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Review of From Words to Discourse:Trends in Spanish Semantics and Pragmatics
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003 23:33:24 +0100 From: Andrea Faulstich Subject: From Words to Discourse: Trends in Spanish Semantics and Pragmatics
Gutiérrez-Rexach, Javier, ed. (2002) From Words to Discourse: Trends in Spanish Semantics and Pragmatics. Elsevier Science Ltd, Current Research in the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface 10.
Andrea Faulstich, unaffiliated scholar
PURPOSE AND CONTENTS OF THE BOOK The book contains an introduction and 16 papers exploring problems and perspectives in the semantics and pragmatics of Spanish from a variety of theoretical viewpoints. The overall purpose of the volume is to test the predictive power of theoretical approaches in the semantics-pragmatics interface by empirical data of an individual language.
The introduction by Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach gives an overview of the book's organization and its main topics. The following three papers by Gennari, Cipria and Laca deal with the tense and aspectual properties of the Spanish verbal system. Silvia Gennari ("Spanish Past and Future Tenses: Less (Semantics) Is More") examines different interpretations of Spanish simple future and PRETÉRITO and accounts for the difficulties of describing and explaining such different readings in terms of semantics only. On the basis of aktionsart properties she distinguishes between stative sentences and eventive sentences considering their implications for the non-future reading of simple future and the non-completion reading of PRETÉRITO. She argues that stative sentences, due to their pragmatic dimension of being true at a larger interval of time, trigger overlapping readings ("superinterval implication"). In a more detailed analysis of PRETÉRITO and its (non-) completion reading Gennari explains that the completion reading on the one hand arises with accomplishment-achievement sentences entailing the resulting status of the relevant action, and on the other hand with activities and states as a result of the pragmatic end-point inference. As she furthermore argues, such completion reading of stative and eventive sentences, usually contrasting duration or open-end readings suggested by the use of the IMPERFECTO, can be cancelled by the superinterval implication inherent to stative sentences or by the speaker's explicit rectification of his/her assertion in eventive sentences. With regard to the non-future readings of simple future she points out that the simple future necessitates a realistic or factual conversational background (CB), i.e., that they are not acceptable in non-realistic hypothetical contexts. Alicia Cipria ("Tensed Complements of Perception Verbs: Issues in Their Temporal Interpretation") explores the semantics and pragmatics of past tense complements of perception verbs such as VER "to see", OÍR "to hear", PALPAR "feel by touch" and OLER "to smell". Contrasting traditional accounts of this verb category Cipria maintains that the supposed requirement of simultaneity in complex clauses with a main perception verb is not always valid for PRETÉRITO complements which may allow a "backward shifted" reading when they are embedded under a past main verb of perception. With regard to IMPERFECTO complements embedded under past main verbs of perception Cipria infers that the simultaneity requirement may be outweighed by the interaction of aspect, aktionsart and pragmatics, and that the sensory contexts of perception can more accurately be described in terms of evidentiality and actual occurrence, regardless of tense specification and aktionsart effects. The contribution by Brenda Laca ("Spanish 'Aspectual' Periphrases: Ordering Constraints and the Distinction Between Situation and Viewpoint Aspect") is dedicated to the relationship between differences in ordering constraints of Spanish "aspectual" periphrases and the semantic and syntactic status of such constructions as expressions of lexical or syntactic aspectual categories. Contrary to the research findings by Cinque (1998, 1999, 2000) Laca correlates ordering possibilities with a semantic distinction between situation aspect and viewpoint aspect as discussed by Smith (1991) and offers an account of aspectual periphrases that is based on the differentiation between extrinsic and intrinsic ordering constraints, as known in the field of morphology where these categories are used to distinguish between inflectional and derivational affixes.
