ENCONTROS QUINZENAIS DE LINGUÍSTICA SISTÉMICO-FUNCIONAL  

 

Encontro 35º

   

13 de Março de 2008, Quinta-feira, às 16:30 h.

 

FAILING WITHOUT TRYING

 

Lachlan Mackenzie (VU University Amsterdam & ILTEC) 


The paper will present my current research into the partial grammaticalization of
fail in Modern English. It is based on ongoing study of the over 12,000 occurrences of fail and failure followed by to in the 100m-word British National Corpus. In its lexical use, fail is a negative-implicative verb of the type identified in the seventies by Karttunen and Givón (Susan tried and failed to seduce her teacher). In its grammaticalized use, however, it functions (as noted by Halliday and Matthiessen 2004: 507, fn.) as an alternative to not (It failed to rain last night = It didn’t rain last night; The fur failed to fly at the meeting = The fur didn’t fly at the meeting). I will first analyse the latter use of fail firstly as a subject-raising verb but ultimately move on to seeing it as a grammatical operator of negation with periphrastic exponence of the type proposed by Ackerman & Stump in their version of Construction Grammar. We will see that various presuppositions connected with the lexical sense of fail persist in its grammaticalized use, but not where fail is followed by to be. An application of Functional Discourse Grammar reveals that the periphrastic negative fail to has narrower scope than not, and this leads on into an examination of the use of fail in litotes. My presentation will conclude with discussion of the semantic and pragmatic motivations for the grammaticalization.

Lachlan Mackenzie é Catedrático Honorário na área da Linguística Funcional na Universidade Livre de Amesterdão. Trabalha como consultor de línguas e linguística e como investigador no ILTEC. O livro Functional Discourse Grammar que escreveu juntamente com Kees Hengeveld vai ser publicado em Julho pela Oxford University Press.