Inferentials in spoken English
Although there is a growing body of research on inferential sentences (Declerck 1992, Delahunty 1990, 1995, 2001, Koops 2007, Pusch 2006), most of this research has been on their forms and functions in written discourse. This has left a gap with regards to their range of structural properties and allowed disagreement over their analysis to linger without a conclusive resolution. Most accounts regard the inferential as a type of it-cleft (Declerck 1992, Delahunty 2001, Huddleston and Pullum 2002, Lambrecht 2001), while a few view it as an instance of extraposition (Collins 1991, Schmid 2009). More recently, Pusch’s work in Romance languages proposes the inferential is used as a discourse marker (2006, forthcoming). Based on a corpus study of examples from spoken New Zealand English, the current paper provides a detailed analysis of the formal and discoursal properties of several sub-types of inferentials (positive, negative, as if and like inferentials). We show that despite their apparent formal differences from the prototypical cleft, inferentials are nevertheless best analysed as a type of cleft, though this requires a minor reinterpretation of “cleft construction.” We show how similar the contextualized interpretations of clefts and inferentials are and how these are a function of their lexis and syntax.
Keywords: Inferential, New Zealand English, Spoken language, It-cleft, Just, Discourse, US English, Discourse markers, Like, (not) as if, Wellington Corpus of Spoken New Zealand English
Available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) 4.0 license.
Published online: 01 September 2011
(2010) How to distinguish individual speakers: A corpus-based investigation of idiolects. Manuscript.
(1999) The inferential gap condition. Pragmatics 91: 249-288. BoP
Bender, E., and D. Flickinger
Biber, D., S. Johansson, G. Leech, S. Conrad, and E. Finegan
(2002) Relevance and linguistic meaning: The semantics and pragmatics of discourse markers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. BoP
(1990) Relevance relations in discourse: A study with special reference to Sissala. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 55, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. BoP
(2009b) Formulaic tendencies of demonstrative clefts in spoken English. In R. Corrigan, E.A. Moravcsik, H. Quali, and K.M. Wheatley (eds.), Formulaic language: Volume 1. Distribution and historical cxhange. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 55-76. BoP
Calude, A., and G. Delahunty
(2010) Inferentials: Fixed or not? Paper presented at The international conference on fixed phrases in English . October 22-24, University of Perpignan, Via Domitia.
Calude, A., and S. Miller
(1991) Cleft and pseudo-cleft constructions in English. London: Routledge. BoP
Dancygier, B., and E. Sweetser
(1995) The inferential construction. Pragmatics 51: 341-364. BoP
(2001) Discourse functions of inferential sentences. Linguistics 391: 517-545. BoP
(2006) A relevance theoretic analysis of not that sentences: “Not that there is anything wrong with that.” Pragmatics 161: 213-245. BoP
Delahunty, G., and L. Gatzkiewicz
(2000) On the Spanish inferential construction ser que . Pragmatics 101: 301-322. BoP
(2010) On the representation of conventional expressions in L1-English and L2-French. Ph.D. dissertation, Departments of French and Italian and Linguistics, Indiana University.
(1990) An approach to discourse markers. Journal of Pragmatics 141: 383-395. BoP
(1999) What are discourse markers? Journal of Pragmatics 311: 931-952. BoP
(2005) Towards a theory of discourse markers. http://people.bu.edu/bfraser/
Gundel, J.K., N. Hedberg, and R. Zacharski
(2006) Constructions at work: The nature of generalization in language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. BoP
(1998) The syntax of copular structures. Doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California.
Holmes, J., B. Vine, and B.G. Johnson
Hopper, P., and S.A. Thompson
(1989) A natural history of negation. Chicago: Chicago University Press. BoP
Huddleston, R., and G. Pullum
(2007) Constraints on inferential constructions. In G. Radden, K.M. Kopcke, T. Berg, and P. Siemund (eds.), Aspects of meaning construction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 207-224. BoP
Lindemann, S., and A. Mauranen
López-Couso, M. and B. Méndez-Naya
in press) On the use of as if, as though, and like in present-day English complementation structures. Journal of English Studies.
Miller, J., and R. Weinert
(1998/2009) Spontaneous spoken language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. BoP
Pawley, A., and F.H. Syder
(2006) Marqueurs discursifs et subordination syntaxique: La construction inférentielle en français et dans d'autres langues romanes. In M. Drescher and B. Frank-Job (eds.), Les marqueurs discursifs dans les langues Romanes: Approches théoriques et méthodologiques. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 173-188.
forthcoming) Pragmatic markers involving subordination in Romance: Do they structure discourse or comment on it?
Quirk, R., S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, and J. Svartvik
(1985) A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London, New York: Longman. BoP
Romaine, S., and D. Lange
(1991) The use of like as a marker of reported speech and thought: A case of grammaticalization in progress. American Speech 661: 227-279. BoP
Sag, Ivan A
(2010) Sign-based construction grammar: An informal synopsis. In Hans C. Boas and Ivan A. Sag (eds.), Sign-based construction grammar. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information, pp. 39-160. http://lingo.stanford.edu/sag/papers/theo-syno.pdf
(2009) Rare but contextually entrenched: The English not-that construction. Paper presented at the International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English , University of London, UK.
Sperber, D., and D. Wilson
(1986/1995) Relevance: Communication and cognition. Cornwall: Blackwell Publishing. BoP
(2002) Formulaic language and the lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. BoP
Cited by 1 other publications
Delahunty, Gerald P.
This list is based on CrossRef data as of 17 april 2022. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.