Problematizing mirativity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


There are many excellent descriptions of mirativity in various language grammars, and more recently there has been a flurry of research refining mirativity to include how languages linguistically realize surprise and related concepts such as ‘unexpectedness’ and ‘new information’. However, there is currently no commonly accepted set of independently motivated diagnostics for testing mirativity that utilizes the best practices and first principles of semantic and pragmatic investigation. As such, the goal of this paper is to go back to basics and examine mirativity from the point of view of a field linguist who has been given the task of discovering and documenting how a speaker of a language linguistically expresses her surprise. This approach rests on two premises: first, mirativity is about surprise in the psychological sense. The second premise is that we take seriously that mirativity involves a kind of meaning, and that all languages have the linguistic resources for communicating mirative (surprise) meaning. The outcome is a set of tests that can be used to probe mirative meanings in any language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-342
Number of pages31
JournalReview of Cognitive Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Entailment
  • Gitksan
  • Implicature
  • Pragmatic fieldwork
  • Semantic
  • Surprise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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