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Lexical pragmatics and types of linguistic encoding: evidence from pre- and postpositions in Behdini-Kurdish

Unger, Christoph (2005) Lexical pragmatics and types of linguistic encoding: evidence from pre- and postpositions in Behdini-Kurdish. [Conference Paper] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Lexical pragmatics starts from the assumption that the meaning communicated by a word is underdetermined by its semantics, and lexical pragmatists usually study the processes involved in bridging the gap between the encoded and the communicated meaning of words. This paper studies a different but related question: wether different types of linguistic encoding can play empirically distinguishable roles in lexical pragmatics. Carston (2002) suggests that some words may encode templates for concept formation whereas others encode fully-fledged concepts that provide inputs to pragmatic processes. Blakemore (1987) argued that some words encode constraints on inferential processes rather than concepts. But if some words might encode nothing more than concept-formation templates, and others procedural constraints, then both types of words appear to be highly context dependent and their linguistic semantics rather abstract in nature. Is it possible to distinguish these different types of encoding empirically? In this paper I want to argue that the answer to this question is positive. In Behdini-Kurdish, there is a class of four fundamental prepositions *di* 'in', *li* 'at', *ji* 'from', *bi* 'with'. Furthermore, there is a larger class of simple prepositions such as *ser* 'on', *nav* 'within', *ber* 'in front'. These simple prepositions can be added to one of the fundamental prepositions to form compound ones: *diser* 'on top of', *dinav* 'inside', *diber* 'in front of, in sight of'. Any fundamental, simple or compound preposition can be used together with one of three postpositions *da*, *ra* and *ve*. Postpositions are morphologically and syntactically simple, in contrast to prepositions. Though overlapping in meaning with prepositions, they are not redundant. Fundamental prepositions have a wider range of meaning than simple prepositions and compound prepositions. Finally, there are grammaticalisation paths from nouns through compound preposition to simple prepositions, but none involving the postpositions. My thesis is that these properties of the Behdini-Kurdish system of pre-and postpositions can be explained on the assumptions that the class of fundamental prepositions encodes templates for ad-hoc concept construction, the class of simple prepositions encodes concepts that allow the construction of ad-hoc concepts, and that the class of postpositions encode procedures constraining ad-hoc concept construction. This thesis gets additional support from German prepositional phrases. I conclude that the different types of linguistic encoding discussed do indeed lead to distinct effects in lexical pragmatics and are therefore empirically distinguishable. Thus, while there is reason to think that a unified account of the pragmatic processes involved in lexical pragmatics is possible (Wilson, to appear), the different types of inputs to these processes need to be recognised.

Item Type:Conference Paper
Keywords:Lexical Pragmatics, Linguistic Semantics, Procedural Semantics, Ad-hoc Concepts, Prepositions, Postpositions
Subjects:Linguistics > Semantics
Linguistics > Pragmatics
ID Code:5465
Deposited By:Unger, Dr. Christoph
Deposited On:22 Mar 2007
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:56

References in Article

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