Drawing the boundaries of meaning

Drawing the boundaries of meaning: Neo-Gricean studies in pragmatics and semantics in honor of Laurence R. Horn. Ed. by Betty J. Birner and Gregory Ward. (Studies in language companion series 80.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. 350. ISBN 9027230900. $188 (Hb).

Reviewed by Manuel Padilla Cruz, University of Seville

This volume gathers eighteen interesting papers by twenty-two leading researchers to honor scholar Laurence R. Horn. It starts with an introduction in which the editors summarize the prolific and influential work by this linguist, mainly devoted to delineating the boundary between semantics and pragmatics.

In the first contribution, ‘Where have some of the presuppositions gone?’, Barbara Abbott clarifies the distinction between presuppositions and implicatures, and why some presupposition triggers get their presuppositions neutralized. In ‘The top 10 misconceptions about implicature’, Kent Bach reflects on frequent misconceptions about implicatures. In ‘Inferential relations and noncanonical word order’, Betty J. Birner argues that inferable information in noncanonical constructions can be better explained if ‘discourse-old’ information is seen as inferentially connected to previous context.

In the fourth paper, ‘Sherlock Holmes was in no danger’, Greg Carlson and Gianluca Storto discuss the semantics and pragmatics of context-sensitive lexical items with a variable that is assigned a value in a specific context by pragmatic processes. In ‘Free choice in Romanian’, Donka F. Farkas analyses the uses of the Romanian determiner any from an indefinitist standpoint. In ‘Polarity, questions, and the scalar properties of even’, Anastasia Giannakidou explores the behavior of three Greek expressions that seem to be the equivalents of ‘even’.

In the seventh paper, ‘Discourse particles and the symbiosis of natural language processing and basic research’, Georgia M. Green discusses some attitudinal discourse markers whose apparently meaningless occurrence unveils the speaker’s feelings. Next, Michael Israel accounts for how speakers use attenuation and understatement to reduce the content of what they say in ‘Saying less and meaning less’. In ‘I can’t seem to figure this out’, Pauline Jacobson reflects on the scope of the constituents of the can’t seem to construction.

In the tenth contribution, ‘Referring expressions and conversational implicatures’, Andrew Kehler and Gregory Ward argue that there must be ‘nonfamiliarity implicatures’ that implicate that the referents of some expressions are nonfamiliar to the hearer. Then, Steven R. Kleinedler and Randall Eggert deal with the semantics and pragmatics of personal pronouns and their lexicographical challenges in ‘Indexi-lexicography’, contending that recourse to pragmatics is necessary for their definitions. In ‘Why defining is seldom “just semantics”: Marriage and marriage’, Sally McConnell-Ginet centers on the function of some instrumental definitions for developing concepts, understanding, and social life.

In the thirteenth paper, ‘Negation and modularity’, Frederick J. Newmeyer supports a modular account of English negation. In ‘A note on Mandarin possessives, demonstratives, and definiteness’, Barbara H. Partee analyses some problems posed by Mandarin possessives, numerals, and demonstratives in combinations related to definiteness and partitivity. In ‘On a homework problem of Larry Horn’s’, Francis J. Pelletier and Andrew Hartline discuss a solution to the problem of the meaning of ‘or’ proposed by Larry Horn.

In the sixteenth contribution, ‘Impersonal pronouns in French and Yiddish’, Ellen F. Prince examines the impersonal subject pronoun ‘one’ in these languages in terms of its truth-conditional meaning and discourse anaphora possibilities. In ‘Motors and switches: An exercise in syntax and pragmatics’, Jerrold M. Sadock defends the validity of the Gricean approach developed by Larry Horn to account for some natural language connectives. Finally, in ‘Fine-tuning Jespersen’s Cycle’, Scott A. Schwenter provides additional evidence to prove that Jespersen’s cycle regarding negation markers needs some adjustments.