LINGUIST List 31.2849

Mon Sep 21 2020

Confs: Pragmatics/Switzerland

Editor for this issue: Lauren Perkins <>

Date: 18-Sep-2020
From: Salvador Pons <>
Subject: New approaches in the research on approximatives: theoretical assessments for further descriptions
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Full Title: New approaches in the research on approximatives: theoretical assessments for further descriptions

Date: 04-Jul-2021 - 09-Jul-2021
Location: Winthertur, Switzerland
Contact Person: Salvador Pons Bordería
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics

Call Deadline: 25-Oct-2020

Meeting Description:

In the last thirty years, grammarians (García-Medall 1993), theoretical pragmatists (Sadock 1981; Atlas 1989), formal semantists (Jayez 1987, Jayez & Tovena 2008) and discourse analysts (Albelda 2005, Pons 2005) have been interested in a small set of forms, called approximatives, such as English almost/barely (Horn 2009), Spanish casi/apenas (Schwenter 2002, Albeda Marco 2005) or Portuguese quase/mal (Amaral 2007); but also French presque/à peine (Ducrot 1972), German fast (Rapp & Von Stechow 1999), Hebrew kimʔat/bekošim/begadol (Sevi 1998, Greenberg & Ronen 2012), Italian quasi (Amaral & Del Prete 2010), Mandarin Chinese chā-yīdiar (Li 1976), Dutch bijna/nauwelijks (Klein 1998) or Polish prawie/niemal (Morzycki 2001).

Approximatives are conceived as the blend of two meaning components: proximity and polarity. Proximity is meant as expressing closeness to the accomplishment of a predicate, while polarity refers to the negative vs. positive implications. This conception about the meaning of approximatives has deep roots in a long-lasting divergence about the nature of the polar component: on the one hand, an entailment-based analysis (Sevi 1998; Horn 2009, 2011); on the other hand, a discourse-based account (Ziegeler 2000, 2010, 2016). Such a semantic/pragmatic debate is currently at an impasse; recent data, concerned with context-sensibility and linguistic variation in the interpretation of approximatives cannot be fitted in either of the two approaches (Pons Bordería & Schwenter 2011, Pardo-Llibrer 2018).

This panel aims to reopen this discussion, focusing on three main questions regarding proximity and polarity:
- Theoretical and methodological issues in the research on approximatives.
- (Sub)components in the description of approximatives.
- Negative variation in approximatives.
The first question addresses the relationship among prototypical approximatives (almost/barely) and other possible members of the paradigm (Andean Spanish todavía, Mexican Spanish hasta, among others). It also addresses the role of corpus-based or experimental studies and their impact in the way theory is created.

The second question explores how the underlying meaning (sub)components of approximatives are intertwined, so that meaning extensions can be properly explained (for instance, the erasure of the polar component in Spanish casi que or Italian quasi quasi; as well as the negative-positive ambivalence in Spanish por poco no or in Dutch nauwelijks).

The third question seeks diachronic explanations about the arising and bleaching of negation in the grammaticalization of approximatives, especially in cases where the negation disappears but is incorporated into the meaning of an approximative (for instance, the German particle geradezu or Andean Spanish todavía – still – meaning not yet).

Call for Papers:

This panel welcomes methodological and theoretical contributions, both synchronic and diachronic, for a better characterization of the proximal-polar meaning, especially in non-Western languages.

Those interested in the panel should send an abstract to the conference site ( If you are not sure about how to proceed, or if you want to contact the organizers, you can send an email to

Page Updated: 21-Sep-2020