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Review of  Semantics and Pragmatics

Reviewer: Gloria Cappelli
Book Title: Semantics and Pragmatics
Book Author: Kasia M. Jaszczolt
Publisher: Pearson Linguistics
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Issue Number: 15.2397

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Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 12:38:27 +0200
From: Gloria Cappelli
Subject: Semantics and Pragmatics: Meaning in Language and Discourse

Author: Jaszczolt, Kasia M.
Title: Semantics and Pragmatics
Subtitle: Meaning in Language and Discourse
Series: Longman Linguistics Library
Year: 2002
Publisher: Pearson Longman

Dr. Gloria Cappelli, Centro Linguistico Interdipartimentale, University
of Pisa

''Semantics and Pragmatics'' is first of all a handbook. Its origins are
in the homonymous course that Professor Jaszczolt has been giving over
the last few years at the University of Cambridge. Its major goal is to
provide a unitary explanation of what meaning is; more precisely the
author wants to provide a unitary account of meaning in language, in the
mind and in discourse. Semantics and Pragmatics are therefore seen as
two complementary disciplines dealing with meaning from different
perspectives. Jaszczolt's approach is primarily objectivist, assuming
the notion of truth as corresponding with reality, but it integrates to
various degrees various proposals pertaining to different traditions of
research such as cognitive semantics. In her book, she presents the
most outstanding questions in semantics as well as the dominant theories
and approaches to these issues comparing them in a ''problems and
possible solutions'' style of presentation.

The first chapter, ''Word meaning, sentence meaning, speaker meaning'',
introduces the reader to the fundamental concepts and distinctions in
the domain of meaning. First, the author distinguishes semantics from
pragmatics, identifying different objects of study for the two
disciplines. Then the notions of proposition, sentence and utterance are
defined and several theories of meaning are presented in their attempts
to solve the important question of what meaning is. None of these
(referential theory, mentalist theory, use theory and truth-conditional
theory) is discarded: they are viewed as interconnected. The rest of
the chapter is dedicated to word meaning. Jaszczolt introduces the
reader with the major proposals, which are analysed and commented upon.
The ''meaning-as-definition approach'' is refuted because of the infinite
regress or the circularity it implies and because it doesn't seem to say
anything about the source of these definitions, neglecting also the
problem of the boundaries between linguistic and encyclopaedic knowledge.

The division between literal, conventional, context-independent and
context-dependent aspects of meaning are also criticised. After quickly
mentioning the ''meaning-as-concepts approach'', the author contrasts the
''meaning-as-reference approach'' with the structuralist approach. This
latter provides the opportunity to introduce the notions of
structuralist sense vs. philosophical sense, and to better explain the
notion of reference and to contrast it with denotation, also introducing
the notion of the expression's extension. The philosophical debate
relative to definite descriptions is introduced as well as the wider
issue of intensional contexts and of non-substitutivity. The
exploration of the studies on word meaning continues with an overview of
paradigmatic lexical relations, such as the relations of inclusion,
sameness, and opposition and hyponymy and meronymy and of their
treatment in logic. In the following sections the holistic
structuralistic approach is then compared to various atomistic
componential analysis. After presenting several examples of lexical
decomposition, Jazczolt introduces the major models developed within
this approach. Attention is devoted to Carnap's meaning postulates and
to some further development within the componential framework such as
the generative approach by Katz and Postal (1964). This approach,
bringing semantics and syntax in contact, is shown to have opened the
way for research on thematic roles, of which a list is provided. Talmy's
cognitive approach to the syntax-semantics interface is also presented
and the overview of componential analyses is closed with a quick
description of Jackendoff's conceptual semantics and Wierzbicka's
semantic primes. The last approach to lexical meaning presented in this
very rich first chapter is Pustejovsky's generative lexicon, in which
pragmatics and semantics interact, since world knowledge is considered
indispensable for drawing inferences. The overview of theories of word
meaning is closed by the presentation of Blutner's lexical pragmatics.

