The role of pragmatic function in the grammaticalization of English general extenders

Maryann Overstreet


In a number of recent studies, developments in the structure of English general extenders (e.g. and stuff (like that), or something (like that)) have been investigated from the perspective of grammaticalization. These developments have mostly been described in terms of formal changes as a result of processes identified as morphosyntactic reanalysis, phonological attrition and decategorialization. In this study, I first describe the impact of these changes on the structure of general extenders, confirming the usefulness of the basic grammaticalization framework as a way of accounting for developments in linguistic expressions (such as discourse markers or pragmatic markers) that are not considered to be grammatical markers in the traditional sense. I then use a more recent version of the grammaticalization framework to investigate the extent to which general extenders have developed meanings that can be described as subjective (speaker-oriented) and intersubjective (addressee-oriented). In this development, general extenders have come to be used as hedges on expectations of informativeness and accuracy, primarily involving subjective meanings, and as indicators of positive and negative politeness strategies, which carry intersubjective meanings. In this analysis, pragmatic functions are shown to have a significant role in the linguistic changes associated with grammaticalization.

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