Daniel Wedgwood: Shifting the focus: From static structures to the dynamics of interpretation

Mátyás Gerőcs
2012 Acta Linguistica Hungarica  
Wedgwood: Shifting the focus: From static structures to the dynamics of interpretation. Elsevier, Oxford, 2005. pp 311. As the title suggests, the main objective of Wedgwood's book is to reconsider some fundamental language-theoretic problems and analyse them from a new perspective. His work addresses such important issues as the competence-performance dichotomy, compositionality, and the syntax-semantics interface. A further aim is to introduce a new theoretical framework he believes to be
more » ... to grasp human lingusitic competence more effectively than the mainstream approaches are. Its novelty lies in the fact that it derives a good deal of linguistic phenomena from extragrammatical factors instead of insisting on an explanation which does not exceed the boundaries of grammar. He illustrates his claims with Hungarian data, in particular, with the analysis of what is called 'focus position'. The book consists of nine chapters which gradually introduce the facts and the theoretical background to the reader. In the first chapter Wedgwood points out that the classical competence-performance dichotomy should be reassessed. This, however, on no account implies that the two domains should be collapsed. A true language-theoretic model is first of all supposed to capture linguistic competence, but the factors belonging to the domain of performance cannot be ignored, either, since they also form an integral part of competence in a broader sense. According to the conventional approach, the grammar automatically generates the literal (i.e., truth-conditional) meaning of an utterance and all pragmatics have to do is to manipulate this generated meaning by providing it with additional content with respect to the context (implicatures, non-literal meanings, etc.). Wedgwood, however, claims that there is no reason to assume that extra-grammatical factors cannot have a direct influence on the meaning of an utterance. Among other things, he illustrates this with the example of the logical connective and in natural languages, the meaning of which can both have a temporal and a causal aspect. If inferences did not
doi:10.1556/aling.59.2012.4.5 fatcat:oxtcxo6qivbrlhgcbry3w4refi