The second chapter, ''Concepts'', deals with one of the most controversial
notions in linguistics and in philosophy of language, although the
central one in representational approaches to meaning. The author poses
some fundamental questions such as: what are representations and how do
they work? Are meaning as mental representation and meaning as reference
compatible? What information do concepts contain? In order to answer the
first question, several representational approaches (the imagist, the
structuralist and the atomistic) are compared and contrasted with
externalism: the author's conclusion seems to be that meanings are not
in the head, but in the world. The author presents then the possibility
of merging representational and referential approaches to meaning,
including truth-conditional and cognitive, as a very promising eclectic
direction in semantics. As to what concepts are constituted by, both the
images and the necessary and sufficient semantic features hypothesis are
ruled out. The major problem with concepts seems to be boundary
fuzziness, and some non-compositional theories which tried to account
for that are commented on, such as Rosh and Labov's Prototype Theory,
Wittgenstein's family resemblances, Lakoff's Idealized Cognitive Models,
Fillmore's Frame Theory, Johnson-Laird's Mental Models and Fauconnier's
Mental Spaces. Non-compositionality is indicated as the major problem
with these theories, since in Jaszczolt's view any successful theory of
meaning need be compositional, therefore concepts cannot be prototypes
(p.37). In line with Fodor's view, concepts are better thought of as
productive and systematic compositional constituents of thoughts. The
author then focuses on the relation between thought, language and
concepts. Concepts are clearly defined as constituent parts of
propositions, and together, concepts and propositions are the units of
thought (p.38).

As far as the relationship between thought and language, the second is,
in ultimate analysis, considered to be dependent on the first.
Two opposite views are presented: linguistic relativity (Whorf and
Sapir) and linguistic universalism (Talmy, Kay and in general all
the cognitive linguists). Through this comparison, the author arrives at
proposing an approach in which both relativity and universalism (in
various degrees) could be integrated, although primacy is granted to the
hypothesis that thought determines language. The next question
considered concerns the nature of the ''language'' used in computations,
and the author tries to answer it comparing Fodor's language of thought
hypothesis (mentalese) and his theory of modularity of the mind with the
contrasting opinion of people like Cohen or Carruthers who claim that
although there is no strong evidence against Mentalese, the language of
thought is anyway better conceived as resembling natural language. In
the very few lines of the chapter the author makes clear his position,
that is, he states his preference for a propositional-based approach to
meaning ''in the form of truth-conditional semantics, supplemented with a
pragmatic theory compatible with it'' and in which ''concepts have to have
their rightful place'' (p.51).

Chapter three, ''Sentence meaning'', introduces the reader to the main
concepts of truth-conditional semantics, which is the approach that the
author overtly supports throughout the book and which is defined as ''the
most successful theory of sentence meaning''. Jaszczolt proposes an
eclectic truth-conditional model. Within this theory, sentences are
about the world and meaning follows from the notion of truth, which is
taken to mean correspondence with facts (correspondence theory of truth).
Knowing what a sentence means, equals knowing under what conditions it
would be true. The author underlines how, although being a referential
approach, truth-conditional semantics, as she interprets it, is an
idealization, and therefore there are many sentences for which the
denotational approach doesn't work, and the only possibility is to
resort to mental representations and contextual clues. In the remaining
sections of the chapter, the reader is introduced to several fundamental
notions pertaining to this domain of research such as analytic and
synthetic truth, deductive, propositional and predicate logic. The role
of the principle of compositionality in truth conditional semantics is
explained and some limitations of this approach are acknowledged, such
as the lack of an adequate account of word meaning, the inability to
account for non-declarative sentences and the problems created by such
constructions as propositional attitude reports. The theory of Possible
Worlds and Montague's Model Theoretic Semantics, as well as some of its
developments (Kamp & Reyle's Discourse Representation Theory) are
presented as an exemplification of applied truth-conditional semantics.
The author concludes the chapter stating her position in favour of an
approach which has as a promising starting point, truth-conditional
semantics, to which ''lexical semantics adds the compositionality of word
meaning and pragmatics adds truth-conditionally relevant but
context-dependent aspects of meaning and the formalization of
non-declarative'' (p.70).

