CHAPTER 2 STANCE ADVERBS QUALIFYING A STANDPOINT
In this chapter, I present English stance adverbs as one of the possible linguistic means by which qualification of a standpoint can be realised in discourse. From the definition of qualification of a standpoint that I proposed in the previous chapter (as the addition of a comment about the propositional content or about the illocutionary act as a whole), it follows that the linguistic elements that may be used for this purpose in discourse are the ones that can be both syntactically and semantically detached from the rest of the elements of the utterance in which they appear.
A linguistic element is syntactically detached when it occurs in various positions within the same sentence, without rendering that sentence ungrammatical:
I suppose, your house is very old. Your house is, I suppose, very old. Your house is very old, I suppose.
In the above example, the parenthetical verb I suppose can appear in all three positions without affecting the grammaticality of the sentence or changing its meaning.
A linguistic element is semantically detached when its presence or absence does not alter the core meaning of the sentence:
To cut a long story short, she left. She left. Wisely, Jane did not answer my letter. Jane did not answer my letter.
In the above examples, the presence or absence of the non-finite clause to cut a long story short or of the adverb wisely does not change the information that the speaker conveys. On the contrary, in the following utterances the presence or absence of the non-finite clause or of the adverb conveys a different message:
She asked him to cut a long story short. She asked him. Jane did not answer my letter wisely. Jane did not answer my letter.
As the constructed examples above show, the syntactic and semantic detachability is not necessarily a property of certain linguistic elements but
rather a feature of the specific use that can be made of these linguistic elements. This means that it is not a semantic or syntactic property of finite and non-finite clauses or of adverbs, for example, to be detached, rather that a finite clause or adverb can be used in a detached way in certain cases, and not in others.
Nevertheless, in language there are certain linguistic elements that are more frequently or typically used in a parenthetical / detached way than other elements. In English, this is the case with the words that belong to the grammatical class of adverbs. Adverbs, in general, appear to have a rather loose connection with the rest of the elements in a sentence. As Ramat and Ricca (1998) observe, the functional property of the linguistic category of adverbs is that they add information to other linguistic elements which can stand on their own, semantically as well as syntactically (p. 187), a property which they share with the linguistic category of adjectives. The difference between adjectives and adverbs is that adverbs, unlike adjectives, modify non-nominal constructions.
Of the various linguistic realizations of qualification as defined it in the previous chapter (1.3.3), I focus here on the use of single word stance adverbs as one of the linguistic means by which an utterance (that can be reconstructed as the standpoint in an argumentative discussion) may be qualified in English. The reason for this is that this class of adverbs is the most diverse in English and that it has received a lot of attention from a variety of approaches in linguistics and discourse analysis so far.
In section 2.2, I briefly present the class of stance adverbs and their relation to other classes of adverbs in English. In the three subsections of section 2.3, I relate the various groups of stance adverbs identified in the literature to the three ways of qualifying that I have distinguished in the previous chapter. Under each subsection, I first discuss briefly the classification of the relevant stance adverbs in the literature. I then describe the discourse effect that is achieved when the comment of the stance adverbs that are used for the particular way of qualifying is interpreted in the context of doubt, in which a standpoint is advanced.
2.2 Sentence adverbs and stance adverbs
Before presenting the stance adverbs that fall under the three ways of qualifying standpoints, I provide in this section a short overview of the group of stance adverbs and discuss their relation to the rest of the groups in the grammatical class of adverbs.
Biber et al. (1999) distinguish three main groups of adverbs, namely a) circumstance adverbs (eagerly, here, now, slowly, then, weekly), b) stance adverbs (apparently, clearly, frankly, perhaps, technically, unfortunately), and c) linking adverbs (additionally, besides, moreover, nevertheless). As they note (p. 765), of the three groups, circumstance adverbs are by far the most common class in all four registers of the English corpus that they have studied (conversation, fiction,
STANCE ADVERBS QUALIFYING A STANDPOINT
news, and academic discourse). Circumstance adverbs, however, are those that are the most dependent and least flexible regarding their position in the sentence. They pertain to what Ramat and Ricca (1998) call the representational level of meaning, concerning the description of an event. They are used as a complement of a verb or a noun and therefore cannot be omitted without disrupting the meaning of the sentence. Circumstance adverbs are part of the core propositional content of a sentence.
