cognitive rhetoric

 

Rudiments of cognitive rhetoric2

 

 

(2E)     a.      Jerome and Ursula are married to each other.

            b.      It is Jerome who is married to Ursula.

(3)        a.      On m'accuse d'être en retard.

            b.      On me reproche d'être en retard.

(3E)     a.      They accuse me of being late.

            b.      They reproach me for being late.

(4)        a.      Martin est généreux et il est riche.

            b.      Martin est généreux mais il est riche.

(4E)     a.      Martin is generous and he is rich.

            b.      Martin is generous but he is rich.

(5)        a.      Dieu a crée le monde.

            b.      Dieu existe et il a crée le monde.

 (5E)    a.      God created the world.

            b.      God exists and he created the world.

Most, if not all, facts of this kind can be accounted for by assuming that the set of entailments of a sentence (in one of its senses) is partially ordered by a linguistically determined focal structure (which, we shall see below, itself contributes to rhetorical structure).

Thus, both (2a) and (2b) entail (6a) and (6b).

(6)        a.      Jérôme est marié avec X.

            b.      X est marié avec Ursule.

(6E)     a.      Jerome is married to X.

            b.      X is married to Ursula.

In (2a), the two entailments are unordered. In (2b), they are ordered by syntactic means; (6b) is less focused than (6a). The same focal effect can be achieved by phonological means, by stressing Jérôme in (2a). In either case, the rhetorical effect of this focalisation is to present (6b) as an entailment already known to speaker and hearer, and (6a) as new information provided by the speaker.

Sentences (3a) and (3b) entail (7a) and (7b).

(7)        a.      On affirme que je suis en retard.

            b.      On présente mon retard comme répréhensible.

(7E)     a.      They assert that I am late.

            b.      They present my being late as reprehensible.

In (3a), (7a) is more focused than (7b); in (3b), the opposite holds. Here, focus is achieved through lexical means: accuser ('accuse') and reprocher ('reproach') have the same entailments but order them differently. The rhetorical effect of this focalisation is analogous to that of the preceding example: (3a) takes the reprehensibility of the lateness for granted and directs attention to the fact of being late; in (3b), the fact of being late seems to be established, and focus is on the moral judgement.

The sentences (4a) and (4b) entail (8a) and (8b).

(8)        a.      Martin est généreux.

            b.      Martin est riche.

(8E)     a.      Martin is generous.

            b.      Martin is rich.

In (4a), the two entailments are only weakly ordered by their order in the sentence. In (4b), (8a) is strongly unfocused, compared to (8b). This focalisation is achieved by the selection of the coordinating conjunction mais ('but'). As for their rhetorical effect, in (4a) the hearer is encouraged to consider the two entailments equally and to consider their joint consequences; in (4b), the hearer is invited to pay less attention to (8a) and more to (8b) and to consider the consequences of (8a) lessened because of the consequences of (8b). Since nothing in the utterance makes explicit the particular relation between (8a) and (8b), the hearer is led to construct an implicature to explain it. (We will return to this example in the next section, in the discussion of how implicatures are calculated.)

Sentences (5a) and (5b) both entail (9).

(9)        Dieu existe.

(9E)     God exists.

In (5a) this entailment is at the lowest focus level, for logical reasons (it is entailed by a series of other entailments of (5a) while entailing none of them). In (5b), it is explicit and thus at the highest focal level. The rhetorical effect of this difference in focalisation is that in (5a) the existence of God is taken for granted, while in (5b) it is robustly re-asserted.

These facts concerning the relative focalisation of the entailments of a sentence (in one of its senses) have received different treatments within the theory of presupposition over the last decade. Is the notion of presupposition necessary? Is it sufficient? The answers to these questions are of little importance here.  It is enough to realise that the meaning of a sentence in one of its senses is essentially characterised by a set of entailments that are partially ordered and thus receive different focus. The difference in focus is a strictly linguistic phenomenon, as is clear from the systematic intuitions to which it gives rise, regardless of utterance context. This linguistic fact plays an important role in the conceptual interpretation of utterances-that is, in rhetoric. To account for it in our rhetorical description, we need only to observe it, even if linguists have not yet provided an explanation. Focus, the consequence of linguistic phenomena, is the cause of rhetorical phenomena and it is in this light that it should be examined.

2.2.1    Understanding an utterance involves, among other things, recognizing it as a sentence of the language, selecting one and only one of the meanings of this sentence, assigning a value to referential expressions, and calculating implicatures. These intellectual operations rely not only on grammatical competence, but also on world knowledge: they are part of performance, involving rhetorical and not linguistic competence. We carry out such rhetorical operations in all aspects of our daily lives, without paying much attention to them. The result of these operations-the conceptual interpretation of an utterance-appears so obvious to us that it requires serious effort to realise the complexity of the work unconsciously carried out. In general, we have been content to say that the context determines the interpretation of an utterance. But how this determination is achieved has never been described-far from it.

It is possible, however, to informally describe (and formalisation, at this stage, would be bogus) some of the principles that underlie the rhetorical mechanism. To do so,  certain essential concepts must first be set forth. These are the concepts of shared knowledge, mobilised shared knowledge, field of relevance (either wide or restricted), informativeness, and relative relevance.

