Article published in:On the Role of Pragmatics in Construction Grammar
Edited by Rita Finkbeiner
[Constructions and Frames 11:2] 2019
► pp. 244–269
Possessive interpretation at the semantics-pragmatics interface
This paper discusses semantic and pragmatic aspects of possessive interpretation (PI), the process whereby semantically underspecified possessive noun phrases (NPs) such as John Smith’s house and the house of John Smith receive concrete referential interpretations (e.g. ‘the house owned by John Smith’) in context. By observing what is common to the interpretation of both constructions, I lay out the ingredients for a uniform pragmatic account of PI whilst rehashing the contextualist notion of saturation. As defined by Recanati (2004, 2010) and many others, saturation is a linguistically mandated and obligatory pragmatic process, operating to enrich the incomplete logical forms of referring expressions, including possessive NPs. I argue that present proposals which assume that saturating the possessive relation is crucial to determining the possessive referent fail to do justice to the many ways in which possessive NPs may be understood in concrete communicative situations. Supporting similar claims by Korta and Perry (2017), this suggests that saturation is more adequately defined as a communicatively optional pragmatic process. The discussion simultaneously contributes to the growing literature on pragmatic aspects of constructions as form-meaning pairings, by outlining some of the theoretical issues that arise from the division of labour between semantic and pragmatic meaning in PI.
Keywords: genitive alternation, possessive constructions, possessive interpretations, contextualism, saturation, pragmatic inference, semantics-pragmatics interface, grammar-pragmatics interface
Published online: 07 November 2019
The British National Corpus
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Cited by 2 other publications
De Vaere, Hilde, Julia Kolkmann & Thomas Belligh
Kolkmann, Julia & Ingrid Lossius Falkum
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