Conversely, stance and linking adverbs are detached, both syntactically and semantically, from the core propositional content. Stance adverbs provide a comment about the propositional content while linking adverbs signal the way in which the propositional content of the one utterance relates to that of utterances elsewhere in the text. Stance adverbs convey information about the propositional content of the sentence or about the speech act that is associated with the sentence, occupying what Ramat and Ricca (1998) refer to as the interpersonal level of meaning, which concerns speaker/hearer attitudes.
The adverbs that fall within the group of stance adverbs are often treated in the literature in connection with adverbs from the group of linking adverbs, under a number of labels and within a variety of frameworks.26 Depending on the interests of scholars, when the syntactic criterion prevails, stance adverbs are treated next to linking adverbs, under the label of sentence adverbs or sentence adverbials or sentence modifiers. When a pragmatic criterion is used, namely in discourse studies, there is a clear separation between stance adverbs, called comment pragmatic markers and linking adverbs called discourse markers (Fraser 1999). Regardless of whether a syntactic or a
semantic criterion is used or a combination of both, there are still some discrepancies in the ways these adverbs are labelled and grouped in the literature (Biber et al., 1999; Halliday, 1994; Huddleston & Pullum, 2002; Quirk et al., 1985; Sinclair et al., 1990). Greenbaum (1969, p. 2) remarks:
Grammarians are not in general agreement on what to include among sentence modifiers or sentence adverbs. Moreover, they either fail to be precise about the criteria to be employed in assigning adverbs to this class or fail to provide any criteria.
In Quirk et al.s grammar, (1985) the adverbs listed in the Appendix are labelled disjuncts or conjuncts, while in Sinclairs (1990) as well as in Hallidays (1994) grammar they appear under adjuncts. Huddleston and Pullum (2002) classify
26 The list in the Appendix presents in alphabetical order all the single word adverbs (some prepositional phrases are also included), which belong to the group of linking or stance adverbs and are treated in the following literature: Bartsch (1976), Biber et al. (1999), Fraser (1996), Greenbaum (1969), Huddleston and Pullum (2002), Koktova (1986), Quirk et al. (1985), Sinclair (1990). I have tried to collect all adverbs that appear in lists provided in the above literature or in the examples discussed therein. The list also includes the adverbs labelled as sentence adverb that appear as an independent entry in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (2003).
them under adjuncts, too, more specifically under clause-oriented adjuncts. In various studies from the fields of pragmatics and semantics these words also appear as pragmatic markers (Fraser 1996), and sentence adverbials (Bartsch, 1976; Koktova, 1986). Other labels include sentence markers, sentence modifiers and sentential adverbs. The common denominator that brings all these adverbs together is that in syntactic terms they occupy the most peripheral position in the clause and that in semantic terms they characterize how the propositional content of the clause relates to the world or the context, as Huddleston and Pullum (2002, p. 576) put it.
As Biber et al. (1999) remark, the use of stance adverbs is much less common than the use of circumstance and linking adverbs: In fact, most sentences in English do not contain stance adverbs. Rather they are statements made without overt stance markers (p. 853). Of the four registers that Biber et al. have studied and from which they have drawn their examples (conversation, fiction, news, and academic discourse), stance adverbs appear more frequently in conversation. Here is how the authors explain this:
Speakers use stance adverbs to convey their judgments and attitudes, to claim the factual nature of what they are saying, and to mark exactly how they mean their utterances to be understood. (1999, pp. 766-767)