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From Speaking to Grammar

by Miriam Voghera (Volume editor)
©2022 Edited Collection 270 Pages

Summary

Speech is primary in human communication from many points of views. In the evolution of the human species, linguistic signs have been realized first orally. In the history of humankind only a relatively small number of languages had a written form. Until recently, only a minority of people had access to writing. The spoken uses are predominant in the formation of our experience and in our relationships with other humans. Most of our actions involve the use of language in spoken form. In short, the speech mode shapes the entire communicative life of individuals and communities and therefore represents the native usage of language.
Based on these premises, this book aims to place spontaneous spoken texts at the centre of linguistic analysis because the inclusion of speech usage in general grammar is necessary not only to account for spoken communication, but also to have a more realistic idea of what a language is as a whole. It follows that linguistic analysis requires not only the knowledge of speech properties as such, but the integration among different point of views to understand whether and to what extent its features affect the grammaticality of languages.
The essays collected in this book present study of scholars based on rigorous qualitative and quantitative analysis of different corpus based and corpus driven data with diachronic, typological, sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic, educational objectives.
A complex framework emerges which opens up new perspectives in many areas of linguistics and forces to review the relationship between the linguistic system and factors traditionally considered external. Investigating speech not only enriches linguistics with new data, but also puts forward new theoretical points of view.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Authors
  • From Speaking to Grammar: A mosaic of ideas and perspectives (Miriam Voghera)
  • How speech mode emerges in language (Miriam Voghera)
  • Interpersonal, ideational, and textual functions of coverbal gestures in speech. Remarks from a teacher talk sample (Cecilia Andorno)
  • Maria Elena FavillaBeneath the surface of repetition: Can priming help us to have a clearer understanding of repetition as a linguistic functional correlate? (Maria Elena Favilla)
  • Diversity, discourse, diachrony: A converging evidence methodology for grammar emergence (Caterina Mauri and Francesca Masini)
  • Boundaries in speech: Language varieties in speakers’ usage (Massimo Cerruti)
  • Bilingual speech and bilinguals’ speech. Subject pronoun expression at the German-Italian language border (Silvia Dal Negro)
  • Discourse Markers from processes of Monologization: Two case studies (Andrea Sansò)
  • Metaknowledge polar-questions as dialogic triggers for Topic-Comment constructions (Emilia Calaresu)
  • Series index

Authors

Cecilia Andorno is Associate Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Turin. Her main research interests include Second Language Acquisition and Plurilingual Education, and Spoken Language and Text Analysis in a comparative perspective, with specific focus on information structure studies. Her recent publications in this last area include the edited volume Focus on Additivity. Adverbial modifiers in Romance, Germanic and Slavic languages (2017, with A.M. De Cesare).

Emilia Calaresu is Associate Professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, where she teaches General Linguistics applied to Italian, and Pragmatics. Her research interests focus especially on grammar and discourse, dialogism, polyphony and reporting speech, spoken vs. written language.

Massimo Cerruti is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Turin. His research interests lie primarily in the fields of variationist sociolinguistics, dialectology and contact linguistics. He is co-coordinator of KIParla (www.kiparla.it) and principal investigator of ParlaTO (www.corpusparlato.com). His most recent publications include Intermediate language varieties. Koinai and regional standards in Europe (with S. Tsiplakou, eds.), John Benjamins, Amsterdam-Philadelphia 2020.

Silvia Dal Negro is Full Professor at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Faculty of Education, where she teaches Linguistics, Language Education and Language Documentation. Her research interests are mainly in the domains of sociolinguistics and contact linguistics. In the last decade she has worked in particular on the contact between German and Italian in different speech communities in northern Italy.

Maria Elena Favilla is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Her research areas include various issues in neurolinguistics, psycholinguistics and applied linguistics, such as aphasia and other language pathologies, reading and writing mechanisms, first and second language acquisition, first language teaching, language practices in public administration, in the double perspective, on the one side, of applying linguistic theories to the ←7 | 8→solution of practical problems concerning language and, on the other side, of collecting real data that can shed light on language processing.

