Studies in honor of Eddo Rigotti
Edited By Giovanni Gobber and Andrea Rocci
Jacques Moeschler: Causality and non-iconic order
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Causality and non-iconic order
JACQUES MOESCHLER, University of Geneva
Causal relationships in discourse exhibit a specific linguistic property: the order of the discourse segments, as indicated by causal connectives, is not iconic, it does not reproduce the order of events in the world. Causal order in discourse is non-iconic, because it has a consequence-cause order rather than the iconic cause-consequence one.
Non-iconic order appears to be universal in natural languages. Diessel & Hetterle (2011) argue that temporal and conditional clauses are predominantly initial (45%) or mixed (initial and final for 53.3%), whereas causal adverbial clauses show a very different distribution among typologically representative natural languages: 45% are final, 30% are mixed, and only 25% are initial. This general data, obtained using precise corpus-based, statistical and typological parameters, empirically illustrates one of the main areas of research that is currently being conducted in the Linguistics Department of the University of Geneva1. The CAUSE Project, conductedby the author, is designed to explore four main issues:
1. A theoretical issue: what are the main criteria that define causal relationships in discourse? According to a theoretical perspective, it can be hypothesised that the order criterion (cause-consequence vs. consequence-cause) is the most relevant one. The CAUSE researchers ← 243 | 244 → claim, moreover, that the order criterion is not merely a general property of natural languages, and that it is widespread in languages of the world: our findings suggest that it is...
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