Coercion on the edge: a purely linguistic phenomenon or an integrated cognitive process?
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When discussing the lexical aspect of verbs, it is noticeable that anomalous sentences can be found in normal speech. These sentences are awkward in terms of their compatibility with the rest of that sentence‟s components. Given that speakers seem to use these awkward sentences fairly usually, there must be a process solving the incompatibility; that process has been called coercion. At first, academics seemed to agree on it being a semantic process; until alternative views began claiming that pragmatics may have an important role in such process as well. The present study was conceived from the different views on the issue with the aim of shedding some new light onto the discussion; testing the role that context plays in the coercive process. Qualitative and quantitative methodology was used to obtain data from a group of 80 college students. A battery of questionnaires was applied. The subjects had to decide on the meaning of an anomalous sentence needing coercion in three different settings: first without any context, second with a context leading to one possible coerced meaning, and third one leading to another possible meaning. The results show that context does influence both the willingness of the subjects to use coercion and the choice between two possible resulting meanings. The presence of context increased the number of coerced-meaning answers and changed the selection form one meaning to another when the context changed. In light of these results, this work will propose that the solving of coercion is mainly pragmatic, but that there is semantic component present in it that cannot be denied; Thus giving a dual nature to the whole coercive understanding of a given sentence.
Facultad de Filosofía y HumanidadesTesis para optar al grado de Magíster en Estudios Cognitivos