I am particularly interested in the following topics and research agendas:
- Pragmatics and the communicative function of linguistic elements in speaker–hearer interaction: A central question in this respect is that of the interaction of linguistic code (i.e. the conventionalized association of form and meaning) with context and how contextual information contributes to the construal of meaning. This is particularly interesting from a usage-based perspective, which assumes a close link between code and context in the sense that the language system is seen as being shaped by communicative needs and sociolinguistic factors (in conjunction with cognitive processes and constraints). Another crucial question in this line of research is to what extent meaning is coded in the grammar itself and to what extent it can be attributed to inferential processes (implicatures) based on the relevant context.
- The assumed cognitive representation of linguistic units and their theoretical modelling: This is of particular interest in the case of elements which are generally seen as being outside ordinary Sentence Grammar, so-called “extra-clausal constituents” or “theticals” (e.g. discourse markers, parentheticals, etc.). As a grammatical model, I have found the taxonomic network structure of Construction Grammar particularly useful. I have also worked with collaborators on the concept of a separate domain of so-called Thetical Grammar, which needs to be further explored in the future.
- Syntactic variants and speaker choice: A central concern in my research is the investigation of syntactic phenomena where the speaker has some choice, that is, where the code offers semantically equivalent (or near-equivalent) constructions. Typical examples of such syntactic alternants are it-extraposition vs. canonical word order, the use or omission of the that-complementizer, the position and prosodic realization of comment clauses in their host clause, the choice between a sentence grammar unit and a ‘co-opted’ thetical unit. An explicit aim of my research is the identification of conditioning factors that govern the choice of one constructional variant over another.
- Syntactic change: A recently developed focus of my research lies in the investigation of the origin and diachronic development of extra-clausal elements such as parentheticals and pragmatic markers. I am particularly interested here in recent/ongoing change, grammaticalization and, more generally, the question of redeploying elements of Sentence Grammar for specific pragmatic uses (e.g. through cooptation). On a more abstract level this raises the question of the type of the relationship between the levels of usage and structure, which in a usage-based perspective are seen as closely interconnected.
- The grammar of spoken language: Given my interest in pragmatics and recent change, I focus a lot on the analysis of spoken language, which is also usually at the forefront of linguistic innovation. I am particularly interested here in the interactional function of linguistic elements and the use of prosody as a means for signaling discourse function.
- Language processing and information packaging: Closely connected with my interest in spoken language and syntactic alternants is my research focus on information packaging and questions of processibility. I am also particularly interested in the connection between information status and language change, i.e. in the process of grammaticalization.
- I have also worked on various aspects of language teaching, such as pronunciation teaching and the use of language corpora and genre analysis for teaching purposes, but is this not my primary research focus at present.
Gunther KaltenböckInstitut für Anglistik
Institut für Anglistik