Thematic Panel 4 - TAME Markers and the Procedural/Conceptual Distinction


Cécile Barbet, Alain Rihs & Louis de Saussure

University of Neuchatel, Switzerland

Opal Coast University, France

1.Theme and Purpose of the Panel

According to Wilson and Sperber (1993: 1), an utterance can be expected “to encode two basic types of information: representational and computational, or conceptual and procedural – that is, information about the representations to be manipulated, and information about how to manipulate them.” Markers of tense, aspect, modality and evidentiality (TAME) are particularly challenging for the conceptual/procedural distinction because of their non obvious status regarding this distinction. The panel is intended a specific follow up of the “Procedural Meaning: problems and perspectives” Conference that took place in Madrid last October. We assume that issues about TAME markers could greatly benefit from the significant progresses that have been done recently in this particular area of research.

The relevance-theoretic notion of procedural encoding was first used to describe the functions of discourse connectives such as so and after all in the interpretative process. For instance, Blakemore (1987) considers that these expressions neither contribute to the utterance’s truth-conditional content nor do they trigger any specific conceptual representation but they nevertheless maximize relevance by constraining the derivation of implicatures. Later, it has been argued that some expressions, like pronouns, can also constrain the utterance’s explicit (truth-conditional) content (see Wilson & Sperber 1993, Nicolle 1996). It is also the case of the Sissala ‘hearsay’ particle re according to Blass (1990). Finally, it has been suggested that some expressions encode both procedural and conceptual information. For Moeschler (2002), this is potentially the case for every linguistic expression, whereas Nicolle (1997) or Fraser (2006) mainly concentrate on discourse markers, discourse connectives and illocutionary markers or pronouns.

In this perspective, Fraser (2006) suggests that “every linguistic form potentially contains three types of semantic information: procedural, which specifies the role it plays in the interpretative structure of the sentence; conceptual, which specifies its representational content; and combinatorial, which specifies with what constituents and in what way it may combine to produce more complex semantic structures.” From the point of view of grammaticalization, Nicolle (1998) assumes that markers of tense or modality can be viewed as encoding such combinatorial meanings. Grammatical markers can exhibit some ‘semantic retention’ (see Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca, 1994) – meaning lexical retention, and the grammaticalization process can be viewed as a process of proceduralization.

The two connected questions that arise from the ‘combinatorial meaning’ hypothesis are the following:

-Can (usually considered) conceptual expressions encode some load of procedural information?

According to Blakemore (2007), a distinction has to be done between procedural expressions, which provide constraints on the inferential path the hearer is intended to follow to achieve relevance, and expressions such as evidential adverbials, illocutionary adverbials or parentheticals which simply encode a constituent of the conceptual representation which achieves relevance in virtue of the information it provides about the interpretation of their hosts. She suggests that the expression ‘conceptual constraints’ (i.e. constraints which are communicated by an expression which encodes a constituent of a conceptual representation) account for the latter case.

-And can (usually considered) procedural expressions encode some conceptual information?

Saussure (2003) conceives ‘procedures’ as organized sequences of instructions: when all the effects of meaning of an expression cannot be calculated on the basis of a single concept (i.e. when the concept does not exhaust the explanation of all the interpretations in context), then the considered expression triggers an interpretive procedure, and any conceptual information that seems attached to it is in fact unmotivated. For example the concept of ‘followingness’ is reducible to an instruction like “place the event E after the previously mentioned event E 0 ” within the general procedure of a word like ensuite in French (which encodes as well other information).

The panel would gather communications on the theme of TAME markers and the procedural/conceptual distinction focusing on the following (non-exclusive) topics:

-Do TAME markers contain both conceptual and procedural information? What type of instructions do TAME markers convey?

-Defining features of TAME marker’s procedural content

-Grammaticalization of TAME markers interpreted as proceduralization

-Experimental inquiries on TAME markers enlightening their status and evidence from psycholinguistics

-Computational models

2. Scientific Committee

Regina BLASS, SIL International and AIU Nairobi,

Victoria ESCANDELL-VIDAL, Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia, Madrid (UNED)

Bruce FRASER, Boston UniversityElly IFANTIDOU, University of AthensJacques MOESCHLER, Université de Genève

Steve NICOLLE, SIL and AIU Nairobi

Thorstein FREITHEIM, Norwegian University of Science and Technology,