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Jan Rijkhoff

The Noun Phrase in Functional Discourse Grammar

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  • Daniel García Velasco, University of Oviedo, Spain
  • Jan Rijkhoff (Editor)
  • Section for Linguistics
(last section from 'Introduction' of The Noun Phrase in Functional Discourse Grammar)
The previous sections have shown that there are basically three proposals concerning the way NPs should be analysed in F(D)G:

1. the analysis according to “classical FG” (Dik 1997);
2. the analysis proposed in FDG (Hengeveld this volume; Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2006);
3. the combined NP/clause analysis put forward by Rijkhoff (this volume; to appear).

FDG, as the natural successor to FG, has adopted some aspects of the way NPs have been analysed in FG, but as we saw above, the new architecture has also made it possible, and sometimes even necessary, to come up with some new features (notably the strict separation between levels). To what extent FDG can or will accommodate Rijkhoff’s proposals depends on several factors. One of the major obstacles seems to be that in FDG layer-ing is intricately connected with variables for entities at the representational level, whereas in Rijkhoff’s approach the various layers reflect differences in the semantic scope of operators and satellites.
As may be expected, some of the papers in the present volume (those by Hengeveld, Escribano, Rijkhoff and Keizer) primarily deal with matters of representation. Others, however, are more concerned with the practical application of the model with regard to discourse-interpersonal matters (Butler, Connolly), whereas the contributions by Bakker and Pfau and by García Velasco mainly deal with morphosyntactic issues. It is also true, however, that one cannot make a very strict thematic division between the chapters in this volume, as one of the advantages of the FDG model is precisely the fact that grammatical phenomena can be treated from different perspectives (pragmatic, morphosyntactic, etc.) in a coherent fashion.
In the opening article, Kees Hengeveld (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands) lays bare the analysis of the NP within the general structure of FDG. He argues that the separation between the interpersonal, the representational, and the morphosyntactic levels of analysis in FDG allows for a more transparent and systematic treatment of noun phrases. Hengeveld takes the prototypical noun phrase as his point of departure, which he defines as an NP with a nominal head that denotes a concrete, first-order entity by lexical means and is used referentially rather than ascriptively. He then discusses examples of non-prototypical NPs from various languages and shows how they can be analysed in FDG.
Jan Rijkhoff (University of Aarhus, Denmark) puts forward an alternative, 5-layered model of the NP (with parallels in the clause) within the general framework of FDG, which has separate layers for classifying, qualifying, quantifying, localizing and discourse-referential modifiers (in this approach the term “modifiers” includes both grammatical and lexical modifier categories). In his view, there should be no special slot for a modi-fier that specifies a subjective attitudinal meaning (Hengeveld’s R-modifiers), since such meanings can be expressed in many different ways (e.g. lexically, grammatically, morphosyntactically, prosodically – or a combination of these). Rijkhoff then suggests that all components of the FDG model represent some kind of context and argues that a separate External/Situational Component (“E-context”) should be added to accommodate elements from the extra-linguistic context (notably the speech situation, including the speech participants), which in current FDG are represented in the Contextual Component and at the Interpersonal level in the Grammatical Component.
José Luis González Escribano’s article (University of Oviedo, Spain) provides a critical assessment of the ways the NP has been analysed in FG and FDG. He observes a number of inconsistencies in the way FDG uses variables, operators and scope, which, he argues, can be eliminated if a hierarchical, binary-branching NP structure is assumed. He suggests FDG should reintroduce Dik’s idea of Dynamic Term Construction and extend the current ontology of entities. The result would be a more cogent treatment of scope and NP syntax, which does not force the theory to abandon any of its fundamental methodological principles.
Evelien Keizer (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands) also deals with matters of representation in her analysis of the notions of reference and ascription in FDG. She argues that variables at the representational level represent the “mental extension set” of the entity described, rather than the intended referent. As a consequence, a clear separation is established between the grammatical component and the contextual component in FDG. She tests the validity of her proposal against a wide variety of forms and constructions, such as copular sentences, proper names, pronouns and appositive structures.
