Semantics and Pragmatics of Word-Order

A forum for discussing linguistics or just languages in general.
Post Reply
User avatar
eldin raigmore
korean
korean
Posts: 5991
Joined: 14 Aug 2010 19:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

Semantics and Pragmatics of Word-Order

Post by eldin raigmore »

I like to take an English clause and take one word in it and put it in each position.
Sometimes more of the resulting variants are grammatical than are ungrammatical.

I’m going to ask about the following examples:
1. Really I think it’s something I don’t need to do.
2. I really think it’s something I don’t need to do.
3. I think really it’s something I don’t need to do.
4. I think it’s really something I don’t need to do.
5. I think it’s something really I don’t need to do.
6. I think it’s something I really don’t need to do.
7. I think it’s something I don’t really need to do.
8. I think it’s something I don’t need really to do.
9. I think it’s something I don’t need to really do.
10. I think it’s something I don’t need to do really.

A. In your ‘lect of English which of these are grammatical, which ungrammatical, and which in-between?
In my ‘lect I think 5, 8, and 10 are ungrammatical or borderline ungrammatical, but the rest are grammatical or probably grammatical.

B. Which are meaningless, which are polysemous, and which are unambiguous?
In my ‘lect the ungrammatical ones are meaningless and as far as I can tell the rest are unambiguous — I guess!
However there could be pragmatic differences; depending on whether the salient thing is the thought, or the action, or the agent.

C. Which pairs are synonymous?
For my idiolect I think 1 and 2 and 3 share a meaning, 3 & 4 & 6 & 7 share a meaning, and 7 and 9 share a meaning.
I’m pretty sure I could be wrong.
It seems to me that any shades of meaning are pragmatic rather than semantic.

….

I could have left out the “really”, varied the position of “don’t” instead.
I think that would also be interesting. More of the variants would be ungrammatical.



If you are fluent in some other language, you might know of, or come up with, examples in that language.
I’d be interested!
User avatar
Pabappa
greek
greek
Posts: 548
Joined: 18 Nov 2017 02:41
Contact:

Re: Semantics and Pragmatics of Word-Order

Post by Pabappa »

if i accept "really" as an interjection, theyre all gramatical, but 5 and 8 are the worst, and the only ones where it would need to be an interjection . i do this deliberately odd placement with other words too e.g. "please", "of course", "even", sometimes to indicate insincerity. e.g. at a job about ten years ago i had a weak sales pitch with phrases like "we do have, of course, the iPhone 5 on sale" and a strong sales pitch where i spoke normally.

sorry i cant write more ...im a bit busy these days. thanks



edit: what i call an interj is apparently properly called a "sentence adverb" as in "next year, *hopefully*, the trees will grow"
Fafa žayas šifap tanaba.
The wind combs the hair of the unkempt. (Play)
User avatar
eldin raigmore
korean
korean
Posts: 5991
Joined: 14 Aug 2010 19:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

Re: Semantics and Pragmatics of Word-Order

Post by eldin raigmore »

“Pabappa” wrote: edit: what i call an interj is apparently properly called a "sentence adverb" as in "next year, *hopefully*, the trees will grow"
I would have called it some kind of adverb; I wouldn’t have committed myself to one kind, more out of lack of confidence in my ability to be precise than anything else.

The fact that this works better with some words (e.g. “really”) than with others (e.g. “don’t”) does argue that there’s some kind of part-of-speech-like effect going on.


Thanks for your response!



How do you think the variant orders affect their semantics and/or pragmatics, if at all?
User avatar
Creyeditor
MVP
MVP
Posts: 4447
Joined: 14 Aug 2012 19:32

Re: Semantics and Pragmatics of Word-Order

Post by Creyeditor »

D. It's slightly different in German. I will use 'Hoffentlich' "hopefully" because I found the judgements easier.

1. Hoffentlich denke ich, dass das was ist, was ich nicht machen brauch.
hopefully think I that it something is REL I NEG make need
2. *Ich hoffentlich denke, dass das was ist, was ich nicht machen brauch.
3. Ich denke hoffentlich, dass das was ist, was ich nicht machen brauch.
4. Ich denke, dass - hoffentlich - das was ist, was ich nicht machen brauch.
5. Ich denke, dass das hoffentlich was ist, was ich nicht machen brauch.
6. *Ich denke, dass das was hoffentlich ist, was ich nicht machen brauch.
7. Ich denke, dass das was ist -hoffentlich-, was ich nicht machen brauch.
8. *Ich denke, dass das was ist, was hoffentlich ich nicht machen brauch.
9. Ich denke, dass das was ist, was ich hoffentlich nicht machen brauch.
10. ?Ich denke, dass das was ist, was ich nicht hoffentlich machen brauch.
11. *Ich denke, dass das was ist, was ich nicht machen hoffentlich brauch.
12. Ich denke, dass das was ist, was ich nicht machen brauch hoffentlich.

I definitly need to add more detail but * means ungrammatical and ? means fishy. Some positions might work for other adverbs. Most thinks depend on the position relative to the verb 1 and 3 have the strange meaning that I hope to think. 12 is ambigious I think.
Creyeditor
"Thoughts are free."
Produce, Analyze, Manipulate
1 :deu: 2 :eng: 3 :idn: 4 :fra: 4 :esp:
:con: Ook & Omlűt & Nautli languages & Sperenjas
[<3] Papuan languages, Morphophonology, Lexical Semantics [<3]
User avatar
eldin raigmore
korean
korean
Posts: 5991
Joined: 14 Aug 2010 19:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

Re: Semantics and Pragmatics of Word-Order

Post by eldin raigmore »

“Creyeditor” wrote: I definitly need to add more detail but * means ungrammatical and ? means fishy.
Thanks for the notation reminder!

I couldn’t think of “fishy”. Now that you’ve mentioned it, it seems perfect!



Maybe a ! for better-than-merely-grammatical, if there is such a thing?
User avatar
Creyeditor
MVP
MVP
Posts: 4447
Joined: 14 Aug 2012 19:32

Re: Semantics and Pragmatics of Word-Order

Post by Creyeditor »

'Echt' "really" only works in the position in 3, 5, and 9. It also sounds slightly better in 10, because it's better under negation.
Creyeditor
"Thoughts are free."
Produce, Analyze, Manipulate
1 :deu: 2 :eng: 3 :idn: 4 :fra: 4 :esp:
:con: Ook & Omlűt & Nautli languages & Sperenjas
[<3] Papuan languages, Morphophonology, Lexical Semantics [<3]
clawgrip
MVP
MVP
Posts: 2249
Joined: 24 Jun 2012 07:33
Location: Tokyo

Re: Semantics and Pragmatics of Word-Order

Post by clawgrip »

The issue is that "really" can mean either "very (much)" or "in truth".

It seems that whenever it has something to modify it will be interpreted as "very (much)", such as in 2 "really think", 6 "really don't need", 7 "really need", 9 "really do" (though this is questionable phrasing and would probably require exaggerated intonation to sound natural), and probably 4 "really ... don't need".

When it appears without any word to modify, it seems more likely to be interpreted as "in truth". It comes off to me as very conversational, and when it appears partway through the sentence, it would probably be marked with intonation and/or pauses.

In all cases where it means "in truth" it appears outside of clauses; in 1, 3, and 5, it occurs immediately before the subject of a clause, and in 10 it's tagged on the end after all clause constituents.

Number 8 is the most unnatural of all of them because it has nothing to modify, comes directly in the middle of a clause, and is placed in the middle of "need to" which is generally treated as an inseparable unit.
Post Reply