Distinctions in procedural meaning

Evidence from Modern Greek contrast

in International Review of Pragmatics
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Abstract

The current paper aims to investigate the distinctions in meaning between two prototypical markers of contrast in Modern Greek, i.e. alla and ma, from a relevance-theoretic viewpoint. At first sight, the two markers seem freely interchangeable across contexts, creating the impression that they basically share the same meaning. However, a more careful exploration of the contextual occurrences of these markers unravels their finely grained distinctions in meaning. This type of exploration requires a detailed categorization of the types of context that license or preclude the application of the markers at hand. In this sense, specific contexts highlight aspects of interpretation that motivate the use of one of the markers but not the other. Specifically, as it turns out, while the use of alla is chiefly associated with contexts of procedural elimination, in standard relevance-theoretic terms, the use of ma is justified in relation to expressing the speaker’s attitude of surprise to a contextual assumption constructed by the hearer, in addition to effecting procedural elimination. In this sense, ma proves to encode a dual constraint on the implicitly communicated content of an utterance, explained univocally in procedural terms.

Distinctions in procedural meaning

Evidence from Modern Greek contrast

in International Review of Pragmatics