Edited by Isabelle Bril
[Studies in Language Companion Series 121] 2010
► pp. 499–548
Pragmatic demotion and clause dependency
On two atypical subordinating strategies in Lo-Toga and Hiw (Torres, Vanuatu)
Despite the wealth of subordinators in Hiw and Lo-Toga (Oceanic, north Vanuatu), two of their Tense-Aspect-Mood categories – the Subjunctive and the Background Perfect – can do without them, and encode clause dependency by themselves. A pragmatic hypothesis is proposed to account for this clause-linking faculty. The Subjunctive differs from other irrealis categories insofar as it lacks any specific illocutionary force; the Background Perfect labels its predicate as informationally back grounded. In both cases, the clause lacks certain key properties (illocutionary force; informational weight) which are normally required in pragmatically well-formed utterances. This pragmatic demotion makes the clause dependent on external predications, which naturally results in syntactic subordination. This case study illustrates how syntax can be reshaped by the pragmatic parameters of discourse.
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