Asked • 06/17/19

Can quoted (i.e. citation) text retain its original sentiment?

When phrases are used they can have a certain sentiment. If Alice knocks over a cup of tea, Bob might say "Well done!". If asked what the sentiment of Bob's phrase was, it would be *ironic* or sarcastic.My question is, at each stage below, what is the sentiment of "Well done!" *at that particular moment*? And hence, are there special rules governing the grammar for stage 3 (and hence, 2). Think of "Well done!" like a token in a parsed sentence. It is an object, possibly a **lexeme** (though I'm not a linguist so don't hold me to that!)This question has a touch of the philosophical about it. In the same way I could ask *is your 10 year old self a different person to you*? You are the same person even though you share non of the same cells. I don't know whether that's relevant, I'm looking for a grammatical rule covering the sentiment of a phrase that is retold *at the moment of retelling*. It has the same letters, it will be parsed in the same way, but it is appearing in a different time and context. What sentiment should be assigned to it?### Why?I'm using a computer to discover sentiments in natural language in chat, so the statements are in written form, but in the style of speech. If it parses the first sentence it may ascertain a certain sentiment. In subsequent parses I need to know what tell the computer to do when it meets quoting - **not the punctuation, not "", but the reuse of words and phrases that refer to a previous moment.**My apologies if this seems convoluted or abstruse, but this is obviously an edge case for my analysis and would be a very obscure (to me, anyway) grammar rule if it exists at all.I've put my guess at the sentiment at the end of each stage.## Stage 1>Alice knocks over tea.<br/>Bob says *"Well done!"***Sentiment: ironic.**## Stage 2Bob retells the scene to Charlie…> Alice knocked over her tea, she wasn't paying attention. I said to Alice "Well done!"The sentiment of Bob's whole speech is sincere (i.e. if asked, Bob says he's being entirely honest).What is the sentiment of *"Well done!"* when used *at this specific moment*? Is it also sincere because the retelling is sincere, or does it have a sentiment that is separate from the overall sentence, retained from its original use?i.e. is the sentiment of the phrase at stage 2 the same as stage 1, as if it is somehow the same object with the same properties, or is it treated in a different way, a different object with some of the same properties?**Sentiment: none/ not ironic.**## Stage 3Charlie is an alien and new to planet Earth. He can speak English perfectly but hasn't actually used it a lot.> Charlie: I've never heard anyone say that. I don't believe it happens.<br/>Bob: OK. You find me someone saying "Well done!" unironically. (Bob makes little air quotes with his fingers as he says "Well done!") <br/>Charlie: Are you being sincere? <br/>Bob: Yes. <br/>Charlie: OK, then you just said it unironically when you asked the question. <br/>Bob: When I said it, that part was ironically. That's why it's in quotes. <br/>The request is sincere.So, **is Bob's claim possible?** Is the sentiment of "Well done!" when he made his request to Charlie the same as when he said it to Alice? This takes the idea in stage 2 one step further, because now Bob has appended the phrase with "unironically".There are a few options:1. The phrase is exactly the same object/token, its repeated use retains all original sentiment regardless of how it is reused later, as long as there is a reference to an original moment.2. The original utterance was ironic, but retellings of it *the specific use of that phrase at that moment* have no sentiment of their own. Obviously, the sense of the *original use* (that it *was* ironic) is conveyed in the telling. That's what the telling is for!3. It would be **1**, but putting a modifier next to it changes the sentiment e.g. *"Well done!"* would be ironic, but *"Well done!"* ***unironically*** now means it is now unironic.4. *"Well done!"* is ironic. *"Well done!" unironically* is unironic. Yes, these can exist at the same time - chop it up how you like - so it depends which entire token you refer to in order to find the sentiment. 5. It has no sentiment of its own, it is now part of the overall request.**My choice: #5.**Phew! I hope that was better than the last attempt at asking this question.

1 Expert Answer


Thomas A. answered • 07/28/19

Published Writing & Grammar Expert

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