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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Volker GAST

Dialogue games and the constitution of scales: A corpus-based approach

Abstract/Résumé: Semantic analyses of scalar operators such as ‘even’ or ‘only’ have had considerable difficulties in defining the ways in which scales are constituted (cf. Jacobs 1983, Löbner 1990). For example, Engl. 'even' has often been analysed as indicating that a given focus value is particularly unlikely, but there are many examples that cannot be so analysed (cf. 1): (1) It is more for aesthetic reasons that leather seats in automobiles are mainly coloured dark grey, indeed mostly even black. Gast & van der Auwera (2011) have proposed an analysis of additive focus operators as establishing IMPLICATIONAL SCALES that is based on a game-theoretic approach to discourse. Utterances are regarded as relating to an (often implicit) question raised by the (often hypothetical) conversational partner, the ‘Quaestio’ of an utterance. The relationship between a Quaestio and an utterance is often indirect and mediated via (relevant) ‘contextual implications’ in the sense of Sperber & Wilson (1986). For example, the Quaestio of (1) is 'How much heat do automobile seats of a specific colour absorb?' Unlike the (textually accessible) focus alternatives ‘Seats are coloured black’ and ‘Seats are coloured dark grey’, the (relevant) contextual implications of each focus alternative with respect to the Quaestio mentioned above form an implicational scale (<‘Black automobile seats absorb heat to x degree’, ‘Dark grey automobile seats absorb heat to y < x degree’>). While the game-theoretic approach sketched above provides a unified way of recovering implicational scales on the basis of context information for each occurrence of ‘only’ or ‘even’, it does not restrict the specific type of scaling dimension in any given case. In this talk I will aim to provide a (sub)classification of scaling dimensions associated with scalar operators on the basis of corpus evidence. I will distinguish two major levels of scaling, (i) PROPOSITIONAL SCALES and (ii) ATTITUDINAL SCALES (based on speaker evaluations), as well as several sub-types on each level. Using data from parallel corpora, I will try to lend empirical support to the classification of scaling dimensions by quantitatively investigating correlations between context features and specific scaling dimensions. References: GAST, V. and J. VAN DER AUWERA (2011). Scalar additive operators in the languages of Europe. Language 87.1: 2-54. JACOBS, Joachim (1983). Fokus und Skalen: Zur Syntax und Semantik der Gradpartikeln im Deutschen. Tübingen: Niemeyer. LÖBNER, S. (1990). Wahr neben falsch: Duale Operatoren als die Quantoren natürlicher Sprache. Tübingen: Niemeyer. SPERBER, D. and D. WILSON (1986). Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.