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Phonological Schematicity

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Steffen Höder
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In traditional Scandinavian grammaticography, interjections are rather loosely defined as a word class and often understood as lying on the fringe of the language system, sometimes being described as para-linguistic phenomena rather than full-fledged linguistic units (e.g. Hansen & Heltoft 2011: vol. 1, 214; Teleman, Hellberg & Andersson 1999: vol. 2, 761–768). The main reason is that, while constituting a very heterogeneous group, interjections typically share some kind of exceptional formal features as compared to more prototypical word classes, a property they have in common with ideophones and other cases of sound symbolism (Dingemanse 2017). For example, they may occur independently of clausal structures (extraclausally or parenthetically) and have unusual phonological forms (such as Swedish [|] expressing, inter alia, indignation; Engstrand 2012: 71). On the other hand, Scandinavian interjections do have formal properties that can be described in terms of well-established grammatical concepts and terminology. Examples are the morphological compositionality of many interjections (as in Danish hovsa ‘whoops’ < hov ‘whoops’ + -sa [colloquial marker]), their involvement in productive morphological processes (such as suffixation by Danish -da [colloquial marker] in uhada, nåda, øvda, all expressing different shades of surprise as well as additional meanings) and the fact that some interjections have an argument structure (e.g. Danish skål for NP ‘here’s to NP [toasting]’). However, the morphological or syntactic processes found in interjections often differ from those used in other word classes. For example, Swedish interjections may be formed productively by infixation (as in jaha ‘ah, yes’ < ja ‘yes’ + -h- ‘understanding, surprise’) or on the basis of phonological schemas (such as Swedish ˈfa-X ‘Devil (swearing)’), a strategy employed primarily for purposes of taboo avoidance (Stroh-Wollin 2008: 105–107). This talk approaches the grammar of Scandinavian interjections from a usage-based Construction Grammar perspective (Goldberg 2013), which seems well-suited for overcoming the traditionally exceptionalist view on interjections. In line with basic constructionist assumptions, it is claimed that Scandinavian interjections can be analysed in terms of constructions (i.e. form-meaning pairs) exhibiting different degrees of schematicity, thus bridging the continuum between more and less exceptional formal structures by using the same analytical devices. While lexical schematicity is widely used in Construction Grammar analyses across the board, this talk argues that it is crucial to also take the importance of phonological schemas into account (as proposed for a range of different phenomena by Höder 2014: 205–215). Drawing on earlier research on, amongst other things, the cognitive reality of phonaesthemes (Bergen 2004), it is claimed that phonological schematicity is needed in order to arrive at a cognitively realistic constructional representation of interjectional form as well as the organization of interjections into constructional networks.