Pre-emptive interaction in language change and ontogeny: the case of [there is no NP]


This study is centred on the pre-emptive dimension of interactional exchanges. Dialogues are not merely characterised by information transmission, they are also constantly informed by pre-emptive attempts to address potential reactions to what is being said. We argue that pre-emptive interaction intersects with intersubjectivity (i.a. Traugott, Elizabeth C. 2003. From subjectification to intersubjectification. In R. Hickey (ed.), Motives for language change, 124–139. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Schwenter, Scott A. & Richard Waltereit. 2010. Presupposition accommodation and language change. In K. Davidse & L. Vandelanotte (eds.), Subjectification, intersubjectification and grammaticalization, 75–102. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton; Tantucci, Vittorio. 2017a. From immediate to extended intersubjectification: A gradient approach to intersubjective awareness and semasiological change. Language and Cognition 9(1). 88–120; Tantucci, Vittorio. 2020. From co-actionality to extended intersubjectivity: Drawing on language change and ontogenetic development. Applied Linguistics 41(2). 185–214) and constitutes an important trigger of semantic-pragmatic reanalysis and constructional change. We provide a corpus-based study centred on the change of the [there is no NP] construction in Early Modern English dialogic interaction. During 16th century, the chunk is originally used in assertions, however it then progressively acquires a new function of pre-emptive refusal. Something similar is at stake throughout the child’s ontogeny. We provide corpus-based data from the CHILDES database of first language acquisition to show that children’s ability to use [there is no NP] to address potential reactions to what is being said occurs only around the fourth year of age, that is when a Theory of Mind (ToM) starts to become fully developed (i.a. Apperly, Ian. 2010. Mindreaders: The cognitive basis of theory of mind. New York: Psychology Press; Wellman, Henry M. 2014. Making minds: How theory of mind develops. Oxford: Oxford University Press). Pre-emptive interaction correlates diachronically and ontogentically with ToM and underpins a projected turn taking of a specific or generic interlocutor as a result of what is being currently said.

Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory