsis

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  1. Celso Alvarez Caccamo, In other words
  2. Michael Covington, Linguistics outside human language
  3. Steven Schaufele, Query: French prolepsis vs. Italian topicalization

Message 1: In other words

Date: Sun, 4 Sep 94 01:35:30 +02In other words
From: Celso Alvarez Caccamo <lxalvarzudc.es>
Subject: In other words

It seems to me "In other words" and equivalent expressions in
other languages channel the same type of inference regardless
of propositional content. In that sense, the use of "In other
words" would always be pragmatically acceptable. Now, another
matter is whether those inferences are shared by all
participants, in the case of a conversation:

1. A: Sorry, I can't help you now.
 B: In other words, you can. [which would implicate
 +> 'but you don't want to']

2. A: Sorry, I can't help you now.
 B: In other words, you can't. +> 'you really can't'.

Emphasis aside, given the right context, both uses of "In other
words" seem adequate to me.

Notice that, in this sense, "In other words" may contrast
with other reformulating markers like "I mean", or "You mean",
which entail self- or other-correction of the type 'I/You
_should have said_ instead...'

Even in utterances by just one participant, "In other words"
does not seem to invalidate the propositional content of
the previous utterance:

3. Sorry, I can't help you now. In other words, I can.
 +> 'but, for whatever reasons, I won't'.

Thus, in expressions of the type
 UTTERANCE 1 in other words UTTERANCE 2,
the inference could be something like

"Regardless of any logical relationships (including
apparent contradictions) between the propositional content of
Utterances 1 and 2, take the propositional
content of Utterance 2 as more relevant than that of
Utterance 1 at this point of the exchange,
while not invalidating fully the propositional
content of Utterance 1, and therefore do not take
Utterance 2 as a correction or a self-correction".

Does this make sense?

The problem of looking for "anomalous" usages of any marker
or operator, it seems to me, is that one can always imagine
a specific context where shared background knowledge helps
makes sense of the exchange. I see no constraints on the
use of "In other words", just an anaphoric and cataphoric
pragmatic function.

Celso Alvarez-Caccamo
Linguistica Geral e Teoria da Literatura, Univ. da Corunha, Galiza (Spain)
lxalvarzudc.es
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Message 2: Linguistics outside human language

Date: Sun, 4 Sep 1994 00:13:50 -Linguistics outside human language
From: Michael Covington <mcovingtai.uga.edu>
Subject: Linguistics outside human language

I'm interested in the semantics and pragmatics of two kinds of communication
that fall outside human language:
 (1) Diagrams made of conventional symbols, such as electronic
circuit diagrams. There seems to be a historical trend toward decreasing
iconicity, for instance.
 (2) Electronic business communications (things like the X.12 standard
for electronic data interchange). Several distinct kinds of speech acts,
a tense system, etc.
 I'd appreciate pointers to relevant literature. Many thanks.

--
< Michael A. Covington, Assc Rsch Scientist, Artificial Intelligence Center >
< The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-7415 USA mcovingtai.uga.edu >
< Unless specifically indicated, I am not speaking for the University. > <><
> "To 'see through' all things is the same as not to see them." -C.S. Lewis <
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Message 3: Query: French prolepsis vs. Italian topicalization

Date: Sat, 3 Sep 1994 20:05:07 -Query: French prolepsis vs. Italian topicalization
From: Steven Schaufele <fcoswsfirefly.prairienet.org>
Subject: Query: French prolepsis vs. Italian topicalization

While revising a paper over the weekend, it occured to me that
while i can easily come up with examples in French of prolepsis
or, as it is often called nowadays, 'Left Dislocation', such as
those in (1),

(1) a. Monsieur Jourdain, il part tous les jours a 8:40.
 'Mr. Jourdain, he leaves every day at 8:40 = As for Mr.
 Jourdain, he leaves every day at 8:40 = Mr. Jourdain
 leaves every day at 8:40.'

 b. Ces journeaux, je les ai lus hier.
 'These newspapers, i read them yesterday = As for these
 newspapers, i read them yesterday = I read these news-
 papers yesterday.'

 c. Mon pere, je viens de lui ecrire une lettre.
 'My father, i've just written him a letter = As for my
 father, i've just written him a letter = I've just
 written my father a letter.'

i find it quite hard to come up with good French examples of 'topica-
lization', in which the 'resumptive' pronoun is replaced by an empty
category. Yet i get the impression from Cinque's discussion of such
things that constructions like those in (2) are not uncommon in Italian.

(2) a. Nessun museo credo che abbia visitato 0.
 'I believe that he has visited *no museum*.'

 b. Gianni riteniamo 0 essere intelligente.
 'We consider *Gianni* intelligent.'

 c. Quatro pare che ne siamo arrivate 0.
 'It seems that *four* of them arrived.'

(Cinque distinguishes between garden-variety Left Dislocation and what
he calls 'clitic left dislocation', in which the resumptive pronoun is
in the form of a pronominal clitic. The latter he notes is quite com-
mon in all Romance languages including both French and Italian, but for
the former his examples are all from English.)

Am i right in thinking that prolepsis is easier/more common than topi-
calization in French and that the opposite tendency is characteristic
of Italian? Or is it just my imperfect knowledge of both languages
deceiving me? And if i'm right, has any research been done trying to
account for the difference? For instance, has anyone intelligently
discussed the hypothesis that such a discrepancy might be linked to
the fact that Italian is a 'pro-drop' language but French isn't?

Please send any replies to me, and if there's sufficient interest
i'll post a summary.

Best,
Steven
---------------------
Dr. Steven Schaufele
712 West Washington
Urbana, IL 61801
217-344-8240
fcoswsprairienet.org

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