In chapters four, ''Sentential connectives'', five, ''Quantified
expressions and predicate logic'', and six, ''Syntax and the Semantics
of predicate logic: an overview'', Jaszczolt introduces the operators of
first order logic, as well as the rules for the formation of logical
formulae. In the fourth chapter, she discusses logical connectives,
i.e. truth-functional operators of propositional logic, whose meaning
is constant and can be precisely defined, and which perform logical
operations over simple propositions (conjunction, disjunction,
implication, equivalence and negation). The relationship between logical
connectives and their English counterparts is illustrated, in a rich
argumentative style, and emphasis is put on the fact that, even if
logical operators help specify the meaning of natural language
connectives, there are all the same aspects of meaning that the logical
meta-language cannot capture. Frequent reference is made to the debate
at the semantics/pragmatics interface, especially to the question of the
underdeterminacy of meaning and of pragmatic enrichment as well as to
the question of the ambiguity vs. truth-functional or sense-general
approach to the analysis of negation. In the fifth chapter, the author
moves on to predicate logic, which is presented as a meta-language
allowing for the translation of ''both simple and complex sentences'',
building ''on the logical forms of propositional logic and going deeper
into the structure of sentences to account for their internal structure''
(p.89). Quantifiers are presented as important operators of predicate
logic and important building blocks of logical forms.

After the description of standard quantifiers of first-order logic (the
existential and the universal quantifier) and of their relationship with
quantified expressions in English, generalized quantifiers are
introduced. Jaszczolt provides a quick sketch of Kamp and Reyle's
Discourse Representation Theory as well as Neale's approach to binary
and restricted quantifiers. The notions of conservativity, monotonicity
and the distinction between weak and strong quantifiers are illustrated
and, as in the previous chapter, the problem of ambiguity is considered,
with reference to the semantics of numerals and of scalar expressions.
In chapter six, the author summarizes the points made previously,
providing a list of the symbols used in predicate logic and of the rules
for the proper formation of logical formulae. A list of limitations of
this approach, such as the treatment of non declarative sentences and
propositional attitudes reports is provided as well as some of the
solutions proposed by intensional logic.

Chapter seven, ''Referring expressions'', illustrates the complex problems
posed to the philosophical and truth-conditional semantic models by
referring expressions, such as proper nouns, definite descriptions and
deictics, all areas where semantics and pragmatics seem to meet.
Jaszczolt presents several approaches to referring expressions and
illustrates the ''degree of reference'' hypothesis. The last section of
the chapter is devoted to referring expressions in the scope of
propositional attitudes, that is, in those intensional contexts where an
ambiguity between transparent and opaque reading is present and where,
in the case of opaque reading, substitutivity ''salva veritate'' is not
possible. The de re/de dicto distinction is introduced and extended to a
tri-partite distinction, where de dicto reading is further specified in
de dicto proper and de dicto about someone else (de dicto1). The major
problem created by the failure of substitutivity in intensional contexts
is individuated in the menace it represents for a compositional theory
of meaning, and in fact several philosophers have proposed to abandon
such an approach or at least to integrate pragmatic information into the
semantics of these expressions. Several proposals are presented, such as
the hidden indexical theory by Schiffer or the neo-Russellian positions
of scholars like Ludlow, proposing interpreted logical forms, or, again,
Davidson's paratactic account. The contextualist vs. anti-contextualist
debate is presented, that is, the opposition between theories allowing
for the contextual information to contribute to the propositional for of
an utterance and theories regarding contextual information as working
externally to the proposition, as an implicature. Jaszczolt seems to
favour a moderate contextualist approach, in which a proposal such as
that of modes of presentation has an epistemic significance and must
have a role to play in various degrees.

