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7 Chapter 7 Pragmatics1

Chapter Seven Pragmatics: the Analysis of Meaning in Context

1 Defining pragmatics
Pragmatics is the study of meaning in context. ? G. Yule (1996) defines pragmatics in the following ways: ? the study of speaker meaning // ? the study of contextual meaning // ? the study of how more gets communicated than is said

2. Deixis and reference

Deixis (from Greek) means
‘pointing’ via language.
a) You may go there tomorrow. b) The President is to meet him here today.

2.1 Person deixis
Person deixis comprises personal pronouns.
? first person: speaker inclusion (+S): I,

me, we, us, our, etc. ? second person: addressee inclusion (+A): you, your, etc.
? third person : speaker/addressee

exclusion (-S, -A): he, him, she, her, they, etc.

2.1 Person deixis
? Notice

the relationship between the system and participant-roles.
We: interpreted as ‘I, in addition to one or more other persons’

? inclusive we: including hearer
Let’s go. Let’s enjoy ourselves. We’re together again.

? exclusive we: excluding hearer
Let us go, here’s the money. We’ll leave without you.

? Honorific:

an expression which indicate higher status e.g. tu / vous in French Du / Sie in German 你/您 in Chinese Her Majesty, Your Highness in English

2.2 Place/Spatial deixis
Place or spatial deixis concerns the specification of locations relative to the location of the speaker.
? Place deixis // Spatial deixis

--- proximal (to the speaker) --- distal (from the speaker)

Proximal terms: here, this, come, bring, … Distal terms: there, that, go, take, ... e.g. Can you see that? I like this one, not that one.

2.3 Time/Temporal deixis
the encoding of temporal points/spans relative to the time of utterance

Proximal: now (time of utterance)


Distal: then (past and future), last, next,
e.g. You called last night? I was out then. I’ll see you then.

2.4 Discourse deixis
Discourse or text deixis concerns the use of expressions within some utterances to refer to some portion of the discourse that contains that utterance.
Deictic expressions can indicate the relationship between an utterance and the prior/following discourse.

2.4 Discourse deixis
e.g. this, that, in the previous / following paragraph, in the rest of the paper, etc. The story goes like this, … That’s all for today. Till next time, goodbye.

2.4 Discourse deixis

Anaphora the deixis that replaces the initial expression in the previous discourse
MARK TWIN is an American writer. He wrote a lot of novels in his life. TOM’S MOTHER died IN 1967; he was still young then.


--- The initial expression is called the antecedent.

2.4 Discourse deixis

Cataphora the deixis that replaces an entity in the following discourse e.g.
Here is the 9 o’clock NEWS This is what he did to me. He pulled me down and hit me on the back.

J. L Austin

Saying is doing.
How to do things with words

3 Speech Acts
actions performed via speaking
? Basic assumptions

--- We use language to do things. --- The minimal unit of language is a speech act, and so understood, language is interpreted as action.

3.1 Trichotomy of speech acts

Locutionary act

the act of producing a meaningful linguistic expression or: the uttering of the utterance with literal meaning.

3.1 Trichotomy of speech acts
? Illocutionary act --- the act of communicating intention through utterance

or: the act that is performed as a result of the speaker making an utterance such as betting, promising, welcoming, warning, etc. --- (In these cases saying = doing) --- To put it simply, the speaker is expressing his communicative intention in saying an utterance.

3.1 Trichotomy of speech acts

Perlocutionary act
the act of bringing about an effect

or: the bringing about of an effect of the speaker’s utterance upon the hearer. The hearer may feel amused, persuade, warned, etc, as a consequence.

J. R Searle

Speech acts: an essay in the philosophy of language

3.2 Indirect Speech Acts
An indirect speech act is a kind of illocutionary act which is performed indirectly by way of performing another.
? Direct speech acts

A direct speech act is one that performs a function that corresponds to the structure of an utterance.

