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Auteur: Benjamin TSOU

A note on pseudo-conditional sentences, and denial: A cross-lingual comparison

Abstract/Résumé: The illocutionary force of denial may be conveyed by multiple means such as pseudo-comparative sentences, without the use of overt negation markers: (a) “Like hell! He is rich” (b) “He is rich, like hell!” (c) “He is rich like I am Ali Baba!” These sentences do not function as regular comparative sentences where gradable attributes are compared. Instead we need to postulate the use of Modus Tollens in these pseudo-comparative sentences to realize the illocutionary force of denial (Tsou, 2010). Moreover, English and Chinese differ with respect to gradability and identity of the attributes involved, and there can be a counterpart to negation which is positive emphasis. The paper examines comparable and related pseudo-conditional sentences such as (d) Harry is stupid if rich (e) The pot is hot if it is white (a) You will be boss if your name is John L. (b) If he is rich then I am the Queen of Sheba It will draw on Modus Tollens to analyze them cross-linguistically and compare their structures with those of pseudo-comparative sentences. An attempt will be made to explore why there seems to be no opposite polarities of denial and positive emphasis with pseudo-conditional sentences. References Quang, Phuc Dong. 1967. “English Sentences without Over Grammatical Subjects”. In the book Defamatory essays presented to James D. McCawley on his 33rd or 34rd birthday, edited by Arnold M. Zwicky, Peter H. Salus, Robert I. Binnick and Anthony L. Vanek, pp.3-10. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Tsou, Benjamin. 1989. Linguistic structure beyond grammar: pseudo-conditionals, pseudo-comparisons, speech acts and language teaching. Working Papers in Language and Linguistics No.1, pp.26-39. Department of Applied Linguistics, City Polytechnic of Hong Kong. Tsou, Benjamin K. 2010. “A note on pseudo-comparative sentences like ‘John is rich like X!’ and ‘like X, John is rich!’”. Proceedings of the 24th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation (PACLIC 24), pp. 907-915.