The expressive dimension

  • 1 Dept. of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Abstract

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.

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Theoretical Linguistics is an open peer review journal. Each issue contains one long target article about a topic of general linguistic interest, together with several shorter reactions, comments and reflections on it. With this format, the journal aims to stimulate discussion in linguistics and adjacent fields of study, in particular across schools of different theoretical orientations.

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