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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Christian LEHMANN

Approaches to the typology of referentiality

Abstract/Résumé: Reference as an act comprises two operations: 1. A referent may be created and established in the universe of discourse. This is the operation of introduction of a referent into the universe of discourse. A prominent strategy of introduction is individuation: on the basis of a concept, a set of individuals may be particularized to different degrees, to the point of creating a referent. 2. A referent that is already (established) in the universe of discourse may be evoked and used again. That is the operation of (re-)identification of a referent. This operation manipulates the referent’s discourse status, i.e. the degree to which it is in the foreground of the awareness of the interlocutors. The referentiality of an expression concerns the status of the entity designated on two dimensions, its degree of individuation and the discourse status of the referent. There are two main strategies of introducing a referent: a) Individuation of a referent on the basis of a concept. This is essentially done by attribution, quantification and (generic and specific) determination. b) Establishment of a referent with reference to the universe of discourse. This is essentially achieved by some (associative or possessive) relationship to an already existent referent, by deictic reference to the speech situation or by appeal to common knowledge. The operation of (re-)identification (or reference tracking) involves two tasks: a) Accessing the referent and distinguishing it from other referents co-present in the universe of discourse. The accessibility of a referent is essentially reflected in the explicitness of its coding, including pronominalization. b) Distinguishing the referent from others. Common strategies employ its relation to the speech (personal and demonstrative pronouns), its accessibility (obviation, logophora and reflexivity, switch-reference) or its categorization (agreement in nominal class or in number). The referentiality of an entity changes as it is introduced in the universe of discourse, attended to immediately and possibly resumed some time later. It thus develops in discourse and may therefore be empirically researched only by studying texts. Hypotheses to be tested include the following: - Explicitness of formal means of representing a referent decreases with the distance of last mention. - Textual density of referential expressions increases with their degree of grammaticalization. - Structural means for reference-tracking are the simpler and the more grammaticalized, the more highly individuated the referent is. - Given a noun-verb continuum, the closer the sub-part of speech of the item in question is to the nominal pole, the more economic its individuation, and vice versa.