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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Pragmatics of Conditional Marking: Implicature, scalarity, and exclusivity Add Dissertation
Author: Scott Schwenter Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Stanford University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1997
Linguistic Subfield(s): Pragmatics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Penelope Eckert
Elizabeth Traugott
Eve Clark

Abstract: This dissertation investigates the meaning of conditional markers, in particular si in Spanish and if in English, using both naturally-occurring and constructed data. Taking as its starting point the widely-held, but empirically problematic, view of such markers as encoding a 'hypothetical' or 'irrealis' semantics, it proposes an alternative analysis of conditional marker meaning from a primarily pragmatic perspective. On this analysis, the 'hypotheticality' or 'irrealis-ness' expressed by such markers is not due to the encoded semantics of the markers themselves, but rather to a scalar generalized conversational implicature (GCI) of speaker 'uncertainty' associated with the canonical conditional markers. As a GCI, this 'uncertainty' is a preferred meaning that may be canceled in certain discourse contexts. The encoded semantics of these markers, by contrast, is analyzed here as consisting of strictly procedural components of meaning, which convey that the content of the protasis is a sufficient frame for either the content or the speech act in the apodosis.

A number of key implications of this analysis are presented in detail. First, it is shown that 'factual' uses of conditional protases, typically considered anomalous despite their frequent occurrence in many types of discourse, fall out from the predictions made by the pragmatic view of conditional marker meaning. Second, it is demonstrated that the 'uncertainty' GCI interacts with the well-known implicature of conditional perfection, and indeed allows one to predict when 'biconditional' readings of simple conditionals will and will not arise.

Further implications of the analysis arise from the examination of discourse connective uses of si in Spanish in conversational data. It is shown that these polysemies of conditional marker form, though difficult to relate to conditional marker function on traditional analyses, have a clear synchronic connection to this function when interpreted within the pragmatic model of meaning presented here. The model furthermore allows links to be made between conditionality and other conceptual domains, such as (exclusive) adversativity and (scalar) additivity, and hence has implications for the interface of cognition and communication.