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Blending, Viewpoint and Deixis: Evidence from Brazillian Portuguese

Lilian Ferrari (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)

Saturday, May 19th
Buchanan B215

Despite the identification of several categories of deixis in the relevant literature (Lyons, 1977; Levinson, 1983), it is often recognized that rigid distinctions between deictic and non-deictic usages in traditional accounts have precluded a comprehensive account of deictic data. Taking a cognitive perspective, Marmaridou (2000) proposes that deixis can be analyzed in terms of an Idealized Cognitive Model – the deictic ICM. In this view, deictic categories are assumed to be ‘radial categories’, structured by prototypical deictic terms which match perfectly well the deictic ICM, and by less prototypical members which match this ICM less well.

Going a step further, this paper proposes that the relations between prototypical and less prototypical deictic meanings are not arbitrary, but involve conceptual blending and viewpoint phenomena. The analysis focuses on person deixis, relying on Brazilian Portuguese attested data on personal pronouns. More specifically, I will discuss less prototypical uses of first person pronouns such as “eu” (I, sg.) and “a gente” (we, pl.).

The main claim is that less prototypical first person pronouns result from cross-space mappings linking two separate input spaces, which come into play due to our cognitive capacity of taking multiple viewpoints (Sweetser, 2012). It is shown that speaker and/or hearer in one input mental space, structured by the deictic ICM, may be linked to participants in a related input space, which structures a different viewpoint. These counterparts are further projected and fused in a blended space. For example, first person blended “I” can be used to fuse the speaker in the communicative exchange and the addressee in a related future space, as when a teacher takes the viewpoint of her students and says “If I want to pass the exam, I have to study hard”. Moreover, Brazilian Portuguese data shows that first person plural “a gente”, which prototypically indicates speaker and addressee(s) in the current speech event, may have blended senses in which the addressee(s) are projected from the speech event input space, but the speaker is projected from a past space.

The main contribution of the paper is to bring evidence that blending and viewpoint structure can provide a principled explanation for the enormous creativity observed in spontaneous data on deixis.

(see the attached PDF for references)

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