Unit 5 deixis and definiteness



tải về 31.48 Kb.
trang3/3
Chuyển đổi dữ liệu27.02.2022
Kích31.48 Kb.
#50772
1   2   3
unit-5-deixis-and-definiteness

elephants (as far as you can tell from what we have told you about this context)? Yes / No

(4) In this context, would it be appropriate to use the referring expression the printer (again, as far

as you can tell)? Yes / No
Feedback: (1) (a) (2) (b) (3) No (4) No

Comment


The appropriateness of the definite article is dependent on the context in which it is used. The expressions judged inappropriate in the previous practice would be quite appropriate in other contexts. Think of such contexts for practice.

Contexts are constructed continuously during the course of a conversation. As a conversation progresses, items previously unmentioned and not even associated with the topics so far discussed are mentioned for the first time and then become part of the context of the following utterance. Eventually, perhaps, things mentioned a long time previously in the conversation will ‘fade out’ of the context, but how long it takes for this to happen cannot be specified exactly. When something is introduced for the first time into a conversation, it is appropriate to use the indefinite article, a. Once something is established in the context of the conversation, it is appropriate to use the. But the definite article the is not the only word which indicates definiteness in English.


Definition

DEFINITENESS is a feature of a noun phrase selected by a speaker to convey his assumption that the hearer will be able to identify the referent of the noun phrase, usually because it is the only thing of its kind in the context of the utterance, or because it is unique in the universe of discourse.


Example

That book is definite. It can only appropriately be used when the speaker assumes the hearer can tell which book is being referred to. The personal pronoun she is definite. It can only appropriately be used when the speaker assumes the hearer can tell which person is being referred to.

The Earth is definite. It is the only thing in a normal universe of discourse known by this name.
Practice

(1) We reproduce below a passage from Alice in Wonderland. Pick out by underlining all the expressions which clearly refer to something the reader is supposed to be aware of at the point in the passage where they occur, i.e. all the expressions referring to things which must be assumed to be already present in the context of the passage. You should find 15 such definite expressions altogether.

There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it; a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. ‘Very uncomfortable for the dormouse’, thought Alice; ‘only, as it’s asleep, I suppose it doesn’t mind.’

(2) The word it occurs 5 times in this passage. To which different things does it refer?

..........................................................................................................................

(3) Is there ever any doubt in this passage about the referent of any occurrence of it? Yes / No

(4) Who does them in line 3 refer to?

..........................................................................................................................

(5) Four things (or people) referred to by definite referring expressions in this passage must be presumed to be already in the context at the very beginning of the passage, i.e. they are not introduced during the passage. Which are they?

..........................................................................................................................

(6) Two things referred to by definite referring expressions in this passage are actually introduced

into the context during the passage. Which are they?

..........................................................................................................................
Feedback: (1) line 1, the house; line 2, the March Hare, the Hatter, it; line 3, them, the other two, it;

line 4, their elbows, it, its head; line 5, the dormouse, Alice, it, I, it (2) the table and the dormouse (3) No (4) the March Hare and the Hatter (5) the house, the March Hare, the Hatter, and Alice (6) the table and the dormouse


Comment

This passage from Alice in Wonderland is written in a very simple straightforward narrative style, in which things are introduced into the context by means of indefinite expressions, e.g. a table, a tree, a dormouse, and subsequently referred to with definite expressions, e.g. it, the dormouse. This kind of structure is actually only found in the simplest style. More often, authors begin a narrative using a number of definite referring expressions. This stylistic device has the effect of drawing the reader into the narrative fast, by giving the impression that the writer and the reader already share a number of contextual assumptions. We give an example in the next exercise.


Practice

Given below are the opening sentences of John Fowles’ novel The Collector.

When she was home from her boarding-school I used to see her almost every day sometimes, because their house was right opposite the Town Hall Annexe. She and her younger sister used to go in and out a lot, often with young men, which of course I didn’t like. When I had a free moment from the files and ledgers I stood by the window and used to look down over the road over the frosting and sometimes I’d see her.

(1) Is the reader given any idea who ‘she’ is before she is introduced? Yes / No

(2) Does the mention of ‘their house’ give the impression that ‘they’ are in some way already known

to the reader? Yes / No

(3) Does mention of ‘the files and ledgers’ give the impression that the reader should know which

files and ledgers are being referred to, or at least give the impression that the reader should

know more about them than just that they are files and ledgers? Yes / No

(4) In normal conversation, if a person was recounting some story, would he usually begin a

narrative using she without indicating in advance who he was talking about? Yes / No

(5) Is the use of definite referring expressions in the above passage different from conventional

usage in the opening stages of everyday conversations? Yes / No
Feedback: (1) No (2) Yes (3) Yes (4) No (5) Yes
Comment

Novelists typically use definiteness in strikingly abnormal ways in the opening passages of novels – ‘abnormal’, that is, from the point of view of everyday conversation.

The three main types of definite noun phrase in English are (1) Proper names, e.g. John, Queen Victoria, (2) personal pronouns, e.g. he, she, it, and (3) phrases introduced by a definite determiner, such as the, that, this (e.g. the table, this book, those men). By contrast, expressions like a man, someone, and one are all indefinite. It follows from our definition of definiteness that all definite noun phrases are referring expressions. But you must be careful not to assume that every noun phrase using the so-called ‘definite article’ the is necessarily semantically definite. In generic sentences (Unit 6), for example, and in other cases, one can find a phrase beginning with the where the hearer cannot be expected to identify the referent, often because there is in fact no referent, the expression not being a referring expression.
Practice

(1) In the sentence The whale is a mammal, as most typically used, which particular whale is being

referred to? ..........................................................................................................................