The next four papers by Rosales Sequeiros, Alonso-Ovalle, Aliaga / de Bustos and Mejías-Bikandi deal with the interpretation of infinitives, imperatives and the subjunctive in Spanish. Xosé Rosales Sequeiros ("Non-declarative Sentences in Spanish: The Case of the Infinitive") examines the semantics and pragmatics of imperative uses of the infinitive in Spanish within a revised theoretical framework of relevance theory as proposed by Wilson and Sperber (1988). Starting from the well known fact that infinitival constructions in Spanish (as well as in other Romance and non-Romance languages) convey the same sense as the imperative the author tries to analyze whether this equivalence is semantic or pragmatic, i.e., whether infinitives are semantically ambiguous between "possibility" (infinitive) and "potentiality" or "desirability" (imperative) or whether they merely encode "possibility" and are then pragmatically interpreted as imperatives. The analysis shows that Spanish infinitives can convey an imperative import when contextual factors (e.g. when used at cashpoints, in manuals, in hospitals) support such imperative reading. This would suggest that the imperative dimension of Spanish infinitives is not semantic but rather pragmatic in nature. Furthermore, the author points out that, in contrast to what has been found out about Spanish infinitives, English infinitives do not encode such "procedural instructions" for the addressee to seek potentiality or desirability readings from the context. The paper of Luis Alonso-Ovalle ("Aspect and Situations: A Situation semantics Account of the Semantic Variability of Spanish 'AL-Clauses'") examines the semantic variability of Spanish AL-Clauses, i.e., of infinitives in adjunct clauses headed by the prepositional complementizer AL, on the basis of the Kratzerian situation semantics (Kratzer: 1989, 1990). Francisco Aliaga and Eduardo de Bustos ("Mental Spaces and Epistemic Attitudes: On the Spanish Subjunctive/Indicative alternation") account for the indicative/subjunctive alternation in Spanish, revising the respective approach by Mejías-Bikandi (1996). Essentially, they argue for the inclusion of an epistemic attitudes model into the theory of mental spaces whereas Errapel Mejías-Bikandi ("Space Accessibility and the Pragmatic Status of Propositions") proposes an amendment of his 1996's approach in the light of the Information Structure framework elaborated by Lambrecht (1994). Basically, he claims that mood in Spanish is a grammatical marker of the pragmatic status of a proposition, i.e., indicative and subjunctive are correlated with the pragmatic status (presupposition and activation) of a proposition within a mental space.
The following four papers by Escandell-Vidal / Leonetti, Zuber, Gutiérrez-Rexach and Gutiérrez-Rexach / Schwenter are devoted to the exploration of semantic aspects of predicates, modifiers, demonstratives, polarity expressions and deixis in Spanish. Victoria Escandell-Vidal and Manuel Leonetti ("Coercion and the Stage/Individual Distinction") examine the distinction between "individual-level predicates" (ILPs) and "stage-level predicates" (SLPs) and explore the syntactic environments in which ILP appears where SLP would be expected without rendering the sentence ungrammatical. The authors provide a systematic account of this unexpected and exceptional shift arguing that the reinterpretation of ILPs as SLPs can be explained in terms of coercion. Richard Zuber's paper ("Some Spanish Quantifier Modifiers") analyzes Spanish quantifier modifiers within the framework of a generalized quantifier theory. The author studies noun phrases modified by connectors such as SALVO, EXCEPTO, ADEMÁS, APARTE DE accounting for the categorial polyvalence of such connectors and their behaviour in declarative sentences and in interrogative sentences. The contribution of Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach ("Demonstratives in Context") examines the semantics of Spanish demonstratives as contextually restricted determiner and generalized quantifier functions. The author gives an overview over current theories of demonstratives and provides a detailed characterization of Spanish demonstratives exploring the interactions between demonstratives and other deictic (spatial and temporal) elements, figurative deixis, discourse deixis and the interpretation of cases in which more than one demonstrative occur. Basically, it is argued that contextual restriction has to be seen as a dynamic process reacting to discourse information, background shifts and changes of the intentions of the discourse participants. The paper of Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach and Scot Schwenter ("Propositional NPIs and the Scalar Nature of Polarity") offers an analysis of the specific semantic and pragmatic implications propositional NPIs ("negative polarity items") transmit to the sentence in which they appear. Special attention is paid to the propositional NPI QUE DIGAMOS. The authors argue that this is a scalar NPI conveying an attenuating instead of an emphatic meaning.
