The definition of WHAT-d'you-call-it: Semantics and pragmatics of 'recognitional deixis'
Enfield, N. J.
The definition of WHAT-d'you-call-it: Semantics and pragmatics of 'recognitional deixis'. Journal of Pragmatics, 35
(1), 101-117. doi:10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00066-8.
Words such as what -d'you-call-it raise issues at the heart of the semantics/pragmatics interface. Expressions of this kind are conventionalised and have meanings which, while very general, are explicitly oriented to the interactional nature of the speech context, drawing attention to a speaker's assumption that the listener can figure out what the speaker is referring to. The details of such meanings can account for functional contrast among similar expressions, in a single language as well as cross-linguistically. The English expressions what -d'you-call-it and you-know-what are compared, along with a comparable Lao expression meaning, roughly, ‘that thing’. Proposed definitions of the meanings of these expressions account for their different patterns of use. These definitions include reference to the speech act participants, a point which supports the view that what -d'you-call-it words can be considered deictic. Issues arising from the descriptive section of this paper include the question of how such terms are derived, as well as their degree of conventionality.