A Relevance-Theoretic Account of Some Constraints on Syntactic Parentheticals: Evidence from English and Polish

Dobromiła Jagiełła


The present article has two main goals. First, it attempts to contribute to the linguistic research on parentheticals by drawing attention to some constraints on syntactic parentheticals, i.e. parenthetical comment clauses including a predicate (verb or adjective) expressing the propositional attitude and/or source of the information presented in the host clause into which the parenthetical comment is interpolated or which it follows. Second, it offers an analysis illustrated with data from English and Polish which derives the observed constraints from the cognitive mechanisms independently argued for in Relevance Theory, thus offering support for the approach to syntactic parentheticals taken in this pragmatic framework. The constraints focused on here include: (a) the requirement that the parenthetical comment be upward-entailing on the epistemic scale of the strength of speaker commitment; (b) the requirement that the host proposition update the common ground and (c) the requirement that the propositional attitude of the speaker to the host clause proposition be indicated with mood markers. All of the constraints are argued here to stem from the nature of the cognitive inferencing mechanisms that guide verbal communication and in particular, from the necessity – in certain communicative contexts – of accessing the illocutionary force, the propositional attitude of the speaker’s utterances, and the strength of the speaker’s commitment for the purposes of meeting the hearer’s expectations of relevance. Building on Wilson (2011), evidential parenthetical comments are argued here to communicate that the speaker’s information is well-evidenced and demonstrate the speaker’s reliability.

Słowa kluczowe

parenthetical comment clauses, Relevance Theory, commitment, epistemic vigilance

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