At a given moment in a verbal exchange, participants share certain knowledge: they live in the same universe, are members of the same culture, and perhaps of the same social group; each possesses encyclopaedic knowledge that he can assume the other also possesses. If they are in the same place, each sees what he knows the other also sees. Everything that was said previously in their conversation is also part of this shared knowledge, which is augmented by each new utterance. Shared knowledge is as important to verbal communication (or nearly so) as is a shared language. To a great extent, rhetoric is concerned with how utterances access and modify shared knowledge.

Only knowledge that is knowingly shared is pertinent to rhetoric. If each of two participants in an exchange knows that p but does not know that this is shared knowledge, it is as if p is not a part of their shared knowledge.  The purpose of a large part of verbal communication is not to introduce new knowledge about the outside world but to determine the extent of shared knowledge. For example, if I arrive late at a dinner party, I can be fairly certain that my hosts know that I am late; nonetheless, I say "I'm late" to inform them not of my lateness but of the fact that I am aware of it.

The analysis of some rhetorical data depends on the degree to which knowledge is shared mutual knowledge: does the hearer know that the speaker knows that the hearer knows that...? For example, Pierre says to Paul, in a neutral tone:

(10)      Aragon est le plus grand poète français.

(10E)   Aragon is the greatest French poet.

But both Pierre and Paul believe:

(11)      Aragon est un poète mineur.

(11)      Aragon is a minor poet.

If Paul does not know that Pierre believes (11), he may legitimately believe that Pierre, in uttering (10), has spoken sincerely and literally. If Paul does know that Pierre believes (11), but does not know that Pierre knows that Paul knows that Pierre believes (11), Paul may legitimately conclude that Pierre has spoken insincerely and literally, that he wished to mislead Paul on his opinion of Aragon. It is necessary that Paul know that Pierre knows that Paul knows that Pierre believes (11) for the only reasonable and legitimate interpretation of (10) to be an ironic one.

The notion of shared knowledge (at a particular moment between particular participants) allows for a definition of the general notion of relevance. As a first approximation, a relevant proposition is one that, when added to shared knowledge, brings about new consequences. To do this, the proposition must supply, for a previously known object, information that was not previously known. In other words, at least one of the entailments of the proposition must be part of shared knowledge and at least one other must not be. So, with regards to our shared knowledge, (12) is not relevant because we know nothing of its subject, and (13) is not relevant because it contains no new information.

(12)      Le Grand Zouzou Sacré est mort.

(12E)   The Great Holy Zouzou has died.

(13)      La capitale du Japon est Tokyo.

(13E)   The capital of Japan is Tokyo.

On the other hand, any proposition of which some but not all of the entailments are part of shared knowledge is relevant. The wide field of relevance comprises all propositions that are relevant in this sense. It can thus be described as the potential complement of shared knowledge, and any modification in shared knowledge will bring about a modification in its complement.

This definition of relevance is clearly too broad. Shared knowledge, at any given moment, is not a homogeneous whole. Relevance is a function of shared knowledge and thus of memory. At a given moment, an individual's memory comprises at least two parts: passive memory, information that has been gathered and stored throughout a lifetime;  and active memory, information that has been acquired, or called up from passive memory, in the previous moments. Within active memory, not all information is mobilised to an equal extent at a given moment. More specifically, the conversation directs attention to some of the information only. For example, a question mobilises a small section of information linked to the entailments of the question itself.

Just as general shared knowledge defines the wide field of relevance, mobilised shared knowledge (mobilised most often by the conversation itself) defines the restricted field of relevance, which includes all propositions capable of being the complement of mobilised shared knowledge. The difference between the broad and the restricted fields of relevance has one consequence which may appear paradoxical: a proposition can be part of the restricted field without being part of the broad field. A proposition that is part of shared knowledge is by definition absent from the broad field of relevance. But if this proposition is not part of mobilised shared knowledge, it can be part of the restricted field-in other words, it may be relevant to mobilise it. This difference explains why an utterance like (13), generally not relevant, can become relevant in the context of a specific conversation, for example as the answer to the request "Name a country and its capital with the same number of letters."

Propositions that are relevant in regard to shared knowledge (whether mobilised or not ) are not all equally relevant. It might seem at first glance that a proposition increases in relevance as its informativeness increases, but a moment's reflection shows that this is not the case.

A proposition in an utterance increases in informativeness to the extent that, when added to shared knowledge, it has more consequences. This notion of informativeness becomes a bit less intuitive in the case of an ordered series of propositions such that the proposition n + 1 has proposition n among its consequences, while the opposite does not hold. In this situation, n + 1 has all of the consequences of n, plus its own consequences, and thus is more informative than n.  For example (considering, for simplicity, only entailment relations and not implicatures), utterance (14a) is less informative than (14b), which is less informative than (14c).

(14)      a.      Isidore a mangé.

            b.      Isidore a mangé des épinards.

            c.      Isidore a mangé tous les épinards.

(14E)   a.      Isidore has eaten.

            b.      Isidore has eaten spinach.

            c.      Isidore has eaten all the spinach.

It is intuitively obvious that, in a series such as (14)-in which, by definition, informativeness increases at each stage-relevance first increases and then decreases. In other words, the additional consequences of each proposition vis-à-vis the preceding one in the series first rise then fall in number and importance. For example, imagine that only one of the following three propositions is part of shared knowledge:

(15)      On a besoin d'épinards.

(15E)   We need spinach.

(16)      Isidore est allergique aux épinards.

(16E)   Isidore is allergic to spinach.

(17)      Isidore devrait rester à jeun.

(17E)   Isidore is not supposed to eat anything.

