Modality, Corpus, Discourse Conference 2012

Aktivität: Wissenschaftliche und künstlerische VeranstaltungenKonferenzenForschung

Irina Pandarova - Sprecher*in

Epistemic adverbs and pragmatic variation

There is a growing awareness nowadays that epistemic modal devices are not solely concerned with commenting on the truth value of propositions. Recent research has moved beyond purely typological and semantic treatments of modality and has shown that epistemic modals have a strong pragmatic effect in communication, and represent discourse strategies for negotiating and maintaining interpersonal relationships. As Capone (2001: 17) argues, ‘‘the use of a more prolix, marked expression when a corresponding unmarked (simpler, less ‘effortful’) alternate expression is available tends to be interpreted as conveying a marked message (one which the unmarked alternative would not or could not have conveyed)’’. Because communicating always has a purpose, modalisation has a “rhetorical or argumentative function” (34). Additionally, it has been shown that notions such as certainty and uncertainty cannot be associated firmly with any one communicative purpose, i.e. modal devices are multifunctional and context-dependent (Caffi 1999; Simon-Vandenbergen & Aijmer 2007). My dissertation project is concerned with context-dependent variation in the use of epistemic adverbs. Two main hypotheses to be tested are ‘register as a dominant factor in variation’ and ‘regional variety as a dominant factor in variation’. The first hypothesis stems from Biber et al.’s 1999 findings, which reveal that non-linguistic factors correlate directly with linguistic patterns, whereas the second is prompted by recent work in variational pragmatics, according to which geographical and social factors have a tangible effect on language in interaction (Schneider 2010). In this paper, a corpus-based approach is adopted, using ICE-GB and ICE-Ireland. Two registers are compared – broadcast discussions and broadcast interviews, both of which possess distinct sets of situational characteristics. Additionally, the two coprora allow for a comparison between British and Irish English, and between the English spoken in Northern Ireland and that in the Republic in Ireland. Following Hyland (1998), the most frequent epistemic adverbs are selected from a wordlist generated from the two corpora and their frequencies along the two parameters, register and variety, are explored. A second stage involves a qualitative analysis of the functions of the individual adverbs in discourse and, consequently, attempts to determine whether these vary in frequency across registers and varieties. One of the aims is to test the hypothesis that Irish language users are more indirect than their British counterparts (cf. Barron 2008). The results of the quantitative analysis suggest that register is a decisive factor for variation, with broadcast discussions exhibiting a far greater number of epistemic adverbs than interviews. There is, on the other hand, little evidence that regional variety plays a role. In terms of individual adverbs, there are no significant differences in frequency ranking either. Finally, a closer look at the data will reveal whether individual registers and/or varieties may be associated with typical discourse-structuring and illocutionary effects that epistemic modal adverbs may have. Keywords: Epistemic adverbs, pragmatics, register variation, regional variation References: Barron, Anne, 2008. "The structure of requests in Irish English and English English." Variational Pragmatics: A Focus on Regional Varieties in Pluricentric Languages. Klaus P. Schneider and Anne Barron (ed.). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins. 35-67. Biber, Douglas, et al., 1999. The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Essex: Longman. Caffi, Claudia, 1999. ‘On Mitigation’. Journal of pragmatics, 31: 881-909. Capone, Alessandro, 2001. Modal Adverbs and Discourse: Two Essays. Progetti Linguistici 14. Edizione ETS, Pisa. Simon-Vanderbergen, Anne-Marie, and Karin Aijmer, 2007. The Semantic Field of Modal Certainty: A Corpus-Based Study of English Adverbs. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Schneider Klaus P., 2010. "Variational pragmatics." In: Östman, Jan-Ola & Verschueren, Jef (ed.): Handbook of Pragmatics: 2010 Installment [Handbook of Pragmatics 14]. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins. 1-34.
Modality, Corpus, Discourse Conference 2012


Modality, Corpus, Discourse Conference 2012


Lund, Schweden

Veranstaltung: Konferenz