Francesca Masini is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Bologna. Her research and publications revolve primarily around semantics, morphology, and the lexicon, with a focus on multiword expressions, word classes, lexical typology, and the lexicon–syntax interface. She works primarily within Construction Grammar and Construction Morphology, combining usage-based, typological and quantitative methods. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Constructions and Frames (John Benjamins).

Caterina Mauri is Associate Professor at the University of Bologna. She is mainly interested in the study of cross-linguistic and intra-linguistic variation, both from a typological and diachronic perspective. Her research is aimed at observing and understanding the emergence of grammars from discourse, employing a converging evidence methodology that integrates corpus data and typological variation. She coordinated a four-year project funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Research on the Linguistic expression of ad hoc categories (SIR n. RBSI14IIG0), and she is the founder and coordinator of the KIParla Corpus, an incremental and modular corpus of spoken Italian (www.kiparla.it).

Andrea Sansò is Associate Professor of Linguistics and Pragmatics at the University of Insubria (Como). His research interests focus on linguistic typology (especially voice and modality) and discourse markers. He is author of the volume I segnali discorsivi, Roma, Carocci, 2020.

Miriam Voghera is Full Professor at the University of Salerno, where she teaches General Linguistics and Theory of Grammar and coordinates the activities of the linguistic laboratory P.A.R.O.L.E. (Analysis, Research and Observation of European Languages) in the Department of Humanities. In 2021, she published, with Carmela Sammarco, Ascoltare e Parlare. Idee per la didattica, Firenze, Cesati.

Miriam Voghera

From Speaking to Grammar: A mosaic of ideas and perspectives

1. Some theoretical and methodologic premises

If we look at the meaning of speak in the Oxford English Dictionary, we find the following definition “To utter or pronounce words or articulate sounds; to use or exercise the faculty of speech; to express one’s thoughts by words”. It is easy to see that there are two distinct meanings in the same entry: (1) “to utter words or articulate sounds; to use or exercise the faculty of speech” and (2) “to express one’s thoughts by words”. The first meaning refers to the use of language through the phonic-auditory channel and generally to speech, the second one includes any verbal use. The two meanings are conceptually different, but actually they cross over into each other: when we say that we speak a language we are not referring exclusively to its phonic-auditory use, but we certainly include it as an essential part of our linguistic proficiency. In fact, if we only had reading and writing skills, we would not normally say that we speak a language. Therefore, the meaning that corresponds to “to utter words or articulate sounds” has extended to the more general meaning “to express one’s thoughts by words”.

It is not difficult to understand the reasons for this broadening of meaning. Speech is primary in human communication from many point of views (De Mauro 1971): (a) panchronic, because in the evolution of the human species linguistic signs have been realized first of all orally; (b) historical, because in the history of mankind only a relatively small number of languages had a written form; (c) sociological, because until recently only a minority of people had access to writing; (d) psychological, because the spoken uses are predominant in the formation of our experience and in our relationships with other humans; (e) functional, because most of our actions involve the use of language in spoken form. In short, the speech mode shapes the entire communicative life of individuals and communities and therefore represents the native usage of language.

If speech is the native communication mode, we can consider that its properties are central to linguistic usage tout court and that they should be taken into account in the construction of a general grammar. On the basis of these premises, From Speaking to Grammar (S2G) research programme has been created by the authors of the essays collected in this book. In this book we will aim to ←9 | 10→place spontaneous spoken texts at the center of linguistic analysis because the inclusion of speech usage in general grammar is necessary not only to account for spoken communication, but also to have a more realistic and accurate idea of what a language is as a whole.

The S2G programme brings together ideas and experiences not only of speech specialists, but also of scholars who analyze speech data in research with diachronic, typological, sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic, educational objectives. In fact, the essays collected in this book well represent the multiplicity of points of view of the S2G programme, but, although they deal with different topics and develop various approaches, they share some strong claims.