In the situation where (15) is part of shared knowledge, (14c) has the most relevance. When (16) is part of shared knowledge, (14b) is maximally relevant, and the additional consequences of (14c) over (14b) are minimal; inversely, in these two situations, (14a) is too uninformative to be relevant. In the situation of (17), (14a) is most relevant and there is no increase in relevance with the additional information given by (14b) and (14c) but instead a decrease.

To use a mathematical metaphor, we can say that the degree of relevance of a proposition in an utterance is a linear function of the degree of mobilisation of the shared knowledge it relates to, and a parabolic function of its own informativeness. If we eliminate from this analogy the erroneous impression of precise measurement it conveys, we can say that at a given moment in a verbal exchange, there is not a point but rather a zone of maximal relevance in regards to which the relevance of each utterance can be intuitively assessed.

With these notions established, we can turn to the rules that govern verbal exchanges. These rules all relate to an obvious principle: the speaker is expected to do whatever is necessary in order to be understood. The speaker has in mind a conceptual representation that he wishes to transmit to the hearer.  It is virtually never necessary to explicate this representation, to utter it wholly and unambiguously, in order to make it understood to the hearer. In any case, to do so would be exorbitant: all referential expressions would have to be replaced by lengthy descriptions, additional clauses would be needed to avoid any ambiguity, and each implicature would have to be made exlicit at the same level of detail. In many cases, an utterance of a few words would require a corresponding explication running to several pages of text.

Precisely because speaker and hearer share knowledge, the speaker may explicate only a small part of the conceptual representation he wishes to transmit, knowing that the hearer can complete it. Once again, understanding an utterance is entirely different from understanding the meaning of the sentence uttered.

It is the job of rhetoric to explain how, on the basis of a fragment of a conceptual representation (which may, moreover, be expressed by an ambiguous sentence), the hearer manages to reconstruct the complete representation, and how the speaker can feel certain that the hearer will do so. We must assume that the speaker is supposed to follow certain rules and that the hearer takes for granted, unless shown otherwise, that the speaker is doing so. Below I sketch some of these rules and their effects.

I will mention only very briefly disambiguation and the assignment of referential values; in fact, contrary to widespread belief (due to confusing semantic ambiguity and referential ambivalence with conceptual equivocation), these play only a minor role in figural speech. When several conceptual representations within the zone of maximal relevance can be constructed from the meanings of the sentence uttered, the meaning selected will be the one corresponding to the least informative representation. This rule stems from the fact that the speaker is held to be responsible for what he says, and this responsibility is certain to hold only for the weakest interpretation of what was said-the interpretation with the fewest consequences, the least informative one in regard to shared knowledge. A similar rule applies to remove any referential ambiguity.

I will have more to say about how the fragment of conceptual representation that is an utterance comes to be completed. An utterance can be fragmentary in two ways. First, it expresses only some of the propositions of the conceptual representation and must be completed by implicatures. Second, in some cases, the best known of which is ellipsis, the utterance may contain gaps and completely express none of the propositions of the conceptual representation. I will discuss in turn the rules which allow implicatures to be calculated and those that allow gaps to be filled.

2.2.2    Leaving aside the beginnings of discourse or conversation and changes of subject (which have their own conditions), the speaker is expected to speak in such a way that Conditions I - III are met:

            I.       There exists  a conceptual representation of the utterance such that the proposition expressed by the utterance is in the restricted field of relevance.

            II.     The proposition uttered is neither too informative nor too uninformative; it is maximally relevant.

            III.    The linguistically determined focus ranking of the entailments of the proposition corresponds to their degree of relevance.

A corollary of II and III is that the most relevant proposition of the conceptual representation that the speaker wishes to convey must be uttered and focalized.

It can happen that one of the semantic and referential interpretations of the sentence uttered is sufficient to fulfill Conditions I - III; in this case, the calculation of implicatures is not required. The only task that falls to the hearer is to disambiguate the sentence uttered and assign values to referential expressions. The hearer is guided in this task by Conditions I - III, eliminating any interpretation that does not satisfy them.

On the other hand, any time Conditions I - III are not directly satisfied by an interpretation of the utterance itself, it is necessary to calculate implicatures in order to satisfy them.

A first example:

(18)      a.      Pierre: - Irez-vous vous promener?

            b.      Paul: - Il va pleuvoir.

(18E)   a.      Pierre: "Are you going for a walk?"

            b.      Paul: "It's going to rain."

No interpretation of (18b) directly satisfies Condition I. The hearer starts from the principle that there is a conceptual representation of (18b) that does meet this condition-in other words, that it is possible, by adding certain propositions to mobilised shared knowledge, to broaden the restricted field of relevance so that (18b) will be part of it. For example, if (19) is part of shared knowledge and can be mobilised, Pierre can deduce the implicature in (20) from the conjunction of (18b) and (19):

(19)      Paul ne se promène pas quand il pleut.

(19E)   Paul does not go for walks when it is raining.

(20)      Paul n'ira pas se promener.

(20E)   Paul is not going for a walk.

With the addition of the implicature in (20), the conceptual representation of (18b) meets Condition I. (18b) is more informative than (20) because, on the basis of shared knowledge, (20) is a consequence of (18b) whereas the opposite is not true. If, moreover, Paul might legitimately think that Pierre would like to know why he isn't going for a walk, then (18b) is not only more informative but also more relevant than (20), so Condition II is also met. Condition III is automatically met.

