Edited by Ritva Laury and Tsuyoshi Ono
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 315] 2020
► pp. 11–40
Some language patterns appear fixed at a certain time, enabling their description as grammatical structures. Semi-fixed patterns that routinely accomplish specific social actions constitute more of an analytical challenge. This chapter targets the phrase ma saan aru ‘I understand’ in Estonian together with the ensuing other-attentive formulation ‘2nd person expression + a cognitive concept’ and argues that it is a semi-fixed expression, a “claim to the intersubjective”, that manages a misalignment between participants. While claiming to have successfully accessed the other’s motives or feelings, the speaker regularly advances her own agenda through the formulation of the other. This suggests a systematic relationship between cognitive lexicon, grammatical structure, and interactional function, and calls for a language theory that incorporates semi-fixedness.