Jessica De Villiers

Associate Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Affixed interjections in English and Polish : a corpus-based study of emotional talk in digital communication and literary dialogue (2018)

Extensive cross-linguistic research documents a wide range of functions and semantic-pragmatic meanings of interjections in English and Polish that typically correspond with a primary function of conveying emotion. With many forms that have changed over time and appear in a variety of written and spoken mediums, interjections have been mainly considered ‘morphologically simple’; that is, they typically do not take on affixes. However, recent research has shown that interjections do, indeed, acquire various slang, diminutive and augmentative suffixes to change the register, to intensify or diminish the base interjections’ meaning, and/or to convey jocularity and non-serious meanings associated with play. This dissertation addresses some major gaps in the descriptive and empirical research of the semantic and pragmatic functions and meanings of affixed interjections in Polish, a synthetic Slavic language, and English, an analytic Germanic language. These two languages are compared and analyzed by examining the core and peripheral meanings of affixed interjections, their typology, and their pragmatic potential as attitudinals. The morphology and pragmatics of these affixed interjections are examined qualitatively and quantitatively by examining definitions from online dictionaries and standard corpora. It is argued that three fundamental semantic constraints underlie the formation of affixed interjections: [+INFORMAL], [+EMOTION], and [+ATTITUDE]. These three features can be subdivided into secondary semantic and pragmatic features that may or may not always apply, including [+PLAYFUL], [+CUTE], [+SILLY], [+GOOD HUMOUR], [+INTIMATE] and [+WARM]. Given the volume and variety of forms considered, affixed interjections would be methodologically challenging to gather in naturally occurring spontaneous speech; therefore, the study combines data from corpora of online sources that provide novel, current and slang words, including the micro-blogging site Twitter, Google Books, fanfiction, blogs, and blog comments. The dissertation also examines the Appraisal resources (Martin and White 2005) used for diminutive interjections. It is argued that English uses diminutive interjections mainly for positive APPRECIATION (positive meanings), negative JUDGEMENT (sarcasm), and negative AFFECT (negative meanings). These interjections are relatively rare compared to Polish. In comparison, Polish diminutives are much more frequent and conventional, and are used to facilitate social bonding, and show warmth and affection.

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