Chapter eight, ''Topic, focus and presupposition'', deals with some
central notions pertaining to the analysis of meaning in discourse. The
goal of the author is to try to demonstrate that formal and functional
approaches are not irreconcilable. She supports her thesis by presenting
some crucial problems in functional linguistics, such as the question of
information structure and its relevance in creating text coherence and
the fundamental notion of topic. After further specifying the
distinction between discourse topic and speaker's topic, the author
introduces the topic/comment opposition and compares it to the
theme/rheme one. The survey on information structure also has the scope
of bringing the notion of focus into the discussion, which is further
developed so as to analyse the role of focus in truth-conditional
semantics. Focus is seen as having truth-conditional effects and
triggering presupposition and implicatures, its semantics depending on
''evoking the so-called alternatives to the focused element'' (p.172).
Three types of focus are distinguished: semantic, contrastive and
psychological focus, and prominence is assigned to the first type. The
other fundamental concept introduced in the 8th chapter is
presupposition and its major characteristics (defeasibility and
projectability), with several approaches to the problems it raises and
the solutions proposed, such as the treatment of presupposition as
anaphora. The approach which the author favours is, as usual, an
approach which can accommodate both semantic and pragmatic suggestions,
and in this sense she illustrates in detail the influence of focus in
determining presuppositions, and the possible formalisations of these
mutual relations. She concludes that separating semantic and pragmatic
approaches to the problem of presupposition is sterile, since meaning in
discourse is created through the interaction of sentential, contextual
and co-textual links. She hypothesizes that these meaning relations can
be formalised somehow, and presents several proposals, such as van der
Sandt's ordering of the operations performed by the hearer, or Asher and
Lascaride's rules of discourse coherence, anticipating her proposal to
formalize the speaker's intentions considered as an overarching
principle for ordering interpretations.

Chapter nine, ''Deictic expressions'' illustrates the problems that
certain lexical items encoding contextual information pose to a formal
truth-conditional approach to meaning. Deictics are linguistic
expressions whose meaning can be recovered only recurring to the
available contextual information. They represent an area in which
semantics and pragmatics both have a role to play, or as Jaszczolt says,
''the pragmatic processes of reference resolution intrude into the
semantics''(p.192). They must be pragmatically interpreted by a hearer in
order to allow for the assignment of a truth value to a proposition; in
other words, the situation must be constructed before the semantic
interpretation can be carried out. The author proposes to classify
deixis into 5 types (person deixis, time deixis, place deixis, discourse
deixis and social deixis) and offers a brief characterisation of the
groupings. She then turns to the question of non-deictic use of pronouns
and of problematic anaphors, such as the E-type or ''donkey'' anaphora.
The last section of the 9th chapter is devoted to the relationship
between deixis and reference. Deixis is seen as sharing many features
with proper nouns, in that they select a referent and the proposition
corresponding to the sentence in which they occur can be assigned a
positive truth-value only if and only if the predicate predicates
something true of the referred individual. The fundamental difference
lies though in the fact that, contrary to proper nouns, deictic
expressions have a variable reference, and the logical form of the
proposition must be completed with contextual information. Philosophers
and truth-conditional semanticists have put forward many different
proposals in order to try to formalise this context-dependence, ranging
from sequencing of indexicals to the dynamic Fregean thought. All these
proposals are presented in the final pages of the chapter.

Chapters 10 and 11, ''Implicature'' and ''What is said'', continue the
exploration of the domains that are not satisfactorily described by
truth-conditional semantics. In chapter 10, the author presents several
approaches to the distinction between sentence meaning and speaker's
meaning. She introduces the Gricean approach (the Cooperative Principle,
the Maxims, etc.) and the problem area of implicatures, as well as some
post-Gricean approaches, in particular those which rearrange Grice's
maxims while remaining close to the spirit of the original maxims, such
as Levinson's and Horn's developments, and those which substitute the
original proposal with a more general cognitive principle, such as the
relevance-theoretic proposal. Chapter 11 presents a theoretically
advanced discussion of the post-Gricean developments in semantics and
pragmatics. More precisely, Jaszczolt presents the discussion concerning
the boundaries between the two domains, attempting to answer some
fundamental questions relative to how many levels of meaning there are,
the way they can be defined and the criteria to distinguish between
implicatures and what is said. She presents an overview of the debate
relative to very important issues such as explicatures and implicitures
(RT) and the levels of meaning (Levinson 1995; 2000), ambiguity and
underspecification, and terminological and theoretical issues concerning
the distinction between logical form, semantic representation and
prepositional representation. Particular attention is dedicated to
default semantics, which is favoured by the author.

