Semantics and pragmatics of hedges in English and Japanese
Hedges are expressions used to communicate the speaker's weak commitment to information conveyed; i.e. by hedging, speakers may moderate the assertive force of their utterances. They include sentence adverbials such as probably and technically, adjectives such as regular and typical, particles such as ne and kedo in Japanese etc. Hedges crosscut parts of speech and therefore do not form a natural syntactic class. This thesis argues that existing analyses of hedging devices fall short of full adequacy and presents a Relevance-theoretic account. In Chapter 1, I argue that hedging is a pragmatic phenomenon as the effect may be derived via features of the ostensive stimulus other than encoded linguistic content; e.g. the speaker can communicate her weak commitment by using certain prosodic features, facial expressions, shoulder shrugging etc. Discussions of hedging often arise in sociolinguistic contexts. However, I argue that the moderation of social relations such as the consideration of politeness is not its intrinsic function. The inadequacy of existing analyses I point out in Chapter 1 is due to the lack of a sufficiently articulated pragmatic framework, and for this reason, I turn to Relevance theory. In Chapter 2, I outline Relevance theory which provides a cognitively based explanation of communication. The theory makes rigorous distinctions between encoded meaning and inferred meaning, between the explicit and implicit content of an utterance, between descriptive and interpretive representations, etc. which provide the concepts necessary to isolate the semantics of the hedging devices as I explain in Chapters 3 and 4. In Chapter 3 and 4, I propose Relevance-theoretic analyses of particular English and Japanese expressions, which appear regularly in the literature on hedging. I try to capture the intrinsic semantic content of these elements and show how the familiar hedging effects arise as a result of the interaction between this encoded content, the particularities of context and considerations of relevance.