[PS-3.77] The Non-At-Issue Meaning of German Bloß and Nur

Dörre, L.

University of Konstanz

Sentences containing the exclusive bloß (only) (Maria soll bloß das Kleid kaufen, Maria should only buy the dress) have an at-issue (AI) and a non-at-issue (NAI) meaning. The AI meaning comprises the exclusion of alternatives; the NAI meaning comprises the prejacent. Bloß can also function as modal particle. In this case, the AI meaning is the prejacent and the NAI meaning is a specific speaker attitude (speaker is eager after Maria buying the dress). Leaving aside the prejacent, we refer to the exclusive meaning as the AI meaning and to the modal particle meaning as the NAI meaning and ask (1) whether the division of the AI/NAI content is psychologically real and (2) whether German nur and bloß, both equivalents of only, behave differently.
In one self-paced reading and one auditory passage completion experiment, participants saw, respectively heard sentences containing the particle (bloß/nur) and a context triggering the respective meaning (AI/NAI). We found higher processing costs for the AI compared to the NAI meaning of bloß. There was no difference for nur, concluding that the particles behave differently. The results point to processing differences between the AI and NAI meaning of bloß, supporting the existence of the two meaning representations.