The Possessive NP Construction: Discourse Function and Discourse Profile

Mira Ariel


Pragmatists and discourse grammarians have benefited tremendously from examining naturally occurring data. An examination of all and only the necessary discoursal conditions obtaining when a certain linguistic expression occurs has paved the way for pragmatists to describe the appropriateness conditions placed on linguistic forms. These were identified as the discourse functions of those linguistic expressions. For example, based on an empirical study of English itand wh-clefts in discourse, Prince ( 1978) defined distinct discourse functions for it-clefts and wh-clefts. She argued that the discourse function of the embedded clause in it-clefts is to mark "known (factual) information" and that of wh-clefts is to mark information "Given (currently available) to the addressee". These discourse functions should hold true in (virtually) every case the clefts are used.

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