An evolutionary approach to information transmission - The semasiological change of the existential construction [there is no NP P]


This paper draws on the evolutionary model of linguistic acts as overt influence attempts (OIA) and co-act proposals (CAP) (cf. Reich 2011, Tantucci 2016, 2017b) to observe the semasiological change (cf. Traugott & Dasher 2002) of the construction [there is no NP P] in British and American English. CAP theo ry draws on the new enactive view of social cognition, which is primarily grounded “in joint action (including, e.g. synchronised movements)’’ (cf. Engel et al., 2014:9). CAPs are ‘interested’ forms of ‘‘joint projects’’ (cf. Clark, 1996; Bangerter and Cla rk, 2003) which are inherently goal - oriented either at the physical or the epistemic level. Corpus - based data from the Corpus of Early English Books Online (EEBO) and the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) show that [ there is no NP P ] originates as an existential construction (e.g. Fillmore 1968; Lyons 1975) expressing the objective impossibility of achieving some project: there is not a viable way to achieve p. It will then acquire an immediate intersubjective (I – I) meaning (cf. Tantucci 2013, 2 017a, 2017ab) expressing Sp/w's volitional stance based on what s/he expects Ad/r may ask his/her performing: I am preventively letting Ad/r know that I will not be persuaded to take part to the project p. In a subsequent phase of semasiological change, th e construction develops a new extended intersubjectified (E-I) usage, expressing a deontic meaning impinging on what any social persona would agree upon: no one would deny that the project p should not be pursued. Contrary to what the traditional Austinian - Searlean model would suggest (cf. Austin, 1962; Searle, 1969; Searle & Vanderveken, 1985), through each stage of reanalysis Sp/w’s utterances are not merely aimed at informing Ad/r. Rather, they occur as overt influence attempts in which Ad/r is expected to acknowledge p in the form of a co - action. The present case-study aims at shedding light on the enactive nature of linguistic acts, and the crucial role that the per - locutionary effects of utterances play throughout semantic-pragmatic reanalysis of a con struction. This is a completely novel approach to semantic change, as the ‘interested’ nature of the perlocutionary dimension is finally taken into account as a decisive element of reanalysis. This ‘enacted’ turn in semasiological studies has the advantag e of accounting for meaning as an ‘interested’ dimension rather than a merely symbolic one.

27 Aug 2018 13:00
Edinburgh, UK