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Leadership, credibility and persuasion

A view from three public policy discourses

Iga Lehman, Łukasz Sułkowski and Piotr Cap


This short paper makes a tentative attempt to capture the most salient of persuasion strategies engaged in the construction of leadership in three different yet apparently interrelated domains of public life and public policy, political communication, management/business discourse, and academic communication. It explores the cognitive underpinnings, as well as linguistic realizations, of such concepts/phenomena/mechanisms as consistency-building, source-tagging, forced conceptualizations by metaphor, and discursive neutralization of the cheater detection module in the discourse addressee. A preliminary conclusion from the analysis of these mechanisms is that the three discourses under investigation reveal striking conceptual similarities with regard to the main strategies of credibility-building and enactment of leadership. At the same time, they reveal differences at the linguistic level, i.e. regarding the types of lexical choices applied to realize a given strategy.

Shaping identities in interaction by cognitive meanings

The variable usage of usted (es) as second-person object in Spanish

María José Serrano


This is not an address forms research. The purpose of this paper is to study the variation of the Spanish singular and plural second-person object usted (es) (SPU object) by means of the cognitive properties of salience and informativeness. Each variant of the second-person object constitutes a meaningful possibility used by speakers to define their particular position in relation to the communicative situation where they participate, tightly connected to their communicative purposes during interaction. The quantitative and qualitative analysis of SPU object variation in a corpus of Contemporary Spanish (Corpus Interaccional del Español) show that variants are unevenly distributed across textual genres and socioprofessional affiliations of speakers and contribute to shape communicative styles based on the continuum of objectivity-subjectivity.

Nicolas Ruytenbeek


A general issue in pragmatics concerns the definitions of speech act (SA) types. Cognitive linguists agree that a directive SA involves a speaker exerting a force towards her addressee’s (A) performance of some action, and the subtypes of directives have been approached in terms of a metaphorical grounding based on force image-schemas. These idealized cognitive models include graded features, the values and the centrality of which differ across directive subtypes. I address the relationship between the form of utterances used as directives and the ontology of directives, and I discuss recent experiments supporting a view of SA s as graded categories. I show that these approaches enable adopting an empirically adequate distinction between the levels of pragmatic meaning and semantic meaning, which raises interesting possibilities for further experimental work on speech act recognition in cognitive linguistics.

Christoph Unger


Exclamations, exclamatives and miratives are utterances that do not merely convey some informative content, but are designed to express the emotional attitude of surprise. In this paper I argue that analysing what it means to express surprise must be based on three main ideas: (1) the idea that exclamatives are instances of metarepresentational use; (2) the idea that what is communicated in exclamatives and exclamations are what relevance theorists call impressions, rather than definite propositions, where impressions are communicated by slightly increasing the manifestness of a whole range of propositions; and (3) the idea that utterances may not only communicate by conveying Gricean meaning, but also by showing, i.e. by providing direct evidence for certain thoughts. Thus, what is communicated in exclamatives and exclamations is typically not reducible to Gricean speaker meanings. I outline the implications of my approach by comparing it to some recent semantic accounts.

Gradual conventionalization of pragmatic inferences

The y/e and o/u alternation in Spanish

Errapel Mejías-Bikandi


The alternation in Spanish between y and e on the one hand, and u and o in the other, is examined. It is proposed that the standard account under which the choice of one variant over the other is sensitive only to the phonetic context is incomplete. Specifically, the paper argues that pragmatic inferences that typically appear cross-linguistically associated with these connectors, and that result in asymmetric interpretations, are not favoured in Spanish with the morphological variants e and u, which favour symmetric interpretations. The paper proposes that the relevant pragmatic inferences have been partially conventionalized for y and o, but that this conventionalization has not occurred in the case of e and u for the reason that they are much less frequently used. Thus, discussion and data offer a view of a stage in a gradual process of semantic change via conventionalization of pragmatic inferences.

Nathaniel Lotze


Trick questions are a subgenre of puzzles that have undergone little, if any, semantic-pragmatic study, in part because they are often conflated with riddles. While they do share some mechanisms with riddles, they lean much more heavily on pragmatic mechanisms, and how they make use of them is quite different. This paper focuses on three types of invited presuppositions (box, red herring, and rug) that add more weight to the theory that presuppositions are best suited to pragmatic analysis. The lingering question is whether these three types are more or less comprehensive, or if other types might be distilled from other trick questions.

Victoria Escandell-Vidal and Elena Vilinbakhova


This paper investigates utterances with the structure A is not A, showing that they can be fully informative and are felicitously used and understood in discourse. Relying on the notions of metalinguistic and metarepresentational negation, we argue that the class of utterances A is not A is heterogeneous and differs in regard to the lower-order representation under the scope of the negative operator. Specifically, we distinguish negated tautologies and copular contradictions. The understanding of negated tautologies involves identifying the corresponding affirmative deep tautology (Bulhof & Gimbel, 2001) and rejecting the assumptions derived from it. The interpretation of copular contradictions is based on distinguishing each of the occurrences of the repeated constituent as describing (a) one single referent with different properties; (b) two different referents satisfying the same description in different evaluation worlds; (c) two different referents, with different properties, which are accessed by means of the same linguistic expression.

Salvatore Pistoia-Reda


This paper discusses the Contextual Blindness principle as extended to the exclusive operator only. It focuses on the interaction between only and alternatives derived from a special category of contextual orders, generally referred to as “rank orders”. It submits problematic evidence for the principle and argues that access to contextual information is required in the relevant cases. Its conclusion is that, as things stand, these cases constitute an obstacle to the semantic generalization of scalar reasoning involving only.

Speaking figuratively

The role of the tacit in artful language

Kathryn O’Shields


This article addresses two forms of artful language: similes and metaphors. It argues that their artful quality arises from a deliberate omission of information, requiring the listener to fill in the missing parts. Sentences of the form ‘A is like B’ have two uses: as plain comparisons (called similatives) stating that two individuals (item A and item B) are comparable and share properties, and as similes, which are intended as assertions that A is “B-like” in some way. The simile’s absent information is tacit assumptions about its second member, B. As a result, similatives and similes behave differently and have distinct syntactic interpretations. The absent information in a metaphor of the form ‘A is a B’ is a tacit analogy, A:X::B:Y. As such, a metaphor asserts a parallel between two unstated relations, not its two identified items. The tacit members X and Y create the structural framework for the metaphor. Because metaphors use different tacit information than similes do, the two forms require distinct interpretations. It is also shown here that the literal truth of similes and metaphors is irrelevant to their interpretations. Nevertheless, artful statements can be used to make true or false assertions. Their truth is determined by taking their absent information into account. Furthermore, similes and metaphors can meaningfully use negation, as plain statements can. Patterns in simile and metaphor usage reveal that there are predictable processes behind their creation and systematic methods to their interpretations. Once these are identified, the linguistic contributions of similes and metaphors become clear.

Azad Mammadov and Misgar Mammadov


The goal of this paper is to make an attempt at exploring the concepts of time, space and person, focusing on the nexus between them, with a view to revealing their role in shaping our perception and understanding of the sociological, political, cultural and economic contexts. The paper is also dealing with the issue of how subjective individual factors can influence various discursive practices vis-à-vis time and space. In its theoretical framework, the paper outlines key theoretical issues and concepts by focusing on the role of text, context and discourse in understanding time, space and person. The second part of the paper considers the crucial role of linguistic devices in the localization of time, space and person in political discourse. Finally, the third part explains how linguistic devices (both conventional and figurative) function in building the dynamism of time, space and person in political discourse, focusing on proximization and direction.