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Making sense of "anomalous" vocalizations

Sauciuc, Gabriela-Alina LU (2010) Language as social coordination : an evolutionary perspective
Abstract
The category of interjections is claimed to be universally encountered across languages of the world; this status, however, does not exempt it of a most troubled linguistic history. Interjections have been classifieds both as word-like and sentence- (or utterance-) –like; they have been denied linguistic status or exiled at the periphery of language as a bizarre, primitive form of communication, as pseudo-linguistic devices or as arbitrary performance errors. With the raise of functional and interactional approaches, interjections have been welcomed back to language in spite of their anomalous phonology (including sounds or phonotactic units at odds with language specific phonological restrictions), anomalous morpho-syntactic behaviour... (More)
The category of interjections is claimed to be universally encountered across languages of the world; this status, however, does not exempt it of a most troubled linguistic history. Interjections have been classifieds both as word-like and sentence- (or utterance-) –like; they have been denied linguistic status or exiled at the periphery of language as a bizarre, primitive form of communication, as pseudo-linguistic devices or as arbitrary performance errors. With the raise of functional and interactional approaches, interjections have been welcomed back to language in spite of their anomalous phonology (including sounds or phonotactic units at odds with language specific phonological restrictions), anomalous morpho-syntactic behaviour (normally, interjections do not enter syntactic relationships), apparent lack of semantics (what an interjection “means” changes dramatically from one context to another) and almost total absence from written, solipsistic discourse (since spoken or online interactions are the realm of interjections).

The successive attempts of defining and describing the nature of interjections generated conceptual and terminological polemics which makes it difficult to establish the place of interjections in the linguistic system. More recent approaches have underlined their border-nature, both intra- (as amenable to cover functions attributed to other word classes), and extra-linguistically (through shared features with holophrastic communication systems and, especially, with gestural communication). Other studies yet have stressed the universality across languages of the world (some even establishing a parallel to nonhuman primate vocalizations) of the inventory of interjectional vocalization and their approximate functions, giving support to the interjectional theory of the origin of language.

Drawing on a detailed conversational and cognitive analysis of the 12 most frequent primary interjections (i.e. vocalizations of the type ah, eh, oh, etc.) in Romanian and Italian, as established by their occurrence in an extensive corpus of spontaneous interactions in each language (both personal and published), but also on a broad array of secondary data in a variety of other languages, it is the aim of this paper to elucidate how we make sense of interjections (by taking into account, among others, specific communicative goals and social cognitive processes) and to dissect closely how these “anomalous” cries are the locus where natural, universal tendencies and local cultural-linguistic specificities meet. Finally, and related to the issues above, a third and most important question to address is why, when languages of the world have developed into such sophisticated systems of communication that would not favour ambiguity (cfr. Grice’s maxims, for instance), people still make wide use in everyday interaction of such a holistic, signal-like form of communication, which unlike symbolic verbal human communication is symptomatic of a cued- (as opposed to a detached-) kind of representation? Considering that interjection sense-making is so difficult to theorize and every new study on interjections is virtually yet another new approach to interjections, how come laymen cannot make it without them and do not seem to put much effort when making sense of interjections? (Less)
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organization
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Contribution to conference
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unpublished
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keywords
interjection, corpus analysis, holistic communication, language coordination
conference name
Language as social coordination : an evolutionary perspective
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
53b4ec71-6472-468b-a346-54ac0bea89e6 (old id 4698539)
date added to LUP
2014-10-17 11:08:48
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2016-04-16 10:03:18
@misc{53b4ec71-6472-468b-a346-54ac0bea89e6,
  abstract     = {The category of interjections is claimed to be universally encountered across languages of the world; this status, however, does not exempt it of a most troubled linguistic history. Interjections have been classifieds both as word-like and sentence- (or utterance-) –like; they have been denied linguistic status or exiled at the periphery of language as a bizarre, primitive form of communication, as pseudo-linguistic devices or as arbitrary performance errors. With the raise of functional and interactional approaches, interjections have been welcomed back to language in spite of their anomalous phonology (including sounds or phonotactic units at odds with language specific phonological restrictions), anomalous morpho-syntactic behaviour (normally, interjections do not enter syntactic relationships), apparent lack of semantics (what an interjection “means” changes dramatically from one context to another) and almost total absence from written, solipsistic discourse (since spoken or online interactions are the realm of interjections). <br/><br>
The successive attempts of defining and describing the nature of interjections generated conceptual and terminological polemics which makes it difficult to establish the place of interjections in the linguistic system. More recent approaches have underlined their border-nature, both intra- (as amenable to cover functions attributed to other word classes), and extra-linguistically (through shared features with holophrastic communication systems and, especially, with gestural communication). Other studies yet have stressed the universality across languages of the world (some even establishing a parallel to nonhuman primate vocalizations) of the inventory of interjectional vocalization and their approximate functions, giving support to the interjectional theory of the origin of language. <br/><br>
Drawing on a detailed conversational and cognitive analysis of the 12 most frequent primary interjections (i.e. vocalizations of the type ah, eh, oh, etc.) in Romanian and Italian, as established by their occurrence in an extensive corpus of spontaneous interactions in each language (both personal and published), but also on a broad array of secondary data in a variety of other languages, it is the aim of this paper to elucidate how we make sense of interjections (by taking into account, among others, specific communicative goals and social cognitive processes) and to dissect closely how these “anomalous” cries are the locus where natural, universal tendencies and local cultural-linguistic specificities meet. Finally, and related to the issues above, a third and most important question to address is why, when languages of the world have developed into such sophisticated systems of communication that would not favour ambiguity (cfr. Grice’s maxims, for instance), people still make wide use in everyday interaction of such a holistic, signal-like form of communication, which unlike symbolic verbal human communication is symptomatic of a cued- (as opposed to a detached-) kind of representation? Considering that interjection sense-making is so difficult to theorize and every new study on interjections is virtually yet another new approach to interjections, how come laymen cannot make it without them and do not seem to put much effort when making sense of interjections?},
  author       = {Sauciuc, Gabriela-Alina},
  keyword      = {interjection,corpus analysis,holistic communication,language coordination},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Making sense of "anomalous" vocalizations},
  year         = {2010},
}