A second example:

(21)      a.      Le juge: -À quelle heure exacte êtes-vous rentré chez vous?

            b.      L'accusé: - Entre huit et neuf heures.

(21E)   a.      Judge: "At exactly what time did you return home?"

            b.      Accused: "Between eight and nine o'clock."

The accused's answer is not informative enough to be maximally relevant, and Condition II is thus not directly satisfied. Note that the answer is perfectly truthful, even if the accused knows that he returned home at exactly 8:47. However, if it were later proven that the accused had this knowledge, he could be considered to have misled the court. It is assumed that the accused did his best to satisfy Condition II. From this rule and (21b), the following implication can be deduced:

(22)      L'accusé ne sait pas à quel moment précis il est rentré chez lui.

(22E)   The accused does not know exactly what time he returned home.

With the implication in (22), Condition II is met; thus the accused can be held accountable for this implicature if it is later proven false.

Imagine that instead the accused had answered:

(23)      Je suis rentré à 8h47, au moment où la speakerine de la télévision a fait un lapsus et dit : «Et voici maintenant le film de Karl Marx.»

(23E)   I returned home at 8:47, just as the announcer on the television made a blooper by saying, "And now here is the film by Karl Marx."

Once again, Condition II is apparently violated, but this time by too much information. The relevance of this additional information can be established and Condition II restored when the court's wish to have proof of the accused's statement is added to shared knowledge, when (23) is understood as implicating that the accused heard the announcer's blooper while watching television at home at 8:47. If it was later proven that the accused was indeed at home at 8:47 but did not turn on the TV and only learned of the blooper from a friend the following day, he could again be held to have misled the court, even though (23) in no way asserts that the accused actually heard the announcer's blooper.

A third example (repeating (4b)):

(24)      Martin est généreux mais il est riche.

(24E)   Martin is generous but he is rich.

As we saw above, the use of mais 'but' focuses the second proposition. Suppose that (24) is said in reply to (25):

(25)      On m'a dit que Martin est pauvre et généreux.

(25E)   I was told that Martin is poor and generous.

In this case, Condition III is directly satisfied because the second proposition, in contradicting an opinion known to both speaker and hearer, is more relevant than the first proposition, which merely provides confirmation. In this case, no implicatures arise from (25).

If, however, we suppose that nothing in shared knowledge immediately justifies the focal structure of (24), Condition III is not met and an implicature must be calculated. Imagine then that (26) - (28) are part of the speaker and hearer's shared knowledge:

(26)      La générosité est une grande vertu.

(26E)   Generosity is a great virtue.

(27)      Une vertu est d'autant plus grande qu'elle est difficile.

(27E)   The more difficult a virtue is, the greater it is.

(28)      La générosité est facile aux riches.

(28E)   It's easy for rich people to be generous.

Based on the proposition Martin est généreux 'Martin is generous' and (26), one might be tempted to conclude that Martin is very virtuous. But if Martin est riche 'Martin is rich' and (27) - (28) are added to these premises, this first conclusion is invalidated. If Martin's degree of virtue is relevant, then his wealth is more relevant than his generosity, and with the implicature in (29), the utterance in (24) now meets Condition III.

(29)      Martin n'est pas aussi vertueux que sa générosité pourrait le faire croire.

(29E)   Martin is not as virtuous as his generosity might lead one to believe.

These examples illustrate the general principle followed in calculating implicatures: when the interpretation of an utterance does not directly satisfy Conditions I - III, the hearer looks for propositions that can be deduced from the conjunction of the utterance and shared knowledge and which, when added to the conceptual representation of the utterance, will satisfy these conditions.

By definition, an implicature is not more informative in regard to shared knowledge than the utterance it is entailed by. But Condition II has a corollary whose importance is such that we will state it as a separate condition:

(IV)     An implicature is not more relevant than the utterance that implicates it.

This condition is particularly important here because, as we will see, when the calculation of implicatures does not satisfy it, it may lead to a figural interpretation of the utterance.

2.2.3.   An utterance expresses only a fragment of the conceptual representation that the speaker wishes the hearer to construct. Moreover, this fragment may itself be fragmentary: as well as the propositional implicatures discussed above, the utterance may have lexical implicatures-or more accurately, sub-propositional implicatures-which I will call gaps.

One type of gap-ellipsis-is well known and has been fairly well studied. An ellipsis is a gap revealed by the syntactic analysis of the sentence uttered; certain underlying syntactic components have no surface lexical realisation. Less attention has been paid to other kinds of gaps, whose presence may be suggested by semantic anomalies or contradictions but which ultimately can only be definitely established by the conceptual representation of the utterance. Here I am entering into a new domain and the following hypotheses, even more than the previous ones, should be taken as exploratory.

To say that an utterance contains gaps means that the hearer can, in certain cases, add constituents to those that have been made explicit, in order either to construct a sentence, when the utterance does not constitute a sentence on its own, or to modify an uttered sentence when it has no acceptable conceptual representation. It is obvious that this possibility will be compatible with the principle that the speaker does what is necessary to be understood only if the omission of constituents by the speaker and their restitution by the hearer are greatly constrained.

An utterance consists not only of a sequence of lexical elements, but also the syntactic relationship among them. Syntactic relations play as great a role in semantic interpretation as does the meaning of lexical elements: the semantic interpretation of a syntactic relation is a logical function. The hearer must start from the principle that the lexical elements, along with the logical functions the speaker expresses in syntax, contribute to the relevance of the utterance; thus the adjunction of a new constituent should not eliminate any of these functions. Hence Condition V:

V.        The complete interpretation of an utterance with a gap must maintain the logical functions expressed syntactically in the utterance.

