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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 16, 2007

The expressive dimension

Christopher Potts
From the journal


Expressives like damn and bastard have, when uttered, an immediate and powerful impact on the context. They are performative, often destructively so. They are revealing of the perspective from which the utterance is made, and they can have a dramatic impact on how current and future utterances are perceived. This, despite the fact that speakers are invariably hard-pressed to articulate what they mean. I develop a general theory of these volatile, indispensable meanings. The theory is built around a class of expressive indices. These determine the expressive setting of the context of interpretation. Expressive morphemes act on that context, actively changing its expressive setting. The theory is multidimensional in the sense that descriptives and expressives are fundamentally different but receive a unified logical treatment.

Published Online: 2007-10-16
Published in Print: 2007-10-19

© Walter de Gruyter

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