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Names and Addresses: Aspects of Address in Latin and Romance


Forms of address and, in particular, the grammatical structures associated with them have been largely neglected in linguistic research, often considered not to be amenable to systematic structural analysis. Taking a holistic approach, this thesis demonstrates that not only do patterns exist but also that they provide evidence which has a wider significant for the current understanding of syntax, semantics, pragmatics and the interaction between them in terms both of synchrony and diachrony.

The argument is in three parts. In part I, a framework for analysing discourse participation (following Clark & Carlson, 1982) and illocutionary acts is set up, terminology for describing and explaining address is reviewed, and a substantial corpus of Latin data is examined to provide evidence for the existence of patterns in address which require explanation.

In part II, concentrating on structural issues, the focus is on, in turn, the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of free address, showing how each reflects conditioning by the other two. With respect to syntax, address is shown to be structurally connected to pragmatically identifiable illocutionary acts; parentheticality of address is also considered. In terms of semantics, the structural claim that more than one illocutionary act carried out by a single utterance can have an overt addressee phrase is borne out by clear semantic patterns; these are supported by an examination of the use of the definite article in free address in French. Finally, the notion of ‘address proper’, relating to the outermost illocutionary act, — which appears to be the limit of what has previously been thought of as address — is shown to have the characteristics of a proper name, and this is analysed as evidence for ‘properhood’ as a pragmatically conditioned status that relates to speaker intentions (following Coates, 2005). Such use of an item with purely pragmatic value is termed ‘pragmaticalisation’.

In part III, two historical developments are examined which illustrate the process of diachronic pragmaticalisation (Erman & Kotsinas, 1993), the conventionalisation of items with purely pragmatic value: the development of indirect address and T ~ V distinctions in Romance, and the development of ‘oaths’ in Latin. Parallels with the more-studied phenomenon of grammaticalisation are drawn and an explanation for the process and direction of pragmaticalisation offered in terms of viewing the hearer (who lacks perfect knowledge of speaker intentions) as locus of change.

Clark, H.H. & T.B. Carlson (1982) ‘Hearers and speech acts’, Language 58: 332-73.

Coates, R. (2005) ‘A new theory of properhood’, in E. Brylla & M. Wahlberg (edd.), Proceedings of the 21st International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, Uppsala, August 2002. Uppsala: SOFI.

Erman, B. & U.-B. Kotsinas (1993) ‘Pragmaticalization: the case of ba' and you know’, Studier i modern språkvetenskap 10: 76-93.


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Last updated: October 2010