Hedges (distanciatifs, délimiteurs)


Hedges. In English there are qualifying terms such as "almost" and "virtually," which Lakoff (1972)(*) calls "hedges." Even those who insist that statements such as "A robin is a bird" and "A penguin is a bird" are equally true, have to admit different hedges applicable to statements of category membership. Thus it is correct to say that a penguin is technically a bird but not that a robin is technically a bird, because a robin is more than just technically a bird; it is a real bird, a bird par excellence. Rosch (1975a) showed that when subjects were given sentence frames such as "X is virtually Y," they reliably placed the more proto typical member of a pair of items into the referent slot.

Eleanor Rosch, Principles of Categorization,
in Eleanor Rosch and Barbara B. Lloyd, Eds.,
Cognition and Categorization
Hillsdale NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum, 1978, pp. 27–48.

(*) Lakoff, G. Hedges: A study in meaning criteria and the logic of fuzzy concepts. Papers from the eighth regional meeting, Chicago Linguistics Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Linguistics Department, 1972.

Complémentaire du concept de prototype. Les hedges sont des «délimitateurs»: des adverbes tels que approximativement, techniquement, à strictement parler, etc., servent à sélectionner le prototype d'une catégorie.

George Lakoff,
Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. What Categories Reveal about the Mind,
Chicago, UCP, 1987, p. 123 où Lakoff s'inspire de Putnam et Kripke:

"Technically" assumes the following folk conception of the relation between words and the world… There is some body of people in society who have the right to stipulate what words should designate, relative to some domain or expertise. Sometimes these people are taken to be experts who know better than the common man what the world is like, as in the example: Technically, a dolphin is a mammal. Here professional biologists have the relevant expertise.

Le délimitateur (hedge) qu'est ici l'adverbe technically introduit dans l'énoncé un élément contextuel, une part d'indexicalité, une indication concernant la situation d'énonciation.

Hedge, «esquive»

to hedge, «répondre à côté, se dérober»
to hedge the issue, «esquiver la question, botter en touche»
a hedge against inflation, «une couverture, un parapluie contre l'inflation»

Exemple de cumulative hedging: "I have to ask you to kindly open the door"
Exemple de hedged performatives: «Je voudrais te demander de bien vouloir déplacer ta voiture»

Ce qui conduit à traduire hedge par «atténuateur» ou «distanciateur».

Selon Richard J. Watts, Politeness, Cambridge, CUP, 2003, chapitre 7 (Structures of linguistic politeness), p. 169, la distanciation (hedge) est un énoncé semi-stéréotypé destiné à être perçu par le destinataire comme une formule polie. Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson, Politeness. Some universals in language usage, Cambridge, CUP, (1978), 1987, classent les hedges dans la catégorie des politesses négatives.