What time is it? (question) I was not quite myself that day. (statement)

? Indirect speech acts

no correspondence between the structure and the function
e.g. There’s no chalk. (statement, but for request) Can you pass me the book. (question, but for request) There’s a mouse behind you. (statement, but for warning)

? Indirect speech acts

Indirect Speech Acts take longer to process on the part of the hearer, (Why?) ? because s/he has to infer the meaning intended. e.g. Turn on the light, please! Dark in here, isn’t it? --- Direct speech acts are straightforward, while Indirect speech acts are polite.

4. Cooperation and implicature
People try to cooperate with each other in verbal interactions.

4.1 The Cooperative Principle (CP)
Grice (1975) proposed the CP which contains a general principle and four maxims.

The Cooperative Principle --- four maxims

Paul Grice

4.1.1 The CP

Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

Para.: Both the speaker and the hearer try to be cooperative in the ongoing communicative exchange according to certain purposes.

4.1.2 The four maxims

i) Maxim of Quantity (: Be informative.)

--- Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).
--- Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

ii) Maxim of Quality (: Be truthful.)

--- Do not say what you believe to be false. --- Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

4.1.2 The four maxims
iii) Maxim of Relation
--- Be relevant.

iv) Maxim of Manner (: Be clear and orderly.)
--- Be perspicuous:
--- Avoid absurdity of expression. --- Avoid ambiguity.

--- Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
--- Be orderly.

4.1.2 The four maxims
? In short, these maxims have a control over participants in the way that they should speak sincerely, relevantly and clearly, while providing sufficient information.

4.2 Conversational implicatures
An example
(S did not follow the regulation that a student should ask for permission to leave the classroom. The teacher asks him to leave.)

S: 我走了。(0.2) 我告诉你了。

--- More information is provided than necessary

4.2 Conversational implicatures
? It is assumed that the participants adhere to the CP and the maxims in social interactions. ? There is more that gets communicated than is said if the maxims are violated by the speaker. ? Conversational implicatures arise when the speaker overtly or deliberately violates some maxim(s) for certain communicative purposes. Such implicatures are to be inferred from the contexts.

5. The politeness principle
? The CP is found inadequate in explaining why
people are so indirect in conveying what they mean. ? The CP is logic-oriented. ? Conversational interaction is social behaviour. Psychological factors are also involved.

Principles of Pragmatics

Geoffrey N. Leech

5.1 Leech’s Politeness Principle (PP)
? Other things being equal, minimize the
expression of beliefs which are unfavourable to the hearer and at the same time (but less important) maximize the expression of beliefs which are favourable to the hearer.

5.1.1 The six maxims
? Tact Maxim – Minimize cost to other. // Maximize benefit to other. ? Generosity Maxim – Minimize benefit to self. // Maximize cost to self. ? Approbation Maxim – Minimize dispraise of other. // Maximize praise of other. ? Modesty Maxim – Minimize praise of self. // Maximize dispraise of self.

5.1.1 The six maxims
? Agreement Maxim – Minimize disagreement between self and other. // Maximize agreement between self and other.

? Sympathy Maxim – Minimize antipathy between self and other. // Maximize sympathy between self and other.

5.1.2 The cost-benefit scale
cost to H less polite Peel the potatoes. Hand me the newspaper. Sit down. Enjoy your holiday. Have another sandwich.

benefit to H

more polite

5.1.2 The cost-benefit scale
cost to H ? less polite
DIRECT benefit to H ? more polite

5.1.3 The optionality scale

May I ask if it is possible that you might have another ice-cream?
Would you like to have another ice-cream? Have another ice-cream. Do have another ice-cream. Come on. You must have another ice-cream.
? If it is beneficial to H, the more direct, the more polite.

5.1.3 The optionality scale

Could you possibly finish it tomorrow?
Could you finish it tomorrow?

Will you finish it tomorrow?
Finish it tomorrow. You must finish it tomorrow.
? If it means cost to H, the more direct, the more impolite.

