Semantics Research Group Meeting, March 9, 2018

[Japanese | English]

4:30pm, March 9, 2018
Keio University, Mita Campus,
South Annex, 7th floor
Osamu Sawada (Mie University)
Scale structures in discourse: Discourse-pragmatic properties of the Japanese comparative expressions sore-yori and nani-yori

The Japanese comparative expressions sore-yori ‘lit. than it’ and nani-yori ‘lit. than what’ have pragmatic use (in addition to semantic use), and their pragmatic functions are highly discourse-sensitive. In terms of scalarity, the pragmatic sore-yori is non-endpoint-oriented in that it conventionally implicates that U in sore-yori(U) is preferable to the previous utterance. By contrast, the pragmatic nani-yori is endpoint-oriented in that it conventionally implicates that U in nani-yori(U) is preferable to any alternative utterance.

In this talk I will argue (i) that these two types of scalar meanings at the level of conventional implicature (CI) are derived compositionally by a single yori ‘than’ and (ii) that various kinds of discourse-pragmatic functions of sore-yori and nani-yori—such as “topic shifting” and “negative attitude” in sore-yori, and “priority listing” and “additive reinforcing” in nani-yori— automatically arise from the interaction between the expression’s scale-structures (endpoint vs. non-endpoint scales) and Grice's conversational maxims (relevance, manner).

I will also examine the interaction between the two comparative expressions and demonstrate that the sequence sore-yori-(mo) nani-yori-(mo) is natural, whereas *nani-yori-(mo) sore-yori-(mo) is not. I argue that this asymmetry can naturally be explained by information update. This paper shows that scale structures are utilized for various pragmatic strategies in a flexible way and that there is a rich interaction between CIs and general pragmatic principles in pragmatic comparatives due to their nature of utterance comparison. Finally, we will compare the Japanese data with English and Korean pragmatic comparatives, and show a possible variation of pragmatic functions based on the notions of comparison and additivity.

Semantics Research Group

Last modified: 2018-02-23 10:36:46 JST