Chapter published in:The Grammatical Realization of Polarity Contrast: Theoretical, empirical, and typological approaches
Edited by Christine Dimroth and Stefan Sudhoff
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 249] 2018
► pp. 9–53
From polarity focus to salient polarity
From things to processes
The paper provides arguments against the denotational approach to polarity focus (also known as Verum), which treats it as a distinct denotation contributed by the dedicated grammatical structures. It shows that the purported category of polarity focus is routinely defined on the basis of faulty analytical procedures, reification of inferential interpretations and suppression of variation. As a result, this approach cannot account for the full range of usages of those grammatical structures that are standardly assumed to instantiate polarity focus. As an alternative to the denotational accounts, the paper proposes an interpretational approach that disposes of the idea of a discrete denotation defining a linguistic category. To emphasize the difference between these two understandings of linguistic meaning, the term salient polarity is introduced. Salient polarity is understood as an interpretive effect stemming from the speaker’s intention to draw the hearer’s attention to the truth value of the proposition. This interpretive effect comes about through different inferential mechanisms and for various communicative reasons, and can be derived from completely unrelated denotations. Thus, salient polarity is not a traditional linguistic category if the latter is defined based on the correspondence between a linguistic form and a denotation, but is rather to be conceived of as a fuzzy set of family resemblances unified by shared communicative intentions.
Keywords: polarity, salience, focus, inference, crosslinguistic categories
Published online: 30 November 2018
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