In his article on interpersonal meaning, Christopher S. Butler (University of Wales, Swansea, UK) deals with several issues. The first part focuses on the way speaker attitude is handled in the two NP models presented in this volume: as a modifier by Hengeveld and as a global qualification of an entity by Rijkhoff. In the second part Butler argues that there are two types of interpersonal meaning: one is concerned with the discourse context (orienting the addressee towards the actuality or non-actuality of an event), the other with speech acts and certain types of modality (having to do with social and personal context). The main body of the article investigates in considerable detail the kind of interpersonal meaning that is oriented towards the social and personal context (i.e. the second type), which is illustrated with many examples from English and Spanish. The last section offers a detailed corpus-based investigation of English poor as an interpersonal modifier, when it is used to express sympathy towards the referent named in the NP.
Pragmatic issues also take centre stage in the article by John Connolly (Loughborough University, England, UK) on freestanding NPs in written documents: NPs that are more or less peripheral to the main body of discourse and have been characterized as instances of “block language” (Quirk et al. 1985: 845–847). The article investigates how freestanding NPs may be treated in FDG and in particular examines the implications for the integration of grammar and pragmatics. Connolly discusses several kinds of pragmatic functions that a freestanding NP can fulfill, showing that these extra-clausal NPs are used in relation with linguistic as well as non-linguistic material (such as images). He argues that FDG should incorporate freestanding NPs, proposes a preliminary list of additional pragmatic functions and suggests that the formulation of “an accurate set of pragmatic rules” could facilitate the integration of FDG into a wider theory of verbal interaction.
Dik Bakker and Roland Pfau (both University of Amsterdam) deal with agreement in the NP against the background of the Dynamic Expression Rules proposed by Bakker in several earlier studies. The authors assume a process interpretation of the F(D)G model in which matters of form and order are interlaced. Their contribution is particularly concerned with agreement phenomena in the German noun phrase, which is noted for its morphological complexity. They show that their model can account for NP-internal agreement phenomena, including speech errors, as attested in a large corpus of spoken German.
Daniel García Velasco (University of Oviedo) examines the so-called Complex Noun Phrase Constraint within the context of FDG. The existence of restrictions on the displacement of syntactic units is arguably a challenge to functional theories of grammar, which do not make use of movement transformations, because they seem to provide a strong argument in favour of the need for an autonomous syntactic component in grammar. However, the author argues that the constraint cannot be explained on the basis of configurational restrictions alone and that the activation status of referents in discourse is crucial to a proper understanding of the phenomenon. He then shows how the cognitive status of referents can be represented in the contextual component of FDG.
We hope this introduction gives the reader a good idea of the way NPs are handled in FDG and that it shows that this new theory offers an interesting and valuable framework in which to describe and explain grammatical phenomena. The relation between linguistic theories and linguistic research should be bidirectional: theories open up new paths of research, and research, in its turn, provides results that eventually lead to changes in the theory. Most of the papers in the present volume illustrate this dual relationship: they test the theory by analysing the NP from different angles and on the basis of facts from various languages, ultimately suggesting certain modifications of the theory. This, we believe, is clear evidence of the strength and the flexibility of the new theory of Functional Discourse Grammar. Given the youth of the model there are of course many aspects that have remained undiscussed or need a more detailed treatment, but we look forward to the start of a lively debate on the basis of the data and pro-posals presented in this volume. Finally, we wish to express our sincere gratitude to several people who offered their generous help in the editing process. Unfortunately, the names of about a dozen colleagues cannot be revealed as they have acted as anonymous referees in the selection procedure, but we would like to express here our warmest thanks for their valuable advice. We are also grateful to Lachlan Mackenzie who carefully read the entire manuscript and offered many very useful comments, with regard to both form and content. Daniel García Velasco also wishes to acknowledge the financial support of the Dept. of Anglogermanic and French Studies and the Research Vice-Rectorate of the University of Oviedo.
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationBerlin/New York
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-019867-6
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-020537-4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
SeriesTrends in Linguistics - Studies and Monographs (TiLSM) 195

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