Chapter 12, ''Temporality'', acknowledges the context dependent nature of
tense and underlines the necessity to incorporate temporality into any
truth-conditional approach to language meaning. In the first two
sections, Jaszczolt introduces eventualities as proposed by Bach (1981)
and then she illustrates the davidsonian proposal for the integration of
events and logical forms. The following section is devoted to the
distinction between tense, mood and aspect as three inalienable but
distinct dimensions for the description of situations. The rest of the
chapter is dedicated to the distinction between temporality and tense
and to the way in which the former has been integrated in
truth-conditional treatments of language, with particular attention to
the two major theories about events, namely the A-theory (there is no
real past or future, but the present moment of thinking which makes them
''past'' and ''future'') and the B-theory (there is a sequence of unchanging
events lined up as before than/later than). The author concludes the
chapter reminding the reader that tense must be considered in the
broader framework of expressing temporality in language and since this
latter is expressed through other dimensions as well, such as aspect,
anaphoric dimension, conversational implicature and common-sense
reasoning (p.271).

Chapter 13, ''Dynamic semantics and Discourse Representation Theory'', is
the last chapter dedicated to approaches to the analyses of discourse
based to a different extent on the formal methods of truth-conditional
semantics. The title of the chapter is self-explanatory. It essentially
deals with the illustration of DRT itself as well as with some more
general considerations on which DRT and File Change Semantics are based.
The author underlines the difficulty with adequately representing many
different types of sentences, because of the lack of a ''uniform
connection between the output of grammar and the situation referred to
by the utterance of a sentence'' (p.272). Since reality changes in the
ongoing communicative process, both because of the participants and of
the greater available information, incorporating both context and its
changes into semantics becomes essential. This idea is at the basis of
DRT, whose potential is illustrated in the treatment of quantified
expression, time representation, prepositional attitude report analysis
and multiple interpretations. The last section is dedicated to a
theoretical-terminological issue, namely that of the way in which the
label ''dynamic semantics'' is used.

Chapter 14, ''Speech acts and intentionality'', is the first chapter
dedicated to the approaches which do not resort to the suggestions of
truth-conditionally oriented semantics, and which are rather based on
the idea that meaning is use. The major advantage of this tradition
initiated by Wittgenstein and then developed by ''ordinary language
philosophers'' such as Austin and Searle is identified in the capability
for these theories to account for sentences that do not have clear
truth-conditions since they do not express obvious propositions, such as
requests. The author illustrates the major theoretical issues relative
to the Speech Act Theory: felicity conditions, illocution, perlocution
and force, speech act types, and presents the problems connected with
the ethnocentricity of speech act classification. This problematic area
is illustrated through the problem of indirect speech act and of the
different ways in which indirectness and politeness interact in
different languages. The last section is dedicated to a brief history of
speech act.

In chapter 15, ''Linguistic politeness'', the problems raised by
ethnocentric approaches are considered in depth and illustrated through
an overview of the studies on politeness, especially of those trying to
overcome the limits of cultural specific proposals. Jaszczolt introduces
Lakoff's rules of pragmatic competence ('be clear' and 'be polite'),
Leech's Politeness Principle complementing Grice's Cooperative Principle
and consisting of at least six maxims, and Brown and Levinson's adoption
of Goffman's sociological notion of face, which is central to their
theory of face-threatening acts (FTAs) and their role in strategies of
politeness. The last section introduces the cognitive approach to
politeness proposed by Escandell-Vidall (1996, 1998) which, with the
notion of ''social adequacy'', opens the path for the subject of the
following chapter.

Chapter 16, ''Cross-cultural Pragmatics'', intends to explain what
pragmatics means in this tradition of research. This discipline is
presented as still vague and speculative, but at the same time, the
importance of certain observations deriving from this area of research
is underlined, since they might help cast more light on semantic and
pragmatic theories. The first section is dedicated to the
anthropological notion of culture, as described by Scollon and Scollon
(1995). The author then presents the issue of a metalanguage which can
express concepts in a non-cultural-specific way. In particular,
Jaszczolt presents Wierzbizcka's Natural Semantic Metalanguage. In the
next section, the author introduces cross-cultural pragmatics,
exemplifying the cultural-specific layer of utterance interpretation
with tautologies. The last section is dedicated to Dan Sperber's
epidemiology of representations, that is, Sperber's hypothesis relative
to how culture is formed.

The 17th and final chapter, ''Metaphor'', is dedicated to this problematic
area, which moves the discussion towards the cognitive tradition of
research. The debate about metaphor is presented from different
theoretical perspectives: the ''traditional views'' and Searle's pragmatic
account, Cohen's revival of the semantic approach, Moran's
truth-conditional account of metaphor and Lakoff's cognitive approach to
the issue. The last section is dedicated to a proposal for a possible
reconciliation of cognitive and truth-conditional approaches to the
study of metaphor.

