Histoire numérique et l’historiographie

On the use of sì? (‘yes?’) as invariant follow-up in Italian: A historical corpus-based account of pragmatic language change

Follow-ups are elliptical interrogative forms typically constituting an utterance in their own right. They are used to signal attention to the interlocutor, to encourage them to continue or as a reply to a call. This paper investigates the invariant follow-up sì? (‘yes?’) in Italian and it argues that it represents a case of pragmatic language change. To this end, it investigates the diachronic distribution, collocation and contexts of usage of sì? in a variety of language sources in relation to plausible, equivalent expressions (i.e., dimmi and dica [‘tell me’]). The analysis will show that since its earliest record of use in films in 1960, the frequency of occurrence of this form has dramatically increased to the point that, today, it is the preferred device. The study will also provide solid evidence of positive correlations between the use of yes? in English language audio-visual products and the use of sì? in scripted and real-use Italian, strongly suggesting that the marker would in fact be a case of pragmatic borrowing from English.

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