Particles and the Dimensions of Meaning

Country: Netherlands

City: Nijmegen

Abstr. due: 07.04.2017

Dates: 29.06.17 — 30.06.17

Area Of Sciences: Humanities;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Radboud University Nijmegen


The main issue addressed in the present workshop is the way in which the notorious polyfunctionality of discourse particles - both within and across linguistic categories - can be related to various dimensions of meaning (e.g. proposition, speech act). Central themes are the notions of common ground, context, scope and the nature of various discourse layers. The workshop is mainly of a theoretical nature and aims to address more methodological and fundamental questions, both from more formal and more cognitive semantic perspectives.

Across languages, pragmatic or discourse particles are well-known for both their cross-categorial and category-internal polyfunctionality (cf. Foolen 1996, Fischer 2006). It is a notoriously difficult challenge for semantics/pragmatics to understand what exactly these functions are and, secondly, how they relate to each other.

It has by now become commonplace to assume that this polyfunctionality at least partly corresponds to different layers or dimensions of meaning: a particle can for example target the propositional content in one function, the speech act in another (e.g. Karagjosova 2004, Egg 2013). Other functions seem to pertain rather to the level of information-structure (e.g. those of focus particles (König 1991) and topic markers) or involve coherence relations between units of discourse (connective or text-structuring functions, as in e.g. Fraser 1999). While this reference to different layers of discourse often seems an intuitive way of thinking about the different usages, it also raises many important questions. These range from more methodological ones (what tests can we use to argue for particles working at a certain dimension?) to more fundamental ones (what structure do notions such as common ground and context need to have for an adequate description of particles?).

The goal of the present workshop is contribute to these central questions which have often been implicit in particle research. In this way we hope to arrive at a clearer picture of the dimensions of meaning in the context of particle research. We aim to bring together different perspectives on these matters, both from a more cognitive and a more formal semantic approach.

Topics of interest include the following:

Theoretical foundations:
- The kind of meaning dimensions and linguistic concepts that are cross-linguistically needed for an adequate description of the various functions of particles.
- The exact structure needed for concepts like common ground (Clark 1996) and context.

Tests, clues and parameters that can be used to argue for a particular particle function within a particular dimension.

Scope (what does it mean for a particle to ‘have scope over’, ‘pertain to’ or ‘target’ a linguistic unit, e.g. NP, clause or sentence?)

Issues of monosemy, polysemy, heterosemy and diachronic change.

Classification of particles (e.g. modal/attitudinal particles vs. discourse-oriented connective particles, cf. Degand, Cornillie & Pietrandrea 2013)

Particles as a distinct class (e.g. the relationship of evidential particles with other evidential expressions, cf. Matthewson forthc.)

Difference in approaches:
- What do the differences between a cognitive and a formal linguistic approach to particles ultimately boil down to?
- How do functional discourse-oriented notions such as discourse acts and moves (cf. Hengeveld & MacKenzie 2008) relate to notions such as sentence mood (Gutzmann 2015) or speech acts à la Searle (Karagjosova 2004, Egg 2013)?

Conference Web-Site: