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Book: The Language Dynamic

Chapter: Prospection: The Emergence of Target States and Common Ground in Speech

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44590


While earlier chapters have looked at how linguistic systems emerged through contextualised interactions, Chapter 5, Prospection: The Emergence of Target States and Common Ground in Text, by contrast, examines how in a metastable linguistic system the deployment of lexicogrammar and prosody allows for meanings to emerge within and across a text. While this chapter focuses on the instantiation of syntagms, reference is made to the fact that the syntagm itself results from paradigmatic choices. We introduce the key notion of prospection which states that the production of an element requires the production of a further element and that this continues until certain grammatical criteria have been satisfied. In the chapter we examine a short English source text and two translations (Japanese and Greek). We do this to illustrate how the linguistic structure of each language creates expectancies which result in the realisation of semantic meaning at two scales. The first is a local level and realises a proposition which then acts as the ground for the following proposition until the overall communicative intention, the second scale, is achieved. We then examine a reading of each of the three texts in order to examine the contribution prosody makes to prospecting further elements in tandem with the lexicogrammatical choices. The chapter demonstrates that the overall principle of prospection is valid for the three languages though the actual operation of what is prospected depends on the characterology of the language. Our take-home point is that the emergence of meaning in the three metastable linguistic systems results in perturbation in the overall system and once again affords the opportunity for change.

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