For example, if  the utterance in (30a) is interpreted as having a gap, then (30b) is a possible interpretation and (30c) is not a possible interpretation.

(30)      a.      La Neuvième plaît aux amateurs.

            b.      La Neuvième Symphonie de Beethoven plaît aux amateurs de concerts.

            c.      Le début de la Neuvième plaît à l'élite des amateurs.

(30E)   a.      The Ninth pleases music lovers.

            b.      Beethoven's Ninth Symphony pleases music lovers who go to concerts.

            c.      The openning of the Ninth pleases the elite among music lovers.

In (30c), la Neuvième and les amateurs no longer hold the logical functions of subject and complement of the verb plaire [in English, music lovers and the Ninth no longer hold the functions of subject and object of like] and are instead complements of a noun. If such changes in function were allowed, how could the hearer ever manage to reconstruct the conceptual representation intended by the speaker? The possibilities would be far too numerous.

Condition V has an interesting corollary. Either the syntactic analysis reveals functions that are unfilled in the utterance-this is an ellipsis and the position of additional constituents to supply is clearly indicated; or there is a non-elliptical gap, in which case additional constituents can be inserted into only two types of position: they may either dominate none of the constituents that are expressed, or they must dominate all of them. In other words, in non-elliptical gaps, additional constituents are either complements of expressed constituents, or else the set of expressed constituents, along with their logical-syntactic relationships, is a complement of the additional constituents.

Note that most kinds of elliptical gaps also fall into these same position types; (31) shows a dominated ellipsis and (32) a dominating one.

(31)      On a déjà donné (de l'argent).

(31E)   We already gave (money).

(32)      (Passez-moi) le sel et le poivre.

(32E)   (Pass me) the salt and pepper.

In (33), on the other hand, the elided constituent is in a position of partial domination within the sentence.

(33)      Isidore a mangé des épinards et Théodule (a mangé) des salsifis.

(33E)   Isidore ate spinach and Theodule (ate) salsify.

The elided element in (33) repeats an element appearing earlier in the sentence; this phenomenon is quite different from (31) and (32), in that syntactic analysis reveals not only the unfilled position but also the constituent that must fill it. This is not a gap that must be filled by recourse to memory and reasoning.

We can thus propose that, for all genuine gaps, whether elliptical or not, the omitted constituents cannot both dominate and be dominated by the expressed constituents; thus gaps are either entirely embedding or entirely embedded. Condition V therefore severely restricts the range of functions that may be filled by omitted constituents.

Non-elliptical embedded gaps are common, such as the example in (34):

(34)      Richard se pique (à l'héroïne).

(34E)   Richard shoots up (heroin).

Non-elliptical embedding gaps have received less attention. Most are implicit modalisations. I use the term modalisation in a fairly broad sense here, encompassing constituents that may take an entire clause as their complement, for example il faut que, il est possible que, on dit que, on suppose que, c'est comme si, on fait comme si ('it is required that, it is possible that, people say that, it is assumed that, it is as if, people act as if'). The function of  these modalisers is to limit the scope of the complement clause, as the entailments of the complement clause of a modaliser are not the truth conditions of the complete modal proposition. As we shall see, this option is used whenever shared knowledge or the logical-semantic properties of the utterance itself allow exclusion of the possibility that the speaker wished an uttered proposition to be understood as true. Consider, for example, the utterances of (35) and (36).

(35)      Vous tournez à droite au carrefour.

(35E)   You turn right at the corner.

(36)      Vous avez gagné le gros lot. Qu'est-ce que vous allez faire?

(36E)   You've won the jackpot. What are you going to do?

Each of these utterances is equivocal. (35) is either an assertion or an order. If it is an order, it has a gap and must be embedded under il faut que ('it is necessary that'). (26) is either an assertion or a supposition. If it is a supposition, it has a gap and must be embedded under on suppose que ('suppose that').

Condition V restricts the range of functions that can be filled by a constituent added to an utterance containing a gap. But it says nothing about the meaning of such constituents.

Logically, a function could be filled by any one of an infinite number of conceivable constituents. Therefore, there must be strict constraints on the choice of constituents that can fill a given function.

It is not essential that the function be able to be filled by a single lexical item; however, if the speaker is to be understood, it is necessary that all of the constituents that the hearer might choose entail the same encyclopaedic consequences-in other words, that they be conceptually equivalent. Two things will guide the hearer in making this choice: first, mobilised shared knowledge and second, the hypothesis that the speaker has not violated Conditions I - III. A speaker may licitly produce a gap only if a unique solution can be determined by these two elements.

Hence Condition VI:

VI.       In a gapped utterance, the omitted element fills a function which, on the basis of mobilised shared knowledge, can be filled only by conceptually equivalent constituents, so that Conditions I - III are met.

Thus when an utterance has a gap, the hearer must seek, among the range of choices allowed by Condition V, a function for which there exists a class of constituents that satisfy Condition VI. The presence of a gap, which initially seemed to leave the door wide open for all kinds of misunderstandings, in fact allows the speaker (provided he follows Conditions V and VI) to make himself understood economically.

It should be noted that, just as Condition IV is a corollary of Condition II as regards implicatures, Condition VI is a corollary of Condition II as regards gaps. If  mobilised shared knowledge does not allow gaps to be immediately and unequivocally filled, then the speaker has been too uninformative and has not uttered, even lacunally, the most relevant proposition of the conceptual representation that he wished to convey.

