Article published in:Insubordination
Edited by Nicholas Evans and Honoré Watanabe
[Typological Studies in Language 115] 2016
► pp. 367–392
Chapter 14. How fascinating! Insubordinate exclamations
It has been noticed that in language after language, exclamatives resemble some other sentence type, usually interrogatives: How cute she is! How cute is she? Explanations for the similarities have generally been couched in terms of shared abstract syntactic or semantic structure. Here another kind of explanation is offered: intersecting histories of development through time. Previous work on the issue is surveyed, and the emerging consensus summarized: exclamative constructions (i) tend to be expressive rather than informative, (ii) convey a subjective judgment of the speaker, (iii) describe a scalable property, and (iv) assert an unexpectedly high degree of that property. Not all exclamatives resemble questions in form, however. In Mohawk, an Iroquoian language of Northeastern North America, exclamatives show these four characteristics, but they resemble complements of declarative sentences. Exclamatives that resemble interrogatives and those that resemble declarative complements can be seen to originate in different source constructions, but they converge in the final steps of their development: a matrix clause expressing surprise or an unexpectedly high degree of some property expressed in the complement disappears (insubordination), but its meaning remains a part of the construction.
Published online: 18 November 2016
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