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Attention to Quotation(s): From Activation to Inhibition

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image of Cognitive Semantics

In the spirit of Talmy’s recent remark on desirable extensions of cognitive semantics into discourse analysis and multimodality, this paper outlines an agenda for framing quotation as an attention- and modality-sensitive phenomenon. A quotation’s distinct discourse function by itself – naturally – calls for an attention-driven analysis, and the representational subsystems of language yield modality-specific manifestations: Conventionalized figural delimiters prompt quotations’ metalinguistic and verbatim status in writing, while in (casual) speech they tend to stand out through vocal dynamics and visible bodily actions. With recourse to Talmy’s attention-based trigger-and-target construct, I will scrutinize a cross-section of videotaped samples of quoting by experienced US speakers from different speech genres in public settings, to demonstrate orally performed quotations’ responsiveness to attentional gradience: Exhibiting patterns of activation, attenuation, inhibition, and sustainment in indexing ‘the other voice,’ the case studies illustrate multiple effects of fore- and backgrounding ensuing from the different modalities’ complex interactions.

Affiliations: 1: Johannes-Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany,


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