A few examples will show how, when semantic interpretation and the calculation of implicatures do not produce a conceptual representation of the utterance satisfying Conditions I - IV, the hearer is led to hypothesise the presence of a gap and to fill it, in accordance with Conditions V and VI. These examples also show that certain problems which would cause serious difficulties and even paradoxes if treated in a semantic framework can receive a relatively simple rhetorical solution.

First example:

(37)      a.         - L'accusé avait avoué le vol, mais je ne sais pas si maintenant il a avoué le viol et le meurtre.

            b.         - Il a avoué.

(37E)   a.         "The accused confessed to the theft, but I don't know if he has now confessed to the rape and the murder."

            b.         "He has confessed."

In (37b) the complement of avouer ('confess') is absent. The hearer can immediately eliminate le vol ('the theft'), because if it were the content of the gap, (37b) would not be relevant. Shared knowledge, mobilised by (37a), allows for four other possibilities:

(38)      a.         Il a avoué le viol.

            b.         Il a avoué le meurtre.

            c.         Il a avoué le viol ou le meurtre.

            d.         Il a avoué le viol et le meurtre.

(38E)   a.         He confessed to the rape.

            b.         He confessed to the murder.

            c.         He confessed to the rape or the murder.

            d.         He confessed to the rape and the murder.

Intuitively (and unless very unusual circumstances hold), (37b) will be completed by (38d). For example, if it later proved that only (38a) was true and that the speaker knew this, he could be accused of having misled the hearer. Why is this so, given that the utterance does not make explicit what exactly the accused confessed to?

Since there are four non-equivalent possibilities, it would seem that Condition VI is not met. But the hearer starts from the principle that the speaker has obeyed Condition VI and that there is therefore a way of eliminating three of the four possibilities. The first three options do not directly meet Condition II; they are not maximally relevant and thus would lead to the following implicatures: (39a) for (38a), (39b for 38b), and (39c) for (38c).

(39)      a.   Le locuteur ne sait pas si l'accusé a avoué le meurtre.

            b.   Le locuteur ne sait pas si l'accusé a avoué le viol.

            c.   Le locuteur ne sait pas si l'accusé a avoué le meurtre ou bien le viol

 (39E)  a.   The speaker does not know whether the accused confessed to the murder.

            b.   The speaker does not know whether the accused confessed to the rape.

           c.     The speaker does not know whether the accused confessed to the murder or to the rape.

If one of the propositions in (39) was already a proposition of mobilised shared knowledge instead of being a new implicature, it would allow for the corresponding proposition of (38) to be selected, and (37b) would thereby have a single interpretation. But since none of the propositions of (39) is known, it is impossible to choose, as an interpretation of (37b), among the interpretations (38a), (38b),  and (38c), which do not directly satisfy Condition II. The speaker thus could not use the gapped utterance of (37b) to convey one of these interpretations, as there is no implicature which would select it. Only (38d) (or, more accurately, only the set of propositions equivalent to (38d)) directly satisfies Condition II and thereby Condition VI.

Second example:

(40)      Martin n'est pas riche, il est extrêmement riche.

(40E)   Martin is not rich, he is extremely rich.

Logically, (40) should be a contradiction but intuitively, it is not. The first clause of the utterance is understood not as meaning that Martin is poor, but that the term riche ('rich') does not suffice to describe him. To describe this kind of utterance in semantic terms, we would have to invent an ad hoc ambiguity for negation. In one sense, negation would mean that the proposition it applies to is not true. In another sense, it would mean that the proposition it applies to is not appropriate. Such a device would mean that all negative sentences would be ambiguous in this way. In fact, the second "meaning" is only found in special cases-almost always in utterances that echo a previous utterance. An utterance like (40), for example, normally comes in response to an utterance asserting that Martin is rich. The device would also be fairly costly: to handle a few special cases, the meanings of negative sentences are doubled in number, with all the problems that entails for logical calculations and disambiguation. The solution is moreover unnecessary, since the problem posed by utterances like (40) has an easy rhetorical solution-one requiring no apparatus that is not independently motivated and preserving the sole truth-functional meaning of negation.

A negative proposition is true if one of the entailments of the corresponding positive sentence is false. In this sense, every negative proposition is equivocal and the hearer must determine which of the entailments the speaker is negating. This ambiguity is partially resolved by Condition III, which entails that the most focused entailments are the ones negated and the least focused ones are presented as true. Consider, for example:

(41)      a.      Martin est extrêmement riche.

            b.      Martin n'est pas extrêmement riche.

            c.      Martin est riche.

            d.      Martin n'est pas riche.

(41E)   a.      Martin is extremely rich.

            b.      Martin is not extremely rich.

            c.      Martin is rich.

            d.      Martin is not rich.

(41a) entails (41c) and thus if (41c) is false or, equivalently, if (41d) is true, then (41b) is true. However, negation reverses the order of entailments: (41d) entails (41b), rather than the contrary. Therefore (41b) is less informative than (41d). However, the focal order of the entailments of the positive sentence still holds, and thus (41d) is less focalized than the overall proposition expressed by (41b). Therefore, if the speaker uttered (41b) in order to convey (41d), he would not be obeying Condition III. This is why, barring any special implicatures, (41b) is normally understood as meaning that Martin is rich, but not extremely rich.

