Activation and the relation between context and grammar

Daniel García Velasco

Abstract

Functional Discourse Grammar is characterized as the grammatical component of a wider theory of verbal interaction and is linked to two adjacent components: The Conceptual and the Contextual Components. One general property of these components is that they are not open-ended, but are said to contain only that extra-linguistic information which is relevant for the construction and interpretation of the immediate linguistic expression. In this contribution I explore the relation between context and grammar and I conclude that the FDG’s requirement that the Contextual Component should only contain those features which have a systematic impact on grammar is too strict. In particular, I claim that the Contextual Component is relevant in linguistic usage through speakers’ mental representation of its contents, which could be captured in the Conceptual Component. I further argue that the notions of ‘activation’ and ‘sharedness’ are relevant to understanding the motivation of two syntactic processes, subject raising and extraction from NPs, and should therefore find a place in the model even if they do not always lead to systematic effects. It is finally proposed that these pragmatic dimensions could find their way into the grammar by means of unmarked pragmatic configurations or content frames.

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