6. The Principle of relevance
? Proposed by Sperber and Wilson in Relevance: communication and cognition (1986/1995). ? Relevance theory can be understood as a cognitive approach to the study of human communication.

Dan Sperber
Relevance: communication and cognition (1986/1995)

6. The Principle of relevance
? Relevance --- a property of inputs to cognitive processes and --- analysed in terms of the notions of cognitive/ contextual effect and processing effort Other things being equal, the greater the cognitive/contextual effects, the greater the relevance of the input; the smaller the processing effort, the greater the relevance of the input.

The Principle of relevance
Every act of ostensive [-inferential] communication communicates a presumption of its own optimal relevance (what is the most relevant to the information communicated and the effort for the processing is small).

6.1 Models of communication
6.1.1 The code model
? Communication is achieved by encoding and decoding messages.
? A tradition of interpreting communication in Western philosophy since Aristotle

6.1.2 The inferential model
? Communication is achieved by producing and interpreting evidence. ? P. Grice , J. R. Searle // the cooperative principle and The speech act theory

6.1.3 The ostensive-inferential model
Communication involves both coding and inferential processes. ? Sperber and Wilson // The Principle of relevance ? This view amalgamates the code model and the inferential model.

6.2 Implications
? The

Relevance theory further develops the idea of implicature as proposed by Paul Grice. theory accounts for the fact that implicature and cooperation are not imcompatible.

? The

7. Conversation structure
There are regularities in conversation, i.e. conversations are structured.
7.1 Some notions ? Floor the right to speak ? Turn having control of the floor at any time in a conversation

7.1 Some notions

having the right to speak by turns


Transition Relevance Place (TRP)
--- any possible change-of-turn point --- linked with social norms

7.2 Adjacency pairs
--- sequences of two utterances as the result of turn-taking --- ordered as a first part and a second part (produced by different speakers)

Insertion sequence
an adjacency pair within another adjacency pair

7.2 Adjacency pairs
An example
(A is asking B to buy a ticket for him.) A: 买张北京的。 (Request 1) B: 白天还是晚上? (Question 1) A: 晚上几点的? (Question 2) B: 特快还是直达的? (Question 3) A: 那个特快60 (pause)多少钱? (Question 4) B: 三百多 (Answer to Q4) A: 几点? (Question 5) B: 八点多要不就九点多。 (Answer to Q5) A: 那就晚上(的)特快吧。 (Answer to Q1, Q3) B: OK。 (Acceptance of R1)

7.3 Preferred and dispreferred second parts
--- A first part creates a certain expectation.
--- A first part that contains a request or an offer is typically made in the expectation that the second part will be an acceptance rather than a refusal or a declination.

A preferred second part is one that conforms to the expectation and is the structurally expected next act.

7.3 Preferred and dispreferred second parts

dispreferred second part is one that does not conform to the expectation and is the structurally unexpected next act.

? A dispreferred second part is marked by more time and more language (hedges).

The general patterns of preferred and dispreferred structures
First part Second part Preferred Dispreferred

Invitation Offer Proposal Request

accept accept agree accept

refuse decline disagree refuse

7.4 Pre-sequences
exploited when dispreferred second parts follow in order to save face

(= pre-invitation) (= stop) (= stop)

A: Are you doing anything later? B: Oh, yeah. Busy, busy, busy. A: Oh, okay.

7.4 Pre-sequences

A: 妈,你猜我们今天学啥了? (= pre-announcement) B: (Silence) A: (Coming closer) 知道我们学啥了,今天? (=pre-announcement) B: 等会儿,你没看我正算帐呢么! (= stop)

7.4 Pre-sequences
Pre-request Example 1
A: Are you busy? B: Not really. A: Check over this memo. B: Okay. (= pre-request) (= go ahead) (= request) (accept)

Example 2
A: Do you have a spare pen? (= pre-request) B: Here. (hands over a pen)

End of Chapter Seven

Latest update: December. 12, 2005



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