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English VP anaphors : do it, do this, do that

Abstract : The present thesis offers a corpus study of the alternation between do it, do this and do that in their use as ‘Verb Phrase anaphors’ (VPAs), in which they refer to a salient action mentioned in previous discourse, typically by means of a VP, or exophorically to a salient action in the speech situation that is not explicitly mentioned in previous discourse. Do it/this/that have been little studied in the otherwise extant literature on anaphora and especially VP ellipsis (VPE, e.g., Kim knows the answer and Pat does too). This is because it has long been assumed that they are largely interchangeable with each other as well as with do so and VPE, so that detailed analysis of their discourse properties was not deemed worth pursuing. The examples below show that this assumption is flawed : in (1), an attested example from the BNC, do this/that so could be used instead of do it, but in (3), do that is strongly preferred. As for VPE, it is unnatural in (1) and prefers a context of the type in (2).1.They’ve been rescuing companies for so long they do it automatically now, I expect. (AB9, ok: they do this/that/so automatically…)2.They’ve been rescuing companies for so long that whenever they do, it’s always a success.3.He closes his eyes when he speaks and I don’t trust anyone who does that. (…anyone who #does this/#it/#so)Based on a sample of annotated data from the British National corpus (BNC, Davies 2004-), our study will examine the factors driving the alternation between do it/this/that. Amongst others, VPA choice is influenced by register, the presence of an adjunct after the VPA, whether or not the antecedent has already been mentioned prior to the antecedent clause, and, to a lesser extent, the saliency of the antecedent and its presumed familiarity to the addressee. Do it typically refers to highly salient actions which are then further described by means of an adjunct. Do this, by contrast, denotes actions that have not been mentioned before the antecedent clause, and does not co-occur with adjuncts as often as do it. It also allows for much less salient antecedents. Do that typically occurs without an adjunct, and sometimes bears much resemblance to VPE in its usage.
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Submitted on : Monday, April 29, 2019 - 11:14:37 AM
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Gabriel Flambard. English VP anaphors : do it, do this, do that. Linguistics. Université Sorbonne Paris Cité, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018USPCC022⟩. ⟨tel-02113856⟩



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