FRAGMENTS

FRAGMENTS

Fragments: constructionalising non-canonical expressions in written English

Building on previous projects on the non-canonical syntax of English, this initiative develops a new research line on 'fragments', that is, on syntactically marked but communicatively effective structures of the type: Hi to Simon [& take care], Case over, Never mind, Sorry, Glad to meet you, etc. These structures have not received a homogeneous treatment or have been sufficiently described or classified in previous research; they have been relegated to categories comprising various types of non-canonical expressions grouped under labels such as fragmentary, elliptical, irregular, minor or sub-sentences. In this project, the term '(clausal/sentential) fragment' is adopted to encompass all units of discourse characteristically oral but also common in writing without a complete sentence/clause structure, with or without explicit linguistic antecedents, which express a propositional meaning equivalent to that of a complete sentence or clause, with different degrees of conventionalisation.
Fragments constitute a challenge for linguistic theories as far as the relationship between form and meaning is concerned since, despite their fragmentary syntax, these structures convey meanings equivalent to complete sentences or clauses in specific linguistic and/or contextual situations. Also, fragments perform a wide range of speech acts (ask/answer, show (dis)agreement). Due to their characteristics and functions, fragments are located at the intersection between the grammar and the pragmatic-discursive level, an aspect that they share with so-called 'thetical' constructions. Starting from the idea that thetical structures and fragments share properties such as (i) syntactic and/or prosodic independence, (ii) compliance with grammatical norms applicable to complete sentences (in 'Sentence Grammar') and, above all, (iii) a non-restrictive interpretation dependent on the discursive situation, the concept of fragment in this project gives room to constructions of Thetical Grammar, such as parentheticals and independent subordinate (insubordinate) clauses. Another weak point in the study of the fragments in English, which constitutes one of the most relevant contributions of this project, is the adoption of the theoretical framework of Construction Grammar, which conceives language as a network of constructions, that is, of semantic and/or discursive form/function pairings in which the form/function is not strictly predictable from the components of the expressions, and rejects the existence of a deep syntactic structure. The combination of formal analyses (syntactic, structural, prosodic and purely distributive characteristics based on frequency and productivity) based on written (and oral) corpora, and the functional study of fragments will determine the degree of matching ('pairing') that justifies treating these expressions as 'constructions'.

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