Knowledge in communication. Which factors are of greater importance in the communicative act?
The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said” (Drucker). Have you ever wondered that in everyday use of language we only pay attention to the lexical meaning of verbs. However, they express not only meaning, but also indicate important deictic or epistemic information. The verbs refer to the spatiotemporal context of the speech event. What is more, they express cognitive inclination, related to the knowledge of the speaker. The article aims at highlighting the dual role of the English verbs. As claimed by Grzegorczykowa (1995) in the Indo-European languages the verb form is deictic, which means relating to or denoting a word or expression whose meaning is dependent on the context in which it is used (Lyons: 1968). Subsequently, the deictic factor is revealed and the egocentric role of the speaker in situating the elements in the speech event and construing the deictic centre (Croft: 2005). One may also distinguish an epistemic dimension in the expression of tense in the speech event. It is the speaker’s justification of events into immediate, or as explained by Wierzbicka (1990), “the world a part of which is me saying this, or non-immediate reality”. Epistemics refers to the degrees of likelihood and the truth of the given propositions, as stated by Lyons (1977).
According to Comrie (1985), in the traditional division of tenses, the present tense is coincident with the time of the situation and the present moment, the past tense locates the situation prior to the present moment and future tense places the situation after the present moment. Lyons (1977) distinguishes events as past, present and future in the natural categorisation of tenses as well. Nevertheless, as it was mentioned above, it is valid to establish the reference point that is a deictic factor used in relating entities into one tense system. Subsequently, here and now of the communicative act is referred as a decitic centre with a dominant figure of a speaker/ hearer (in the first person). Here refers to the speaker/hearer’s location. Consequently, it is noteworthy that the speaker forms the reference point as all the parameters of a linguistic event are formed around him/ her that is termed by Rauh (1983) as the “egocentric-localistic” view of language. Comrie (1985), claims that situations coinciding with the present moment are rare. Sentences in which the description of the act is performed by uttering the sentence in question belong to the category of present tense as well. To illustrate this observation, a following example is provided by Comrie (1985: 37):
1. I promise to pay you ten pounds.
Taking the above example into consideration, one may assume that in the utterance the speaker promises to pay the money. Present moment included in various states and processes can be stressed to emphasize the use of a present tense-vantage point that makes it possible for other situations to be temporally located. Consequently, the reference point concerns the present moment in the traditional approach to the temporal division of tenses. Lyons (1968) suggests division into beforepast, after-past, before-future and after-future. Rauh (1983) postulates that the temporal deictic space is divided into before and after the deictic point of orientation. As given by Comrie (1985), present tense pertains to a situation at not only the present moment but also occupying the part of a larger situation extending to the past or future. Here, with reference to the extended situations in time, one may point out the notion of present perfect which relates events to sometime in the past, not identified by the speaker/hearer, contrary to past simple denoting point of reference to which a speaker and a hearer can refer. As an illustration the following examples are given, Comrie (1985: 41):
2. John was in Paris.
3. John has been in Paris.
The interpretation of example (2) suggests a specific event when John was in Paris and the ability of common speaker/hearer’s reference. Moreover, one may assume that John might not have been in Paris at other time in the past as it was only one particular situation when he arrived there. Taking example (3) into account, one may stress that at some time not identifiable by a speaker/ hearer in the past, the presented proposition in example (3) took place. With regard to the point of orientation and its role, it is important to consider Hornstein’s (1990) observations. Based on Fig. 1 and Hornstein’s assumptions, the notion of time relationship is examined:
Fig.1. Basic Types of Time-Relationships on the basis of Hornstein (1990: 165).
In view of Fig.1, one may distinguish not only identified reference as: past and present, but also the time-relationship reference as: earlier time, same time and later time.
The difference between these two types of time identification concerns the Moment of Coding, which does not involve speaker/ hearer’s recognition. However, An Identified Time in the Past requires shared knowledge of the situation between the speaker and the hearer. Subsequently, the epistemic factor has been revealed here.
According to Lyons (1977) knowing what a proposition means implies knowing under what conditions (in which possible worlds) it is true and knowing what somebody knows or believes indicates knowing the semantic content of the propositions that he takes to be true. To illustrate the above belief, the following examples are provided (Lyons 1977: 811):
4. It is raining
5. It was raining
6. It will be raining
Expressions (4), (5), (6) are true in the world wi that is the world at the time ti (the time of speaking), which asserts the fact that in every utterance due to spatio-temporal point of reference-the zero point of deictic system, entities introduced by the speaker may be identified.
Analysing the data given above, the author of the dissertation intends to emphasize that it is subjective speaker/hearer’s interpretation of the world described in a sentence. The speaker qualifies his commitment as subjective or objective in terms of his own uncertainty. Consequently, present tense is the product of non-remoteness and factivity. Past tense, in contrast, is the product of remoteness and factivity. Moreover, Lyons (1977) indicates that statements about past are either true or false at the time of the utterance; sentences about future are neither true nor false but not defined in terms of truth-value.
Subsequently, there are also factive parametres which indicate probability of temporal location. Langacker (1987b) mentions that factive parameters indicate property of the temporal location that influences products of remoteness and non-remoteness, immediacy vs nonimmediacy that are distinguished thanks to past morphemes or modals. These might point to association or dissociation from the given word achieved due to v-ө/ v-es forms or D-inflection, may be analysed from the epistemic point of view, admitting truth of falsehood of a given sentence. With reference to Malak (2009), the priority of epistemic load of the sentence may be related to the morphological poverty of the grammatical marking on the verb. Subsequently it is the lack of the separate non-factual marking on the verb resulting in the formal opposition v-ө/ v-es: v-ed. To sum up, tense is expressed by verbs, which include cognitive information and the meaning of the sentence is dependent on the encoder who expresses his/her intentions and decides about its truthfulness ( Langacker 1987b). With regard to the phenomenon of the possible worlds, Wierzbicka (1996) refers to the speaker who is not absolutely sure about the message until s/he sees it together with the addressee. The speaker is responsible for the validity of the news, dissociating the situation of the event from the situation of the utterance. Both deictic and epistemic character of the English verbs is highlighted in this article. It is significant to indicate not only temporal inclinations of the verbs, but also truth conditions, to which they refer. The speaker’s knowledge about the world and his/her situatedness influence the communicative act.
Comrie, B. (1985). Tense. Cambridge: University Press.
Hornstein, N. (1990). As Time Goes By. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Grzegorczykowa, R. (1995). Wprowadzenie do semantyki językoznawczej. Warszawa: PWN.
Langacker, R.W. (1987a). Foundations of cognitive grammar: Descriptive Application. (Vol.1). Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Langacker, R.W. (1987b). Foundations of cognitive grammar (Vol. 2). Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Lyons, J. (1977). Semantics, 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Malak J. (2009). Deictic-Epistemic Hierarchy and the Indications of the Past in English and Polish. Language, Cognition and Society. Opole: Uniwersytet Opolski.
Rauh, G. (1983) (Ed.). Essays on Deixis. Tubungen: Gunter Narr Verlag.
Wierzbicka, A. (1990). Lingua mentalis: The semantics of natural language. Sydney: Academic Press.
Wierzbicka, A. (1996). Semantics: primes and universals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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