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"Modal" 'that' as determiner and pronoun: the primacy of the cognitive-interactional dimension

Abstract : In this article, I examine the 'modal' or 'empathetic' (Lyons, 1977: 677) use of the distal (or "non-proximal") determiner/pronoun 'that': namely, where the intended referent may have just been evoked in the immediately prior discourse, but where the distal pronoun 'that', not the 'in-focus' 'it' or the 'activated',proximal 'this' is used. The rationale behind the choice of this particular type of indexical seems to be that the speaker is distancing him/herself from the referent, not wishing to ascribe actuality to it in the way that would be the case if either 'it' or 'this' were used instead. Examination of this particular value of that leads to the hypothesis that the principles underlying the choice of 'that' as opposed to 'this' or 'it' generally are not derived 'objectively', as it were, from their situational use in terms of degrees of proximity of a referent or demonstratum to the speaker or hearer, nor primarily in terms of attention focus. They are, rather, social and cognitive, and play an important interactional role in the construction of discourse.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 11:10:34 AM
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Francis Cornish. "Modal" 'that' as determiner and pronoun: the primacy of the cognitive-interactional dimension. English Language and Linguistics, Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2001, 5 (2), pp.297-315. ⟨hal-00952098⟩



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