(2) Is the whale in the sentence just mentioned a referring expression? Yes / No

(3) Is the phrase the whale semantically definite in the sentence mentioned (i.e. would a user of this

sentence presume that the hearer would be able to identify the referent of the expression)?

Yes / No

(4) Take the utterance ‘If anyone makes too much noise, you have my permission to strangle him’. On

hearing this, could the hearer be expected to identify the referent of him? Yes / No

(5) In the utterance just mentioned, is him semantically definite? Yes / No

(6) Which particular donkey does it refer to in Every man who owns a donkey beats it?

..........................................................................................................................

(7) Is it in Every man who owns a donkey beats it semantically definite? Yes / No
Feedback: (1) none at all (2) No (3) No, because there is in fact no referent. (4) No (5) No (6) No

particular donkey (7) No


Comment

Finally, we consider the question of truth in relation to definiteness. Does definiteness contribute in any way to the truth or falsehood of a sentence considered in relation to a given situation? We will compare the effects of the definite and indefinite articles the and a with referring expressions.


Practice

I am working in the garden, and accidentally stick a fork through my foot. I tell my wife, who knows I have been gardening and knows the fork I have been working with.

(1) Which would be the more appropriate utterance (to my wife) in this situation, (a) or (b)?

a) ‘I’ve just stuck the fork through my foot’

(b) ‘I’ve just stuck a fork through my foot’ ...............

(2) I telephone the doctor, to tell him of the accident. The doctor knows nothing about my gardening

tools. Which of the two utterances just mentioned would it be more appropriate to use? .............

(3) In the situation envisaged, do the two utterances mentioned both describe exactly the same

state of affairs? Yes / No
Feedback: (1) (a) (2) (b) (3) Yes

Summary


Deictic expressions are those which take some element of their meaning directly from the immediate situation of the utterance in which they are used (e.g. from the speaker, the hearer, the time and place of the utterance). Examples of deictic words are I, you, here, now, come. The availability of such expressions makes language a much more ‘portable’ instrument than it would otherwise be: we can use the same words on different occasions, at different times and places.

Definite and indefinite referring expressions may be more or less appropriate in different contexts. But utterances which differ only in that one contains a definite referring expression where the other has an indefinite referring expression (provided these expressions have the same referent) do not differ in truth value. Considered objectively, the referent of a referring expression (e.g. a / the fork) is in itself neither definite nor indefinite. (Can you tell from close inspection of a fork whether it is a ‘definite’ or an ‘indefinite’ fork?) The definiteness of a referring expression tells us nothing about the referent itself, but rather relates to the question of whether the referent has been mentioned (or taken for granted) in the preceding discourse. The definiteness of a referring expression gives the hearer a clue in identifying its referent.


Study Guide and Exercises

Directions

After you have read Unit 5 you should be able to tackle the following questions to test your understanding of the main ideas raised in the unit.

1. You should understand these terms and concepts from this unit: deictic words (deictics) context

reported speech definiteness

2. What parts of speech can function as deictics? List them and give an example or two of each,

preferably different from the ones given in this unit.

3. Are deictics a useful device in language, or are they a burden to the speaker? Explain and

illustrate.

4. Identify all the deictic expressions in the following sentences and be able to explain why they are

decitic.

a. You noticed me standing there

b. This book was written by that author over there

c. Just set your briefcase to the right of mine

d. Now we have to make plans for next week

e. Her best friend was standing behind John

f. All the guests arrived two hours ago

5. Use an utterance of your own to report the following utterances from a vantage point distant in

time and space. Be sure to change the deictic expressions as needed. Assume the people are

speaking to you.

a. Fred: ‘I will do that assignment tomorrow.’

b. Mary: ‘I don’t see any good books here.’

c. Fred: ‘Why couldn’t you help me last week?’

6. Is it possible to know the truth value of a sentence with a deictic expression independently of the

context in which it is uttered? Give an example and explain.

7. When is it appropriate to use the definite article the? When is it appropriate to use the indefinite

article a?

8. Think of a context in which it would be appropriate to use the following utterances, and one in

which it would be inappropriate.

a. ‘I have to read an article for class tomorrow.’

b. ‘Mary wants to check out the book.’

c. ‘Did you meet her at a university?’

9. Is the definite article the the only word that signals definiteness? Explain and illustrate.

10. Are all definite noun phrases referring expressions? Is every noun phrase with the definite article

semantically definite? Give examples.

11. Suppose you accidentally drive the family car through a plate glass window late at night and that

your parents know you have been driving the car. You first call your parents, then the police, to

report the accident. Which of the following utterances would you most likely say to each party?

a. ‘I just drove a car through a plate glass window.’

b. ‘I just drove the car through a plate glass window.’

c. ‘I just drove a car through the plate glass window.’

d. ‘I just drove the car through the plate glass window.’

12. Which utterance in question 11 would you most likely say to the owner of the store whom you

contact after calling the police? Explain.

13. Does the change of articles affect the truth value of the utterances in 11 above?

14. Consider the following sentences and try to determine what factor the speaker uses in choosing

the italicized verb in each. Also comment on the difference in meaning in the choice of different verbs with respect to the speaker’s perspective on the scene.

a. I just called to see if you will be coming to see me tomorrow

b. I just called to see if you will be going to see me tomorrow

c. She asked me to come to her party, but I didn’t go

d. Please come in

e. Please go in



f. Don’t bring any food with you
tải về 31.48 Kb.

Chia sẻ với bạn bè của bạn:
1   2   3




Cơ sở dữ liệu được bảo vệ bởi bản quyền ©hocday.com 2023
được sử dụng cho việc quản lý

    Quê hương