The mutual starting point is the assumption that the grammar of languages, as a metalinguistic construction, must be deduced from the grammaticality that is naturally expressed by linguistic production. In order for a linguistic production to be successful, it is necessary that the meaning it is supposed to convey is expressed through a grammatical form shared or sharable by the speakers. Every utterance in every language, therefore, is an expression of the regulative framework of the code, even in cases where innovative elements are present. The system, in fact, dynamically actualizes in the infinite possible linguistic uses. In this perspective, utterances are neither the result of the mere application of rules nor the expression of the free creativity of the speaker, but the result of a continuous interplay of adaptation of individual uses to the language and of the language to them. Hence the linguistic system and the speakers are equally central elements for the understanding of what grammaticality is and how it works, since it appears as the result of a balance of forces acting simultaneously from the speaker to the system and vice versa. In an authentically Saussurian perspective (De Mauro 1994), the speaking mass is, therefore, internal to the system and the speakers are consequently constructors of the grammaticality of languages and not mere users.

From the assumption of this point of view, it follows that linguistic analysis must also include all the elements that contribute to shaping and underpinning the grammaticality of linguistic productions. In other words, in order to understand the functioning of an utterance or a text, in addition to knowing the language, we must consider all the circumstances of parole in which it was produced (De Mauro 1994: 107). This means that it is useful to widen the analysis also to the role of the mode of communication (Voghera this volume), to the relationship between verbal and non-verbal components of linguistic productions (Andorno this volume), to the mechanisms and strategies of production and reception of utterances (Favilla, Mauri and Masini this volume), and that the relationships between speakers (Sansò, Calaresu this volume) and the sociolinguistic traits of ←10 | 11→which their utterances may bear traces (Dal Negro, Cerruti this volume) become relevant in the identification of the grammaticality of an utterance.

In this perspective, it is only natural that the analysis of talk-in-interaction becomes a privileged point of observation. As will be evident from the reading of the various essays, dialogic speech clearly brings out the decisive role that both the speaker and the addressee have in the process of co-construction of the grammaticality of the utterances and the complex interplay among the system, the modes of communication and sociolinguistic traits. Attesting the dynamic and dialogical foundations of great part of grammaticality (Linell 2008; Du Bois 2014; Günthner et al. 2014; Deppermann and Günthner 2015; Thompson et al. 2015), a complex and composite picture emerges, requiring not only the knowledge of speech properties as such, but the integration among different points of views to understand whether and to what extent its features affect the grammaticality of languages.

In fact, the analysis of speech contributes to reshaping the very categories of linguistic analysis, which mainly derive from static algorithmic a-modal models of language, rendering them more adequate to the variety of linguistic usage (Voghera 1992, 2017; Bybee 2006, 2013; Auer 2009; Hopper 2011; Calaresu 2020). Besides, a closer investigation of speech, and in particular of dialogic texts, suggested new interpretative categories also in diachronic analysis: an example is the relevance acquired by notions such as subjectivity and intersubjectivity in the analysis of the processes of linguistic change (Traugott 2003; Brems et al. 2014; Sansò this volume). The importance of speech has also emerged in typological studies, which have shown the relevance of speech properties in conditioning the usage and the pattern of linguistic change in languages that are unrelated both genetically and areally (see Mauri and Masini this volume).

Therefore, the study of speech opens up new perspectives in many areas of linguistics because, on the one hand, it brings out poorly explored parts of grammar and, on the other hand, it forces us to review the relationship between the linguistic system and factors traditionally considered external, such as the mode of communication or the relationship between the speakers and the code. In other words, investigating speech not only enriches linguistics with new data, but also puts forward new theoretical points of view.

S2G is therefore a long-term programme, which also has methodological implications. In fact, a key point of our project work is a rigorous qualitative and quantitative analysis of different data. In our perspective, the variability and heterogeneity of linguistic data are a necessary source for the theoretical construction. Nevertheless, to investigate how the linguistic heterogeneity plays out in an orderly form, it is necessary to be able to evaluate synchronically ←11 | 12→and diachronically the extent of variation and, above all, the parameters along which it moves. Only in this case it is possible the construction of interpretative models that account for the dynamics between the linguistic code and its concrete use. The authors of this book therefore adopt an approach corpus-driven and corpus-based, not necessarily limited to speech, which makes it possible to examine language samples, even very different ones, under controlled and comparable conditions. Of particular importance are also the diachronic corpora to refine the definition of phenomena already known on a synchronic level. The quantitative incidence of some structures in speech has stimulated the comparison with different diachronic phases: for example, in Italian, some diachronic investigations have clearly shown that many linguistic structures considered typical of spoken texts were actually already attested in ancient Italian (D’Achille 1990; Vallauri 2005).

