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date: 06 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Since Paul and Zipf, it has become evident that lexical choice and meaning change are largely guided by pragmatic principles. Two central interacting principles are, first, the least-effort tendency to reduce expression and, second, the communicative requirements on sufficiency of information. Descendants of this opposition include Grice’s bipartite Maxim of Quantity (‘Make your contribution as informative as/no more informative than is required’) grounded within a general theory of rationality and cooperation, the Q and R Principles (essentially ‘Say enough’/‘Don’t say too much’), and the interplay of effort and effect within Relevance Theory. This chapter motivates a (Q-based) constraint on lexicalization, surveys the role of the R principle in motivating the Division of Pragmatic Labour, syntagmatic reduction, narrowing of meaning, euphemism, and negative strengthening, and provides pragmatic motivation for the lexical clone, un-noun, and un-verb constructions, and for the complementary Avoid Synonymy and Avoid Homonymy principles.

Keywords: avoid synonymy, division of pragmatic labour, lexicalization, lexical clones, Q Principle, R Principle, maxim of quantity, narrowing (of meaning), negative strengthening, principle of least effort

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