Let us return now to (40). If the utterance is complete, there will always be a contradiction, whatever implicatures are negated. The problem is resolved by assigning  to (40) a gapped interpretation and by introducing into the field of negation an additional constituent of the same type as extrêmement, 'extremely,' so that negation now applies only to the specific entailments of this constituent and that Martin's being rich, as in (41b), is not negated. Extrêmement itself suggests the class of possible constituents-adverbs of the same class but incompatible with it. Hence the gapped interpretation of (40) is:

(42)      Martin n'est pas ordinairement riche, il est extrêmement riche.

(42E)   Martin is not ordinarily rich, he is extremely rich.

Rather than ordinairement 'ordinarily,' the hearer could choose simplement 'merely,' comme tout le monde 'like everyone else,' etc. In any case, there is no ambiguity and Condition VI is met, as is, transparently, Condition V.

A third example:

(43)      La maison que Pierre habite, c'est celle de Paul, mais il a un garage en plus.

(43E)   The house where Pierre lives is Paul's house, but he also has a garage.

This utterance is equivocal. On one interpretation, Pierre lives in Paul's house and has a garage in addition. On a second interpretation, Pierre lives in a house identical to Paul's but with a garage in addition. To explain the second interpretation semantically, we would have to say for example that the verb être, 'be,' is ambiguous and one of its meanings is être semblable à, 'be similar to.' As with the previous example, we would be doubling the number of meanings of all sentences containing the verb être in order to account for a few special cases. And here again, there is a simple rhetorical solution: modalising (43) and assigning to it a complete interpretation as in (44):

(44)      C'est comme si la maison que Pierre habite c'était celle de Paul, mais il a un garage en plus.

(44E)   It's as if the house where Pierre lives is Paul's house, but he also has a garage.

To meet Condition VI, c'est comme si, 'it's as if,' must be posited; an utterance like (43) will typically come in response to a question like Comment est-ce la maison que Pierre habite? 'What's the house that Pierre lives in like?'

However, in the absence of Condition V, the complete interpretation of (45) would have been preferred:

(45)      La maison que Pierre habite, c'est comme la maison de Paul, mais il y a un garage en plus.

(45E)   The house where Pierre lives is like Paul's house, but there is a garage as well.

While c'est comme si, 'it's as if,' in (44) compares the known world to an imaginary world in which the house Pierre lives in is Paul's house, comme, 'like,' in (45) compares two objects in the known world: Pierre's house and Paul's house. (45) therefore has a more restricted and more precise meaning. Intuitively, it is also part of what the speaker wishes to convey to the hearer.

Is the only reason for preferring (44) to (45) the wish to preserve Condition V, which is so useful for understanding gapped utterances but which is violated by (45)? No, not entirely. In its gapped interpretation, (43) is slightly hyperbolic, which the two-world comparison of (44) accounts for but the two-object comparison of (45) does not. Moreover, if (44) is to meet Condition II and thereby Condition VI, shared knowledge must determine the relevance of c'est comme si; in other words, (44) must implicate a proposition like (45). Hence the intuition that (45) enters into the conceptual representation of (43) is confirmed; but it does so as an implicature and not as a completed interpretation. We will see below how the figurativeness of certain tropes is brought about by the insufficiency of shared knowledge in determining the scope-and thus maximizing the relevance-of a modalisation like c'est comme si.

The fourth and final example:

(46)      J'avais aperçu Jules au meeting mais il m'a juré qu'il n'y était pas.

(46E)   I glimpsed Jules at the meeting but he swore he wasn't there.

If (46) is a complete utterance, it implies that Jules is either a liar or an amnesiac. In many situations, such an implicature would be more relevant than the utterance itself and thus (46) would violate Condition IV. If this is the case, (46) will be interpreted as having a gap and modalised as in (47):

(47)      J'avais cru apercevoir Jules au meeting, mais il m'a juré qu'il n'y était pas.

(47E)   I thought I glimpsed Jules at the meeting, but he swore he wasn't there.

Note-and this is the reason for the example, which is otherwise unproblematic-that while the superficial syntactic relations in (47) are changed, the deep syntactic relations, the ones corresponding to logical functions, are maintained: the deep subject of apercevoir 'glimpse' is indeed je, 'I,' as in (46). Condition V is thus met.

Similar cases to the examples given here are common in ordinary speech and require the notion of a gap which, we will see below, also plays a crucial role in figural speech. Among gaps, only ellipsis is part of the linguistic analysis of the sentence; other gaps appear in the conceptual representation of the utterance and thus in the rhetorical analysis. The widespread confusion in the rhetorical literature between a sentence and an utterance has led certain authors to an unmotivated extension of the notion of ellipsis, and others (sometimes the same ones) to almost entirely ignore non-elliptical gapping phenomena, especially modalisations. The somewhat sterile debate on the nature of metaphor-an elliptical comparison for some, a figure with meaning substitution for others-stems from this confusion. We return to the matter below.

3.1       When none of the meanings of an uttered sentence directly satisfies Conditions I - III, the hearer has two resources: he must seek, on the basis of mobilised shared knowledge and with the guidance of Conditions IV - VI, which the speaker is expected to follow, either an implicature or a gap filler that will, when added to the utterance, allow a canonical conceptual representation to be constructed. At the end of this process, the hearer's object of attention, an utterance "in quotes," is transformed into a set of analysed propositions that describe the information that the speaker wished to convey.

