Publication details

Emphatic italics and the information structure of a prose text



Year of publication 2020
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Cognitive Linguistic Studies
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords written and spoken communication; Firbas; emphasis; covert prosody; emphatic italics; FSP; Chafe
Description The emphatic function of italics has largely been ignored by linguists despite the value its understanding clearly has for written discourse studies. This paper aims to fill this gap. It is inspired by the types of relationship between the degrees of communicative dynamism and the degrees of prosodic prominence which the theory of functional sentence perspective has established for spoken language and applies them to written communication. At the same time, it maintains the distinction between the two modes of communication and suggests that it is only through covert prosody that any real parallels may be sought. The study uses two versions of a small corpus of written fiction. In the first version the original emphatic italics are preserved. In this instance the author’s intended covert prosody is partially accessible to the reader. The second version is one from which emphatic italics were removed. In this case the reader can only rely on their own covert prosody for interpretation. The versions were analyzed separately, and the analyses were then compared. Three relational types between the plain and italicized versions are identified: typographically amplifying, typographically revaluating, and typographically disambiguating. The paper concludes by suggesting some further avenues of research.
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