KACL Lecture Series

#19 : Susan Fitzmaurice
Professor, University of Northern Arizona
web site: http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~smw/
Title: The mystery of the subjective progressive revisited: an historical pragmatic study of subjectification
Date : December 18, 2002, 16:30--18:30
Place : Room 1411, ground floor of Bldg 14, Kobe Shoin Women's University.

This study combines the methods of corpus linguistics and historical pragmatics to offer an account of semantic-pragmatic change in the progressive construction in the early eighteenth- century. This study both builds upon and departs from earlier work (Wright, 1986, 1994, 1995,), which argued that the progressive underwent a process of subjectification in grammaticalisation in the course of the seventeenth century. I adopt the corpus linguistics context of register analysis in order to situate the particular study of meaning change, thus drawing upon work in this area (Ryden, 1997, Smitterberg, 2000).

In the present study, I will argue that although main-clause progressive constructions may bear subjective meaning, this is a pragmatic effect of a process by which modal meanings become routinized or conventionalized. In the case of the progressive, subjective effects (particular invited inferences) yielded in specific cases in which the construction collocates with deictic or temporal adverbs (now, always, forever) and in main clauses may become generalized to the extent that those effects routinely attach to other, less contextually bound, uses of the progressive. Thus the inference invited by Joseph Addison's 'She is always seeing Apparitions, and hearing Death-Watches' (Spectator 7: 1. 34) is that the speaker believes that the subject has an over-active imagination. The root of the inference is the attitude of the speaker towards the subject, and his choice of the expression represents his choice to exaggerate in order to convey his point of view.

I draw upon Traugott's (1999, 2000) pragmatically based Invited Inferencing Theory of Semantic Change (IITSC), and on Horn's revision of Grice's maxims as Q and R principles (1989) in order to provide a technical account of the diachronic processes in which subjective pragmatic meanings routinize or conventionalize as generalized inferences to become regularly associated with the construction in early eighteenth-century discourse, including essays, fiction, letters and drama of the period.

  • Horn, Laurence, 1989. A Natural History of Negation. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Ryden, Mats, 1997, 'On the panchronic core meaning of the English progressive.' In Terttu Nevalainen and Leena Kahlas-Tarkka (eds.), To Explain the Present: Studies in the Changing English Language in Honour of Matti Rissanen. Helsinki: Societe Neophilologique. 419-429.
  • mitterberg, Eric, 2000. 'The progressive form and genre variation during the nineteenth century.' In Ricardo Bermudez-Otero, David Denison, Richard Hogg and C.B. McCully (eds.) Generative Theory and Corpus Studies: A dialogue from 10 ICEHL. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 283-297.
  • Traugott, Elizabeth C. 1999. 'The role of pragmatics in a theory of semantic change.' In Jef Verschueren, ed., Pragmatics in 1998: Selected Papers from the 6th International Pragmatics Conference. Antwerp: International Pragmatics Association. Vol. 2: 93-102.
  • Traugott, Elizabeth C. 2000. From etymology to historical pragmatics.・Paper presented at SHEL-1, UCLA May 27, 2000.
  • Wright, Susan. 1986. 'Tense, aspect and text: processes of grammaticalisation in the history of the English auxiliary.' PhD dissertation. Cambridge University.
  • Wright, Susan. 1994. 'The mystery of the modal progressive.' In Dieter Kastovsky (ed.), Studies in Early Modern English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 1994. 467-485.
  • Wright, Susan. 1995. 'Subjectivity and experiential syntax.' In Dieter Stein and Susan Wright (eds.) Subjectivity and Subjectivisation: Linguistic Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 151-172.


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