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3 Motivations for Meaning Shift at the Left and Right Periphery: well, bon and hao

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Chapter Summary

This chapter traces the historical evolution, cross linguistically, of canonically left-peripheral pragmatic markers (PMs) which derive from- and remain in a polysemous relationship with- terms with the canonical meaning 'good' (such as well, bon, and hao). Each of these has developed a 'good up to a point' sense, though well appears to be further along the pragmaticalisation scale than either bon or hao. The chapter explores how and why such a process of semantic change occurs and attempts to further elucidate the role of left-peripheral items and the extent to which they can occur medially and at the right periphery. It argues that language-external social factors such as face-management exert a strong functional pressure on the language system, in this case the semantic system; turn-taking and disagreeing with a previous speaker must be managed diplomatically, as well as efficiently.

Keywords: historical evolution; language; polysemous relationship; pragmatic markers (PMs); pragmaticalisation; right periphery; semantic change



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