“People are people to me”: The interpretation of tautologies with frame-setters

Elena Vilinbakhova, Victoria Escandell-Vidal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This paper explores ‘framed tautologies’ occurring with (i) expressions that overtly introduce individuals to which the asserted content is related, (ii) spatiotemporal adjuncts, and (iii) universal quantifiers. Drawing on data from COCA and other web-based sources, we examine the contribution of the frame-setters and the strategies used to build a consistent interpretation. When the frame-setter restricts the validity of tautologies to a specific individual, we distinguish between judge for/to-phrases indicating the opinion-holder, and functional standard for-phrases indicating the specific individual to whom the tautology applies. Tautologies with spatiotemporal frames pattern with other stative propositions, in that the scope of locative and temporal phrases has to be fixed inferentially: it can be (i) the whole sentence as an abstract object; (ii) a discourse-salient implicit topic, identified as the attitude-holder or the source of the belief expressed, and (iii) the subject of the tautology. Universal quantifiers guide the addressee towards the literal, non-vague interpretation of the tautology. Interpreting a framed tautology is a matter of reconciling the semantics of an analytic proposition with that of a non-matching frame – either too restrictive or redundant. Hence, their analysis is relevant to understanding how interpretive processes deal with constructions containing mismatches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-108
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue numberApril 2019
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2019

Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Frame-setters
  • Interpretive strategies
  • Mismatches
  • Tautologies


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