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Academic Paper


Title: Metonymies as Natural Inference and Activation Schemas: The Case of Dependent Clauses as Independent Speech Acts.
Author: Klaus-Uwe Panther
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.sign-lang.uni-hamburg.de/fb07/EnglS/H_panthe.htm
Institution: Nanjing Normal University
Author: Linda L. Thornburg
Email: click here to access email
Institution: (personal interest - not currently working at a university)
Linguistic Field: Pragmatics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: There is a class of clauses in English and other languages that are introduced by syntactically subordinating conjunctions, that exhibit dependent clause syntax in languages like German, but that can stand alone and function as independent speech acts. Examples are:

English
(1) If you will come to order. [request]
(2) Why, if it isn't Susan! (Quirk et al. 1985: 842) [expression of surprise]
(3) If you would like a cookie. [offer]
(4) That you should say such a thing! [expression of indignation]
(5) That you dare to show your face here! [reproachful indignation]
(6) For you to even think that! [indignation]

German
(7) Wenn Sie jetzt bitte zahlen wollen. [request]
'If you will please pay the bill now.'
(8) Dass (mir) niemand den Saal verlaezt! [prohibition]
'Nobody should leave this room!'
(9) Ob er wohl kommen wird? [question]
'I wonder whether he will come.'

French
(10) Que personne ne sorte. (Grevisse 1993: 624) [prohibition]
'Nobody should leave.'

The puzzle with sentences (1) - (10) is: How can their respective conventional illocutionary forces be known from what they convey literally? We argue that the solution to this puzzle can be found in an approach to speech acts as cognitive 'scenarios.' Because scenarios are complexes of conceptually contiguous elements that bear metonymic relations to each other and to the scenario as whole, the activation of one component in a scenario offers the potential of activating, automatically or inferentially, other or even all components of the scenario. For example, (1) is conventionally understood as a request to come to order. A request scenario contains among other things the proposition that the hearer will perform the action requested in the future. At the moment of speaking, the request is not fulfilled: its realization is potential or hypothetical at speech time. This non-actuality corresponds to the hypothetical situation literally denoted by (1). The literal sense of (1), then, allows easy access to the request scenario; the occurrence of the conditional subordinator if in (1) is highly motivated. We contend that conceptual metonymies constitute natural inference schemas that are routinely exploited by participants in linguistic communication. The availability of metonymic links within conceptual scenarios enables interlocutors to access intended meanings quickly and effortlessly.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: In: Klaus-Uwe Panther and Linda L. Thornburg (eds), Metonymy and Pragmatic Inferencing [Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 113], 127-147. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins.


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