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Lexical pragmatics and types of linguistic encoding: evidence from pre- and postpositions in Behdini-Kurdish

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Abstract: Lexical pragmatics starts from the assumption that the meaning communicatedby a word is underdetermined by its semantics, and lexical pragmatistsusually study the processes involved in bridging the gap between theencoded and the communicated meaning of words. This paper studiesa different but related question: wether different types of linguisticencoding can play empirically distinguishable roles in lexical pragmatics.Carston (2002) suggests that some words may encode templates for conceptformation whereas others encode fully-fledged concepts that provideinputs to pragmatic processes. Blakemore (1987) argued that some wordsencode constraints on inferential processes rather than concepts.But if some words might encode nothing more than concept-formationtemplates, and others procedural constraints, then both types of wordsappear to be highly context dependent and their linguistic semanticsrather abstract in nature. Is it possible to distinguish these differenttypes of encoding empirically? In this paper I want to argue thatthe answer to this question is positive. In Behdini-Kurdish, thereis a class of four fundamental prepositions *di* in , *li* at , *ji* from , *bi* with . Furthermore, there is alarger class of simple prepositions such as *ser* on , *nav* within , *ber* in front . These simple prepositions can beadded to one of the fundamental prepositions to form compound ones:*diser* on top of , *dinav* inside , *diber* infront of, in sight of . Any fundamental, simple or compound prepositioncan be used together with one of three postpositions *da*, *ra*and *ve*. Postpositions are morphologically and syntacticallysimple, in contrast to prepositions. Though overlapping in meaningwith prepositions, they are not redundant. Fundamental prepositionshave a wider range of meaning than simple prepositions and compoundprepositions. Finally, there are grammaticalisation paths from nounsthrough compound preposition to simple prepositions, but none involvingthe postpositions. My thesis is that these properties of the Behdini-Kurdishsystem of pre-and postpositions can be explained on the assumptionsthat the class of fundamental prepositions encodes templates for ad-hocconcept construction, the class of simple prepositions encodes conceptsthat allow the construction of ad-hoc concepts, and that the classof postpositions encode procedures constraining ad-hoc concept construction.This thesis gets additional support from German prepositional phrases.I conclude that the different types of linguistic encoding discusseddo indeed lead to distinct effects in lexical pragmatics and are thereforeempirically distinguishable. Thus, while there is reason to thinkthat a unified account of the pragmatic processes involved in lexicalpragmatics is possible (Wilson, to appear), the differenttypes of inputs to these processes need to be recognised.

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