Beyond unpluggability

Uli Sauerland 1 , 1
  • 1 Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) Berlin.


Emotional expressions like damn and bastard seem to bring out the extreme not only in the speakers who use them, but also in the linguists who try to account for them: For Potts, nothing short of a new dimension of meaning can accommodate these expressions. Potts already in earlier work (Potts, 2003) provides one interesting argument for this view: the unpluggability (or nondisplaceability) of these expressions in many cases. Regardless of the position and level of embedding that that damn bastard John occurs in in a sentence, the speaker uttering such a sentence conveys that he, the speaker, does not think all too highly of John. In the present work, Potts still tries to maintain the core of his earlier theory, but slightly retreats from his earlier position accepting examples due to Kratzer and Schlenker where unpluggability is not observed. Potts' interesting work raises two related questions from my perspective: 1) What is the best account for the unpluggability of expressive content? and 2) Is expressive content a uniform phenomenon?

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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.