The Semantics and Pragmatics of Demonstratives in English and Arabic.
Author: Zaki, M. Date: 2011 Institution: Middlesex University Subject:Linguistics
Abstract: This research investigates the semantics and pragmatics of demonstratives in two languages, English and Arabic, within the framework of relevance theory. The study applies the fundamental distinction between ‘conceptual’
and ‘procedural’ semantics in an attempt to account for the various instantiations of such referring expressions in the two languages. I argue that demonstratives play a crucial role in aligning the discourse models of the speaker and hearer by encoding procedural semantics instructing the hearer to maintain or create a joint level of attention to the intended referent as opposed to other referential candidates. Following Diessel (2006), I take it that this notion of joint attention subsumes all the cognitive and functional roles played by demonstratives in discourse. I also argue that demonstratives encode a (pro)concept of distance which falls under the scope of the attention-directing procedure, thus creating the internal contrast between the intended referent and other candidate referents. Within this proposal, I discuss how demonstratives can contribute to both the explicit and the implicit levels of meaning by virtue of the interaction between their encoded semantics and the context in a relevance-driven framework. Compared to other referring expressions or no referring expression at all, the role of a demonstrative achieves relevance on the implicit level. It can either highlight a certain aspect of the referent, or encourage the creation of weak implicatures, or signal a certain cognitive/emotional attitude towards the referent. The study is supported by an analysis of corpus data from both languages in order to supplement theoretical proposals with attested evidence.
I further extend my analysis to include two areas. First, I discuss cases of self-repair in spoken English discourse which involves the definite article and demonstratives. By linking the notion of self-repair to that of optimal relevance, I shed some light on the semantic and pragmatic differences between these two referring expressions. Second, I extend my analysis to include other forms of demonstratives in Arabic and explore their semantic and pragmatic behaviour in discourse. I propose a procedural account for the three forms attentional *haa*, *kadhaalik* and *haakadhaa,*arguing that their contribution goes well beyond that of mere demonstrative reference to that of being discourse markers encoding procedural constraints on interpretation. I also investigate some alternative syntactic structures where demonstratives occur, arguing that the stylistic effect of emphasis which they give rise to can be explained in terms of relevant cognitive effects.