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The meanings of list constructions: Explicating interactional polysemy

Chapter in book
Authors Susanna Karlsson
Published in Ethnopragmatics and Semantic Analysis Vol 1 edited by Kerry Mullan, Bert Peeters, and Lauren Sadow
Pages 223-238
ISBN 978-981-32-9982-5
Publisher Springer Nature
Place of publication Singapore
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Swedish
Pages 223-238
Language en
Keywords Lists, coordination, Interactional Linguistics, Swedish, Syntax, Natural Semantic Metalanguage
Subject categories Languages and Literature, Specific Languages, Scandinavian languages, Swedish language


This chapter engages in the semantic explication of lists in Swedish. For this study, the author analyses lists found in a corpus of naturally occurring telephone conversations between friends. This study combines the frame work of Natural Semantic Metalanguage with the analytic methods of Interactional Linguistics. The aim of the study is to contribute to the knowledge about how the manner of co-ordination contributes to our understanding of lists and of the respective list items are meant to be understood to relate to one another. In Swedish conversation, lists come in two syntactic formats: one where the conjunction is produced before the listed item and one where the conjunction comes after the item. There are also two prosodic formats: one that indicates a closed set and one that indicates an open set. These combine to three basic formats. When explicated using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage, it is shown that the list formats not only treat the relationship between the listed items differently, but that the speaker also can draw upon the different formats to display an interpersonal stance towards what the other participants can be expected to know or understand about the list. The explications contribute to a heightened understanding of the differences as well as the similarities of the three list types, highlighting the ways the lists are polysemous as well as the way they are synonymous.

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