The ''References'' and the ''Index'' close the book.

Despite the fact that the book leads the reader from the more basic
semantic and pragmatic notions to very complex theoretical issue,
''Semantics and Pragmatics'' is not an ingenuous handbook. The clarity of
the exposition and the excellent organisation of very rich and diverse
contents in a gradual and well interconnected sequence, ordered
according to the complexity of the problems described, should not hide
the original theoretical contribution of this work.

On one hand, the author presents the semantic and pragmatic debate in
a very didactic and informative way, with particular attention towards
truth-conditionally oriented approaches, while on the other, she
carefully underlines the fallacies in the different approaches,
providing sound arguments for her criticism.

It is evident that the book is supported by strong theoretical
premises and is in itself a very well built account of the author's
theoretical stance, the one which inspires such monographic works as
''Discourse, Beliefs and Intentions: Semantic Defaults and Propositional
Attitude Ascriptions'' (1999), where she tries to bring closer approaches
which apparently are quite irreconcilable, such as the cognitive and the
truth-conditional approach, using the representation tools of DRT and
the assumptions of ''default semantics''. This effort brings her in line
with the most recent proposals at the semantics-pragmatics interface
(Levinson 2000, Kamp and Reyle 1993).

Thus, if from the perspective of the researcher or the advanced
student of linguistics the book is a useful overview of the fundamental
problem areas in the semantics/pragmatics debate, and a useful
preparatory reading to the monographic work of Jaszczolt, from the less
advanced student's perspective, ''Semantics and Pragmatics'' is a very
useful handbook providing all the necessary information about the
truth-conditional approaches to the study of discourse, including the
philosophical debate, and a good presentation of non-truth-conditional
approaches to language. Every chapter is accompanied by a list of
suggested readings, both ''general'' and ''advanced/detailed'', which is a
very useful resource.

The author provides, moreover, excellent introductions and summaries
of the contents of the single chapters which make it very easy for the
reader to follow the discussion.

To conclude, I think that ''Semantics and Pragmatics'' makes for an
excellent didactic resource both for graduate and undergraduate students,
provided it is read with a critical eye, that is, provided it is clearly
understood that the book is not a ''neutral'' introduction to the two
disciplines and their interface, but a strongly theoretically oriented
approach, a sort of ''manifest'', a premise to the Jaszczolt's original

Bach, E. (1981) 'On time, tense and aspect: An Essay in English
metaphysics', in P. Cole (ed.), Radical Pragmatics, New York:
Academic Press

Escandell-Vidall, V. (1996) 'Towards a cognitive approach to
politeness',in K. M. Jaszczolt & K. Turner (eds.) Contrastive
Semantics and Pragmatics, Vol.2: Discourse Strategies, Oxford:
Elsevier Science, pp.629-650

Escandell-Vidall, V. (1998) 'Politeness: A relevant issue for
relevance theory', Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 11: 45-57

Jaszczolt, K. M. (1999, Discourse, Beliefs and Intentions: Semantic
Defaults and Propositional Attitude Ascriptions, Oxford: Elsevier

Kamp, H. & Reyle, U. (1993) From Discourse to Logic: Introduction to
Model-theoretic Semantics of Natural Language, Formal Logic and
Discourse Representation Theory, Dordrecht: Kluwer

Katz, J. J. and Postal, P. M. (1964) An Integrated Theory of
Linguistic Descriptions, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Levinson, S. C. (1995) 'Three levels of meaning', in F. R. Palmer (ed),
Grammar and Meaning: Essays in Honour of Sir John Lyons, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, pp. 90-115

Levinson, S. C. (2000) Presumptive Meanings: The Theory of Generalized
Conversational Implicature, Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press

Scollon, R. and Wong Scollon, S. (1995) Intercultural Communication:
A Discourse Approach, Oxford: Blackwell
Dr. Gloria Cappelli is presently working for the Centro Linguistico
Interdipartimentale (Interdepartmental Centre for Linguistics) of the
University of Pisa. She has a Ph.D. in English Linguistics. She has
worked in the field of Lexical Semantics, Pragmatics and Second Language