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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Michael ISRAEL

Affect and Affectivity: Informative Value at the Heart of Polarity Sensitivity

Abstract/Résumé: To explain the distribution of English indefinites with any and ever, Klima (1964) proposed that there must be some "grammatico-semantic feature" (GSF) which unites the various kinds of clauses (inter alia, negative, interrogative, and conditional) that license these sorts of negative polarity items (NPIs). Klima dubbed this feature "Affect(ive)" and since then debate has centered on just what sort of property [±Affective] is (Ladusaw 1979; Linebarger 1980; Giannakidou 1999), and how it is that speakers can master such an abstract GSF so intuitively (Crain & Petroski 2002; Verhagen 2005; Israel 2011). But there has been very little discussion of just why Klima chose the word "affect" for this category. In this talk I seek to put the affect back in the grammar of affectivity, by showing that the expression of emotion plays a central role in the ways people actually use affective constructions, and in the ways that ordinary expressions grammaticalize as polarity items. To this end, I examine uses of [+Affective] constructions in contexts where there is a premium on persuasiveness, where the goal is in part to rouse an audience emotionally: for example, in love poetry, popular songs, and political oratory. These kinds of examples show that affective operators are useful in crafting emotionally persuasive discourse, even if that is not their primary function. Next, I consider the role of emotional rhetoric in the grammaticalization of sensitivity in verbal NPIs, particularly in the verbs care and mind. Uses of these verbs under negation led to inverse patterns of semantic reanalysis in Early Modern English. Roughly, care shifted from denoting ‘worry' and then 'indifference' ("I care not what you do") to 'desire' and 'liking' ("I don't care to go"), while mind went from an early sense of ‘pay heed to’ ("mind your own business") to newer ‘worry about’ and ‘dislike’ senses ("don’t mind me" and "don’t mind if I do"). As a result both verbs are used less to talk about feelings and more to negotiate the ways that feelings get aroused in various sorts of speech acts. Thus as the newer senses spread to other affective contexts like questions and conditionals they become specialized as illocutionary force indicating devices: [care to V] for invitations and [mind Ving] for requests. Ultimately, the process of grammaticalization here appears to be driven by uses in which these constructions effectively modulate and moderate the emotional tenor of a discourse. I conclude that [+Affective] contexts are in fact literally more affective than other contexts: in general, they are more involved, more intense, more evaluative, and altogether more emotionally moving than their neutral (positive) counterparts.