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Relevance theory and the semantics of non-declarative sentences

Clark, W.; (1991) Relevance theory and the semantics of non-declarative sentences. Doctoral thesis, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

Wilson and Sperber (1988a; Sperber and Wilson 1986) have proposed semantic analyses of declaratives, imperatives and interrogatives which are based on the notion of 'a direct semantic link between linguistic form and representations of propositional attitude'. They claim, however, that the various syntactic structures encode 'procedural' rather than 'conceptual' information. Rather than encoding concepts which appear in representations of propositional attitude (or what Sperber and Wilson call 'higher-level explicatures') they convey information about how to proceed in recovering such representations. This thesis is an attempt to extend this analysis to some constructions which have not been explicitly discussed by Wilson and Sperber, to consider the differences between this approach and some alternatives, and to question the status of the notion of a 'sentence type', which has often been assumed in analysing the various syntactic structures. Some evidence is provided that certain lexical items also encode procedural information about propositional attitudes, and the role of intonation in utterance-interpretation is also discussed. This analysis is based on relevance-theoretic assumptions about semantics and pragmatics. Chapter one presents the general approach to semantics assumed by relevance theory and shows how Wilson and Sperber's proposal fits into this framework. Chapter two is concerned with the proposed semantic analysis of imperatives. This analysis is extended to some 'pseudo-imperatives': forms consisting of the conjunction or disjunction of an imperative and a declarative clause, which have often been treated as conditionals. An analysis of imperative-like constructions containing 'let' or 'let's' is also proposed. This analysis can be extended to related forms containing 'may'. Chapter three is concerned with the semantic analyses of interrogatives and exciamatives proposed by Wilson and Sperber. This approach is extended to some constructions which seem to resemble interrogatives in some ways and exciamatives in others. The relationship between grammar and intonation is also discussed. Tonal structure can also be seen as encoding procedural information. Chapter four contrasts this approach with alternatives which treat illocutionary force or mood as semantic categories. Wilson and Sperber's approach is more successful than the alternatives and suggests reasons for their inadequacy. A straightforward account of the relationship between form and force, and the interpretation of utterances which have been said to perform 'indirect speech acts', follows from Wilson and Sperber's proposal.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Relevance theory and the semantics of non-declarative sentences
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Psychology and Language Sciences (Division of)

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