The distinction between descriptive and expressive language is introduced in this chapter, and the main hypothesis of this book—the thesis of expressive syntax—is also introduced, according to which expressivity is a syntactic feature on a par with other features like tense or gender. While the descriptive function involves the relation of the linguistic sign to objects or state of affairs in the extra-linguistic world, the expressive function involve the relation between the sign to the speaker and what it conveys about him/her. The chapter also provides the basic idea of use-conditional semantics and an overview of the individual chapters, as well as guidance to readers on how to read this book, depending on whether they are semanticists, syntacticians, students, or just interested in the data on expressives.
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