Summarizing, the collection of studies presented here not only aims to broad the empirical linguistic data, but also to design a coherent framework, in which it is possible to identify the constants of grammaticality on a synchronic and diachronic level that derive from the reciprocal adaptation of the code to the needs of the speakers and of the speakers to the regulatory framework of the code. It is on these constants that one can build a grammar, understood as an interpretative model of the functioning of languages. Hence, in S2G programme speech is not only an object of investigation, but also a testbed for the validation of theoretical hypotheses and an opportunity for the exploration of new territories. The essays in this volume are a some tesserae in this complex mosaic, which requires the combined effort of a number of perspectives and competences.

2. Overview of the contributions to the volumes

The first essay, How speech mode emerges in language by Miriam Voghera, deals with the properties of speech mode of communication, its configuration and how its features emerge in the grammaticality of linguistic systems. The speech mode is defined as a mechanism in which several components work together: (a) the channel’s properties, (b) the properties of speakers interaction and (c) the properties of the processes of production and reception. Each component correlates with the others, i.e. a variation in one of them entails a variation in the others, no matter how evident. Different modes of communication present different setting parameters for each component, but as far as speech mode is concerned phonic-audio-visuality, dialogue and synchrony are the setting parameter respectively of channel, speakers interaction and the production/reception processes. The configuration of speech mode pervasively affects all the levels of signification and ←12 | 13→consequently the linguistic output. Voghera distinguishes three kinds of linguistic correlate: functional, sociolinguistic and stylistic, focusing on the first one. The functional correlates are not individual specific structures or constructions, but principles that guide speakers in choosing the structures and constructions that suit most efficiently for the mode of communication. The principal aim of the essay is to highlight how a better knowledge of the functional correlates of speech mode can improve the knowledge of language grammaticality and the development of grammatical theories.

Using mainly syntactic data, Voghera points out to some key elements, which should be taken into account in linguistic descriptions in order to build more realistic and more efficient grammatical models of language. The first element is audio-phonicity, which is not a mere involucre of verbal sequences, but conditions the shaping of texts, and through prosody deploys an extraordinary flexible semiotic resource for text cohesion and progression. The second element is the role of recipients as co-constructors of the message and of the incremental process of text progression. The third element is the widespread use of hypospecific elements: in a hypothetical scale that goes from maximum to minimum realization of the distinctive features of a constituent, spontaneous spoken texts, not only dialogic, tend towards the minimum potential specification at all levels of codification (De Mauro 1971). Finally, the previous elements, according to Voghera, highlight the crucial role of the relationship between speakers and addressees and between them and the signs, i.e. the pragmatic dimension, which emerges as an internal component of language grammaticality and not as a complement.

The essay by Cecilia Andorno, Interpersonal, ideational, and textual functions of coverbal gestures in speech. Remarks from a teacher talk sample, focuses on some theoretical aspects of the relationship between language and gestures and the substantial multimodality of communication. In particular, the author discusses the relationship between gestures and speech in school communication and the place the latter has in teachers’ talk. Gestures play a crucial role because they help students in the conceptualization of new meanings and, from a cognitive point of view, they offer to students a “global and synthetic” way of signifying, which does not bind them to the linearity of the signifier.

Details

Pages
270
Year
2022
ISBN (PDF)
9783631868676
ISBN (ePUB)
9783631868683
ISBN (Hardcover)
9783631861608
DOI
10.3726/b19221
Language
English
Publication date
2022 (April)
Published
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 270 pp., 19 fig. b/w, 16 tables.

Biographical notes

Miriam Voghera (Volume editor)

Miriam Voghera is Full professor at the University of Salerno, where she teaches General Linguistics and Grammar’s Theory and coordinates the activities of the linguistic laboratory P.A.R.O.L.E. (Analysis, Research and Observation of European Languages) in the Department of Humanities. Her research interests focus on spoken communication, multimodality, syntax and prosody, semantics and pragmatics, educational linguistics.

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