Where does reanalysis start?

Discourse inferences and meaning variation in the semantics of focus particles

Keywords: reanalysis, focus particles, Italian, conventionalization


Recent research has criticized the concept of reanalysis questioning both its theoretical soundness and its empirical status as an abrupt mechanism of change, showing that it can be broken down into more basic (and gradual) mechanisms of change. Along this line of research, this paper describes the various uses of three focus particles in Italian (anche and pure ‘also’, solo ‘only’). Besides their largely lexical function of selecting one item out of a set, they also show illocutive functions connected to the speech act domain (modification of the illocutionary force of an utterance and speech act specification in an interpersonal perspective). Investigating their meaning variation in different contexts, the suitability of the concept of reanalysis to describe the emergence of new uses is discussed as well as the role of discourse inferences in shaping them. Particular attention is paid to the first stages of reanalysis, using survey data to investigate the blurry boundary between the contextual emergence of new functions and the process of conventionalization.
Special Issue: Whither Reanalysis?