Hacia un estudio léxico-pragmático de la gramaticalización: convencionalización de inferencias y conceptos ad hoc
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DepartmentFilología Francesa e Inglesa
SourceCognición y Lenguaje: Estudios en Homenaje a José Luis Guijarro Morales, Cádiz, Universidad de Cádiz, págs. 19-44.
In this paper I argue for the relevance-theoretic lexical pragmatic framework as the basis for an adequate account of the grammaticalization of the English modals. Specifically, I try to show that the early stages of the process consist in the construction, in certain stereotypical contexts, of ad hoc concepts (the concepts communicated by utterances containing modals differing in significant ways from the concepts originally encoded by these verbs). As I hope to have shown, the frequent use of modals in these contexts gives rise, on the one hand, to the conventionalization of this kind of inference and, on the other, to a loss of conceptual content, such as the modals’ semantic restrictions on argument structure. As the result of this gradual loss of conceptual meaning, the modals acquire a more general meaning in which only the logical (= modal) semantic properties of these verbs are retained. The change from conceptual to procedural meaning is thus accounted for. It seems to me that this hypothesis is perfectly compatible with the existing synchronic accounts of modality within the Relevance Theory framework.