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The Architecture of Result Relations: Corpus and experimental approaches to Result coherence relations in English
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3506-9676
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Two fundamental components of causality are the Cause and the Result. In linguistic work the distinction between these aspects is commonly blurred, presumably because the primary research focus has been on describing how language encodes causality. The semantic nature of the component events and the constraints on their relationship are seldom discussed; however, the current work aims to shed light on a broader spectrum of features that underlie the concept. This is an essential foundation for understanding how language communicates Result. The present discussion explores and illuminates the nature of this concept focusing on a relatively open-ended set of linguistic elements that can play a role in shaping a discourse relation in addition to discourse connectives. This is in contrast to the majority of the previous research, which has been quite intensely concerned with investigating a limited collection of well-established causality markers. Also, despite the fact that English has been used in studies on causality both as a control language and a metalanguage, there is surprisingly little work on the semantics of the relations that occur specifically in English, let alone Result relations.

By borrowing from several cognitively-oriented approaches and combining empirical data from two written corpora (British National Corpus and the Penn Discourse Treebank) with experimental work, the current study systematically investigates the conceptual and linguistic properties of several closely related Result relation types (including Purpose), along with the joint role of discourse connectives and other discourse elements in conveying the intended sense. The findings indicate that linguistic signals of the conceptual structure of the relation seem to play a more significant role in the interpretation than explicit marking. Two factors emerged as more vital cues than the presence of the ambiguous connective so.  In Purpose relations, a modal auxiliary conveying an intended effect, and in Result relations the presence/absence of an intentionally acting actor are crucial for disambiguation. The multifunctional connective therefore seems to merely satisfy the mandatory marking requirement related to the intrinsically unrealized (‘nonveridical’) nature of Purpose. In Result the presence of an ambiguous marker is to a great extent optional in English.

However, discourse markers can also reflect how language users categorize causal event types. This claim has been confirmed in several cross-linguistic analyses, but the lexicon of English connectives has not been systematically investigated from this vantage point. The few existing studies found that the uses of English connectives are quite unconstrained across causal categories. The present work contributes to this line of research and suggests that two unambiguous markers, as a result and for this reason, indeed cover a wide range of causal event types; however, they also exhibit significant tendencies to occur prototypically in certain relation types. The presence and role of an intentionally acting discourse participant behind both real-world and linguistic causally-related events contributes to these tendencies. The contexts that include such a participant are regarded as intrinsically subjective and have been found to manifest surface expressions of subjectivity in previous work on other languages. The current study confirms similar tendencies in the linguistic construal and marking of Result relations in English, which proves that certain language elements partake in establishing the intended interpretation on a par with discourse connectives.  What emerges as a result of this discussion, is therefore an account on how English utilizes the broad category of Result and what linguistic elements are used to convey the array of resultative events.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of English, Stockholm University , 2016. , 244 p.
Keyword [en]
RESULT, PURPOSE, discourse connectives, disambiguation, subjectivity, nonveridicality
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-126935ISBN: 978-91-7649-322-9OAI: diva2:903999
Public defence
2016-04-15, Hörsal 9, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2016-03-21 Created: 2016-02-17 Last updated: 2016-04-25Bibliographically approved

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