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Auteur: Nami ARIMITSU

Irreality, negative meanings and intensifiers

Abstract/Résumé: This paper points out that the irreality is sometimes related to negative meanings (rejection) or intensifiers (affirmation), and shows why people occasionally choose such irreal expressions instead of “no” or “very much.” This is a violation of Grice’s maxims particularly concerning manner. Grice (1975) proposed the Cooperative Principle, and the four maxims of which are: (1) The maxim of quantity (2) quality (3) relation (4) manner (Be perspicuous: 1. Avoid obscurity of expression. 2. Avoid ambiguity. 3. Be brief. 4. Be orderly.) By intentionally violating the principle, the speaker leaves a stronger impression than saying “no” or “very much.” Larrivée (2004:45) states that “La définition sémantique de la valeur de négation est délicate,” and with reference to rejection he states, “le rejet conteste un assertion,” and examines the validity and nature of refusal by inserting terms such as “en effet,” “Tu parles!,” and “Mon œil!” (ibid.: 46) This paper reveals two similar but different motivations that characterize their functions. I will divide irreal expressions into two categories. First, the false/opposition from the truth/reality can convey a negative attitude (rejection/possible dispraising) of the speaker. (1) A: Will you take me to Paris? /B: If the sun rises/rose/were to rise in the west. Besides the anti-veridicality, polarity is used. As a rejection, “west” is preferred to “north /south” to say “no,” since people see those directions as rigid oppositional pairs. The contrast between reality vs. anti-veridical irreality is the motivation for interpretation. If the reply is less anti-veridical and potentially realizable, it would not become a rejection, but a transaction. (Will you take me to Paris? /If I get a pay raise this month.) Second, not all the irrealities are connected to rejection or “no.” In “Do you love me? /Eight days a week, I love you,” the irreal excessive limit-breaking amount is interpreted as an intensifier. “Eight” cannot be replaced by “one /two /three /four /five /six /seven /or nine” to mean “very much.” Excessive degrees on certain scales can be illustrated by irreal expressions, but not always negative evaluative. They denote a large amount exceeding the norm, or intensifying the degree.(i.e.“I love you as deep as the sea.”) This is another type of anti-veridical and irreal expressions, but based on scales, rather than oppositions. References Grice, Paul. 1975. Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J.L. Morgan (Ed.), Syntax and semantics vol.3. Speech acts. New York: Academic Press. 41-58. Horn, Laurence R. 1989. A Natural History of Negation. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Larrivée, Pierre. 2004. “L’Association négative: depuis la syntaxe jusqu'à l’interprétation.” Langue et Cultures Series. Geneva: Droz.