Discourse words in Russian. The case of voobšče and v obščem

Paillard, Denis
Discourse words in Russian. The case of voobšče and v obščem

01 (2006)
In this paper, I give a description of two Russian discourse words (DW) voobščce and v obščem, standing for two types of discursive semantics: the semantics of “adequacy” and the semantics of “point of view”. A theoretical framework is proposed, in which the contribution of the DW to the utterance meaning is divided into two interrelated aspects: a core meaning and four levels of variation. The different uses of voobšče and v obščem result from the unfolding of the core meaning according to various factors of variation.
The wide range of terms such as particles, connectors, connectives, pragmatic markers, discourse markers, discourse words (DW), etc can be partly related to theoretical and methodological choices, resulting in different data taken into account. We will therefore discuss for a start the specifi cities of our own approach, compared to others.
The pattern of communication underlying most of the research works on the DW (in particular those coming under the theory of relevance) take it for granted that communication should be analysed through its final natural purpose, namely the way it is interpreted by the addressee. Communication is required to attain the goal of fully achieved interpretation. Success and efficiency are therefore taken as the core of the analysis. It must be admitted, though, that recent works on vagueness in conversation call into question some aspects of such a conception (cf. « the addressee may be able to make sense of the speaker’s word even if this is not the sense intended by the speaker, Jücker et alii, 2003, p. 1743).
Our conception of the language activity as production and recognition of texts (generic term for any type of written or oral verbal production) is based on the notion of regulation and mutual fitting process (adjustment) between autonomous subjects, which can be summed up by the set phrase: “if you see what I mean” (in French: “si tu vois ce que je veux dire par là”). Interlocution is also the right and capacity to refuse the interlocution, or to break it, or to distort the frame of the dialogue, or to seek an agreement on another ground than that set up for a start. Duplicity, rhetorical strategy, failure, lies, are an integral part of the communication and should not be reduced to mere deviation.