What happens when mobilised shared knowledge does not allow the hearer to construct a conceptual representation meeting Conditions I - IV and the utterance, without a complete analysis, remains in some sense still in quotes? The hearer has several possible hypotheses. He may think that the speaker has not managed to express himself or has overestimated the extent of shared knowledge. It is also possible that the speaker has deliberately violated the conditions of verbal communication out of hostility towards the hearer. Thus, in example (21): the accused, when asked the exact time he returned home, answers "between eight and nine o'clock;" if the fact that the accused knows the exact time he returned home is part of shared knowledge, the implicature in (22) is ruled out, and the accused's answer also constitutes a refusal to answer. More often, when mobilised shared knowledge does not lead to a canonical conceptual representation, the speaker is displaying neither incompetence nor recalcitrance but merely inviting the hearer to seek a figural interpretation. What could not be achieved on the basis of mobilised shared knowledge can be accomplished through symbolic evocation.

Encyclopaedic memory has a two-fold organisation: on one hand a relatively stable classification of information based on numerous conceptual hierarchies, and on the other a network of associations that are constantly replenished from occasional analogies and juxtapositions made outside of the classificatory system. We might say that the encyclopaedia has both a rational and a symbolic organisation (eliminating from these terms any connotation of value judgements); or rather, that the encyclopaedia, rationally organized knowledge of the world, is itself the object of symbolic knowledge, symbolism  being a meta-encyclopaedia within the encyclopaedia. While the rational organisation of the encyclopaedia allows information to be summoned up directly-invoked-on the basis of the concept it is attached to, symbolic organisation allows information to be evoked on the basis of other information it is associated with.

In Rethinking Symbolism I suggested that, when mobilised knowledge and rational invocation are insufficient to account for the object of attention by a fully analysed conceptual representation, appeal is made to symbolic evocation in the following way. First, attention is directed to the particular conceptual condition whose non-fulfilment caused the failure of the conceptual representation. This focalisation defines a field of evocation in passive memory from within which the missing information can be reconstructed. Secondly, evocation scans this field in order to satisfy the unmet condition. Thirdly, if evocation is successful, the defective conceptual representation can be completed and the initial object of attention thus receives its symbolic interpretation. Now it is symbolically associated with all the information that had to be evoked in order to assign to it a conceptual representation.

Invocation is a sequential process, evocation a parallel process, in the sense these notions are used in cognitive psychology. Invocation is a process of reasoning in which each step is determined by the outcome of the previous step. Evocation in a process of sorting: different objects are examined in turn or in parallel and each operation is logically independent of the others. In invocation, therefore, operations are ordered and their order is logically determined. For evocation, no order is necessary, and if there is one, it is determined by factors relating to energy. In other words, impulses and desires, which can only hinder invocation, are on the contrary an engine for evocation. The goal of invocation is a single pre-existing object; evocation constructs its object. In symbolic interpretation, only focalisation is determined by the object of interpretation; evocation depends on the idiosyncrasies of the interpreter. It is thus pointless to search for a meaning that will be systematically associated with a symbolic phenomenon. No such meaning exists.

With these notions established, it is possible to sketch an answer to the two questions posed at the beginning of this article: Under what Conditions does an utterance have a figural value? How is a figural utterance interpreted? I propose:

VII.     An utterance takes on a figural value when mobilised shared knowledge is insufficient to assign to it a conceptual representation in accordance with Conditions I - VI and this deficiency is not attributed to the speaker's incompetence or recalcitrance.

VIII.    When an utterance takes on a figural value, the unsatisfied condition responsible for its figural character is focalized; evocation is used to restore the condition and thereby correct the initial conceptual representation.

This is not all. Even if focalisation and evocation lead to an acceptable interpretation of the utterance, the fact remains that the speaker has acted as if the information evoked was part of mobilised shared knowledge or could be invoked. If the hearer, having rejected the idea of speaker incompetence or recalcitrance, wishes to interpret the speaker's behaviour as obeying the principles of conversation, he can only do so symbolically. Only a second evocation, bearing on the relationship between speaker and hearer, no longer about the utterance [l'énoncé] but about the utterance act [l'énonciation], will allow the hearer to conceive how the knowledge that was originally evoked could have been invoked. Hence:

Aucune note. Soyez le premier à attribuer une note !

Commentaires (1)

1. best swiss replica rolex (site web) 10/04/2012

It's apparent that you researched information before writing this article. There are several valid points mentioned that pique the reader's interest. best swiss replica rolex It's good to see a writer make such a great effort for their work.

Ajouter un commentaire

Vous utilisez un logiciel de type AdBlock, qui bloque le service de captchas publicitaires utilisé sur ce site. Pour pouvoir envoyer votre message, désactivez Adblock.

When I established the thesis of Rhetorical Aspect (Choukri ,1999)I provided an introduction to a new general modular rhetoric which interpret the figures in an aspectual model . so, we can widen the grammatical aspect (Comrie B., 1976 - Cohen, D.1989) into a generic sense. analysing the perfective aspect or the iterative (or habitual) aspect, we may notice that some features like « iteration » and « continuity » have their mirror manifestations in rhetorical figures such as metaphor and alliteration. The basic principle of this thesis is that time is a cognitive component in the linguistic and visual discourses: Poetry, Novel, publicity, and educational discourse... Moreover, time is a procceeding concept, which serves to explain and interpret many discourses. We can therefore ask this question: What is a rhetorical aspectual model? choukri_2007
×