The life cycle of the Kuuk Thaayorre desiderative

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Any speaker motivated to broach a taboo topic must weigh the value of communicating effectively against the cost of potentially offending their interlocutor(s). This chapter proposes that it is this tension between clarity and politeness that explains the present day co-existence of twelve desiderative constructions (used to communicate about desired states of affairs) in the Paman language Kuuk Thaayorre (Cape York Peninsula, Australia). Specifically, the twelve constructions are argued to be the output of successive waves of conventionalization. This iterative conventionalization is argued to contribute to our understanding of the diachronic relationships between Particularized Conversational Implicatures, Generalized Conversational Implicatures, Conventional Implicatures and entailments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Life Cycle of Language: Past, Present, and Future
EditorsDarya Kavitskaya, Alan C. L. Yu
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780191938207
ISBN (Print)9780192845818
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • pragmaticis
  • semantics
  • mood
  • implicature
  • entailment
  • grammaticalization
  • desiderative
  • taboo
  • politeness

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