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On conversational valence and the definition of interjections

CollectionsAustralian Linguistic Society Conference (2011)
Title: On conversational valence and the definition of interjections
Author(s): Libert, Alan Reed
Australian Linguistic Society
Keywords: interjections
word classes
Publisher: Australian Linguistic Society
Citation: Libert, A. R. (2012). On conversational valence and the definition of interjections. In M. Ponsonnet, L. Dao & M. Bowler (Eds), Proceedings of the 42nd Australian Linguistic Society Conference – 2011, Australian National University, Canberra ACT, 2-4 December 2011 (pp. 282-296).
Series/Report no.: Australian Linguistic Society Conference: 42nd
Interjections, like some other word classes, have proven difficult to define in a principled way, and therefore there has been disagreement about whether some words belong to this class. Lists of interjections in grammars sometimes include arguably disparate items, e.g. greeting terms, along with words such as oh and ah. There has also been dispute about the possibility or necessity for interjections to be in a syntactic relation to other components, that is, about their valence. In this paper I propose a definition of interjection which involves an extension of valence in the usual syntactic sense, introducing the notion of conversational valence to distinguish between interjections and words such as goodbye. The latter can only be felicitously used when there is an addressee present, as well as the speaker, thus having a conversational valence of 2, while interjections do not require an addressee, i.e. their conversational valence is 1. For example, if I stub my toe I can appropriately say ouch! in the absence of anyone else. Interjections are distinguished by being the only linguistic items with such a low conversational valence.
ISBN: 978-0-9802815-4-5


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