The problem of fragments
Two interpretative strategies
We do not always talk in complete sentences; we sometimes speak in “fragments”, such as ‘Fire!’, ‘Off with his head’, ‘From Cuba’, ‘Next!’, and ‘Shall we?’. Research has tended to focus on the ellipsis wars — the issue of whether all or most fragments are really sentential or not. Less effort has been put into the question of exactly how fragments are to be interpreted, especially their force. We separate off the issue of fragment interpretation from the issue of systematically accounting for their linguistic properties — the issue of how to generate fragments. We review two projects directed at the issue of fragment interpretation: Stainton (2006), who approaches the issue obliquely (concentrating more on legitimizing the use of fragments and its consequences), and Barton (1990), who approaches the issue of interpretation directly and systematically. We find areas of agreement and disagreement with both studies. In the end we conclude that what may be needed is a more speech act oriented approach, one that fits fragment interpretation into a framework for performing, and communicating through, speech acts in general.
Published online: 18 August 2009
Cited by 2 other publications
Botterell, Andrew & Robert J. Stainton
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