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Jesus! vs. Christ! in Australian English: Semantics, Secondary Interjections and Corpus Analysis

  • Cliff Goddard
Chapter
Part of the Yearbook of Corpus Linguistics and Pragmatics book series (YCLP, volume 2)

Abstract

Using corpus-assisted semantic analysis, conducted in the NSM framework (Wierzbicka, Semantics: primes and universals. OUP, New York, 1996a; Goddard, Semantic analysis: a practical introduction, 2nd rev edn. OUP Oxford, 2011), this chapter explores the meanings and uses of two closely-related secondary interjections, namely, Jesus! and Christ!, in Australian English. The interjections Shit! and Fuck! are touched on briefly. From a methodological point of view, the chapter can be read as a study in how corpus techniques and semantic analysis can work in tandem; in particular, how interaction with a corpus can be used to develop, refine and test fine-grained semantic hypotheses. From a content point of view, this study seeks to demonstrate two key propositions: first, that it is possible to identify semantic invariants, i.e. stable meanings, even for highly context-bound items such as interjections; second, that it is possible to capture and model speakers’ awareness of the degree and nature of the “offensiveness” of secondary interjections, in a Metalexical Awareness component that attaches, so to speak, to particular words. Both these propositions challenge conventional assumptions about the nature and interfacing between semantics and pragmatics. A final question raised in the study is how linguists can come to terms with the fact that people use interjections not only orally but also mentally, in “inner speech”.

Keywords

Australian English Corpus analysis Interjections Metalexical awareness Metapragmatics NSM Semantic templates Swearing 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The explications were co-developed with Anna Wierzbicka. For helpful comments I would like to thank Bert Peeters and Lara Weinglass. Lara also provided research assistance with the AusNC. Thanks also to Mee Wun Lee for research assistance with the Australian novels. This work was supported in part by the Australian Research Council.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Languages and LinguisticsGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

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