The article is devoted to the problem of the structure of pragmatic constraints. The fact that gricean maxims are neither pure descriptive rules nor pure prescriptive ones is one of the puzzles of early pragmatic theories. I try to clarify the problem of ontological status of pragmatic constraints by means of game theory and optimality theory.
The chapter explores the semantics and pragmatics of the Russian temporal syntactic phraseme ‘X to X,’ (a construction characterized by a semantically restricted set of lexical items able to fill in its syntactic variables) which expresses either the speaker’s surprise at the fact that events go as planned (surprising punctuality interpretation) or the speaker’s surprise at the fact that unplanned events go as if they had been pre-planned (surprising fateful coincidence interpretation). While the construction is not unique, and occurs in other languages, its preferred interpretations are language-specific. The chapter demonstrates differences between Russian and English outlooks on time, based on their fundamental differences in linguistic worldviews. According to one of the central key ideas of the Russian linguistic worldview, events are difficult for human subjects to control, as they are commonly controlled by outside forces, such as fate, and therefore surprising punctuality interpretation prevails in Russian. English, which does not view punctuality as something out of the ordinary, favours the surprising fateful coincidence interpretation of this syntactic phraseme. The idea of fate in relation to temporality is also found in other languages, as demonstrated by Bernard Charlier’s research on Mongolian temporality in his chapter in the current volume.