Further three contributions by Bosque, García Córdoba and Macià deal with the integration of semantic and pragmatic import into the theory of Logical Form as a level of linguistic representation. Ignacio Bosque ("Degree Quantification and Modal Operators in Spanish") discusses aspects of modality in the grammar of Spanish and offers a way of integrating the modal properties of some degree quantifiers and quasi-quantifiers into the restrictive concept of grammar proposed by the generative approach to the syntax-semantics-pragmatics interface. Namely, he examines degree quantifiers denoting "excess" (DEMASIADO(S), DESMESURADO, EXCESIVO and their respective adverbs) and their interaction with modal structures. The author identifies "excess" as a modal concept which, as such, introduces an intensional context, i.e., "a reference framework by which the quantified elements are filtered through a propositional assessment" (p. 286), and provides a syntactic (Logical Form) translation of this idea. Rosa J. García Córdoba ("The Shifted Reading of the Spanish Past Tenses as Dependent on Presupposition Accomodation") analyzes the interpretation of indicative simple past tenses (PRETÉRITO and COPRETÉRITO or IMPERFECTO) in verbal complement clauses in Mexican Spanish. The respective Logical Form representations follow and at the same time revise Stowell's approach to the analysis of tenses as temporal predicates. The contribution by Josep Macià ("On the Interaction of Syntax-Semantics-Pragmatics: A Case Study") offers a revision of binding theory elaborating an alternative to the principles (B) and (C) of the Standard Binding Theory in which these principles are semantic principles.
The concluding two papers by Colantoni and Vann / Busquets / Koike study aspects of linguistic variation promted by pragmatic factors. Laura Colantoni ("Clitic Doubling, Null Objects and Clitic Climbing in the Spanish of Corrientes") explores the phenomena of clitic doubling (CD), null objects (NO) and clitic climbing (CC) in the Spanish of Corrientes (Argentina) in the light of discourse-pragmatic factors such as the degree of animacy of the respective referent, topicalization / focalization and emphasis. Furthermore, she suggests the consideration of two extra-linguistic factors for future research: sex and the contact with Guaraní. Robert E. Vann, Joan Busquets and Dale A. Koike ("Spanish NO, SÍ: A Particle of Politeness") analyze discourse structures in which the combination of NO, SÍ occurs. The analysis is based on conversations between a linguistic researcher and Spanish speakers in Barcelona dealing with the topic of language use. On the basis of the identified discourse structures, the authors explore the pragmatic functions the NO, SÍ particle can assume (e.g. explanation, correction, acceptance).
CRITICAL EVALUATION The papers presented in this volume comprise a variety of novel or newly tested research approaches to different aspects of the semantics and pragmatics of Spanish. All papers are well written and the book as a whole is well-structured grouping papers according to five main topics / linguistic sub-disciplines. The volume is of course highly interesting to anyone working in the field of Spanish Linguistics. As several contributions provide cross-linguistic references the edition will also be of interest to scholars and students in the field of General and Romance Linguistics. Altogether, the papers contained in this book illustrate the difficulties of theory forming in the semantics-pragmatics interface. At the same time, and this is the overall merit of the edition, they offer a valuable contribution to the consolidation, revision and/or rejection of existing theoretical frameworks on the basis of empirical data of an individual language. Given the variety of theoretical approaches presented in this edition a detailed evaluation of single contributions must of course be left to the respective specialized fields of linguistic research.
REFERENCES Cinque, G. (1998): "'Restructuring' and the Order of Aspectual and Root Modal Heads." Univ. of Venice Working Papers in Linguistics 8.
Cinque, G. (1999): Adverbs and Functional Heads. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cinque, G. 2000): "Restructuring" and Functional Structure. Ms., University of Venice.
Kratzer, A. (1989): "An Investigation of the Lumps of Thought." In: Linguistics and Philosophy 12, 607-653.
Kratzer, A. (1990): "How Specific is a Fact?" In: Proceedings of the 1990 Conference on Theories of Partial Information. Center for Cognitive Science and College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.
Lambrecht, K. (1994): Information Structure and Sentence Form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mejías-Bikandi, E. (1996): "Space Accessibility and Mood in Spanish." In: Spaces, Worlds and Grammar. Ed. by Fauconnier, G. and E. Sweetser, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 157-178.
Smith, C.S. (1991): The Parameter of Aspect. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Stowell, T. (1993): "Syntax of Tense.". Ms., UCLA.
Wilson, D. / D. Sperber (1988): "Mood and the Analysis of Non-declarative Sentences." In: Human Agency: Language, Duty and Value. Ed. by Dancy, J., Moravcsik, J. and C. Taylor, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 77-101.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Andrea Faulstich, economist and translator, received her PhD in Romance Linguistics from the University of Potsdam in 2001 and is currently working as a financial and legal translator.