Publication details [#9067]


Radden and Seto investigate "Metonymic Construals of Shopping Requests in HAVE- and BE-Languages." The classification into HAVE- and BE- languages derives from how the concept of possession is encoded. HAVE languages include English, German, Lithuanian, and Croatian; BE languages are Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Finnish, Hungarian, Polish, and Hausa. The authors focus especially on the wording of shopping requests in English and Japanese. An English sentence such as John has two children would have to be rendered in Japanese as 'At/To John are two children'. This structural difference has consequences for how the two languages linguistically code certain stages in the shopping scenario. Radden and Seto distinguish two main phases in the shopping scenario: (i) the precondition, i.e. the availability of the requested articles and (ii) the transaction, which is further subdivided into (a) the transfer of the article from the salesperson to the customer, (b) the reception of the article by the customer, and (c) the result, i.e. the customer's possession of the article. They then show that the metonymic coding of the speech acts that characteristically occur during these stages is partially dependent on the structural resources of the language in question (see also Brdar and Brdar-Szabó for grammatical constraints on metonymy). For example, stage (i) of the shopping scenario is typically referred to in both languages by means of a metonymy, which, in a HAVE-language like English, is POSSESSION FOR AVAILABILITY (e.g., 'Do you have 40-watt light bulbs'?) and, in a BE-language like Japanese, EXISTENCE FOR AVAILABILITY, e.g. '40 watto no denkyuu (wa) ari-masu ka' (Are there 40-watt light bulbs?). Radden and Seto also point out that in English a question about the possession and thus (metonymically induced) availability of an article can stand for the requested transaction itself, i.e. stage (ii) of the shopping scenario, whereas in Japanese the same pragmatic function is achieved by means of a question about the existence of the article. The authors demonstrate that politeness factors may actually cut across the typological properties of languages. Thus an English speaker would avoid a direct expression of stage (iia) (#'Give me "The Times"!') whereas in other HAVE-languages, such as Lithuanian and Croatian, this wording would not be considered inappropriate; analogously in a BE-language like Hungarian the literal translation of the above would be infelicitous whereas in Japanese a direct reference to the requested transfer would not sound offensive if it is used in combination with deference markers. (Klaus-Uwe Panther and Linda Thornburg)