《中国应用语言学(英文)》2020.2︱Why Is nice and Adj So Much More Frequent than Adj and nice?—From the Perspective of Humans’ Social and Limited-Processing-Capacity Attributes

发布时间 2020/07/28

Jinfang PENG(Self-employed researcher and English teacher)

Abstract:This paper investigates the phenomenon of imbalance between the frequencies of the nice and Adj and Adj and nice patterns from the perspective of humans’ social and limited-processing-capacity attributes. Humans’ social attribute requires that language users stay informative with minimal effort in communication, resulting in the from-the-least-to-the-most-informative information organization in discourse. Their limited-processing-capacity attribute requires that they resort to the production biases of “easy first” and “plan reuse” in order to achieve communicative efficiency in real-time production. The analysis of the occurrences of the nice and Adj pattern and native speakers’ judgment of the degree of informativeness of nice in these occurrences suggest that nice is largely delexicalized. Such delexicalization makes nice and Adj consistent with the information organization and allows language users to stay informative with the use of the pattern, thus in line with the social attribute, but not Adj and nice. In the meantime, nice is not only highly frequent but also conceptually salient when it comes to the positive property (Panther & Thornburg, 2009), making nice and Adj easier to produce and more likely to be reused than Adj and nice, thus in line with the limited-processing-capacity attribute. The analysis of the unbalanced frequency of the two patterns suggests that human attributes should be considered when studying language form, and this should offer insights into English learning.

Keywords: nice and Adj, Adj and nice, social attribute, limited-processing-capacity attribute, minimal effort, informativeness, production biases

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