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Lexical and Grammatical Gradability: Surprise and Grading, Sapir and Culioli

Abstract : In this presentation I deal with the concepts of grading and gradability, and show that gradability is concerned with a kind of qualitative grading, which has to be distinguished from another type of division into degree, called quantitative grading. I refer myself to metalinguistic tools taken from Antoine Culioli’s Théorie des opérations énonciatives (TOE) such as what is called the “notion” and the notional domain attached to it, which I briefly define. More precisely I particularly point to qualitative grading, and I explore the categories of degree and intensity in terms of lexical and grammatical gradability, defined as the quantification of qualification. This consists in introducing some qualitative discontinuity within the unfragmented, continuous wholes of notions in terms of orientations, scaling either towards the type or attracting centre of the notional domain or outwards to the boundary. It is worth noting that in the absence of syntactic marks of qualitative grading, words express intensity lexically; this is called “positive degree”. Both kinds of gradability, lexical and grammatical, interact in the construction of meaning through notional and intersubjective kinds of adjustment. The notion of “surprise”, that is to say the resulting state experienced by the subject when confronted to unexpectedness, can be denoted by words expressing various degrees of the features considered common to that notion in order to be situated in the interior of the attached notional domain. There are therefore various ways of expressing surprise according to the degree of unexpectedness that the speaker finds necessary to make explicit: either by means of premodification by a degree adverb, involving syntactic qualitative grading, or by choosing a term from a range of lexical items already specialized in expressing a certain degree of surprise, inscribed in the lexicon itself. In Annex 2 I compare Sapir’s and Culioli’s theoretical frameworks on grading and categorizing.
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Contributor : Catherine Filippi-Deswelle <>
Submitted on : Saturday, March 24, 2018 - 6:10:00 PM
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Catherine Filippi-Deswelle. Lexical and Grammatical Gradability: Surprise and Grading, Sapir and Culioli . 2014. ⟨hal-01706139v2⟩

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