Essay: Dissertation: The role of pragmatics in explaining how language interacts with context

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  • Dissertation: The role of pragmatics in explaining how language interacts with context
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Thomas (1995: 21) notes that it is easy to pick holes in earlier approaches to the study of pragmatics, because the ‘pioneers’ of the field were reacting against an approach to linguistics which was strongly biased towards meaning in abstract rather than meaning in use. Lyons (1981: 171) states that pragmatics is ”variously defined as the study of actual utterances; the study of use rather than meaning; the study of that part of meaning which is not purely truth-conditional; the study of performance rather than competence, etc.”. Mey (2001: 7) presents a social view of pragmatics and argues that defining pragmatics implies determining its frontiers with other, adjoining fields of research within (and possibly also outside) linguistics. Grundy (2000: 214) maintains that most pragmatics textbooks (e.g., Levinson 1983: 5-35; Mey 1993: 5; Green 1996: 2) typically begin with a definition of pragmatics, and therefore he chooses not to begin his textbook with a definition because the range of phenomena investigated in pragmatics ”do not fit neatly under a single definition”. This diversity in views reflects the complexities and interfaces of pragmatics.

The modern usage of the term ‘pragmatics’ can be traced back to Morris (1938), who was concerned with outlining (after Locke and Peirce) the theoretical framework of a science of signs, or ‘semiotics’. Morris (1938: 6, cited in Levinson 1983: 1) distinguishes three distinct branches of inquiry within semiotics: ‘Syntax’, being the study of ”the formal relation of signs to one another”; ‘semantics’, the study of ”the relations of signs to the objects to which the signs are applicable”; and ‘pragmatics’, the study of ”the relation of signs to interpreters”. Building on this three-part distinction, Yule (1996: 4) notes that only pragmatics allows humans into the analysis, and consequently observes that the advantage of studying language via pragmatics is that one can analyze the addressers’ intended meanings, their assumptions, their purposes or goals, and the types of actions (for example, requests) that are performed through interaction. However, he points out that ”the big disadvantage is that all these very human concepts are extremely difficult to analyze in a consistent and objective way”, (Ibid,). This point is of great significance for IM because it asserts that the study of IM cannot be complete since it depends on a group of parameters which are, by their very nature, inaccessible to objective research.

To sum up, the role of pragmatics in explaining how language interacts with context is very necessary and complementary to an adequate account of language that covers both explicit and implicit meaning. Pragmatics is concerned with the assignment of meaning in linguistic and extralinguistic context. The latter covers the cognitive, social, and cultural dimensions accompanying language use, (see 1.7.2)

1.2 Pragmatics and Linguistics:
Thomas (1995: 184) defines pragmatics as a level of linguistic description, like phonology, syntax, semantics, discourse analysis and morphology, which has its own theories, methodologies and underlying assumptions. Since language structure and language use cannot be separated in the study of language, pragmatic interaction with these levels is inevitable. This fact is undeniable and each linguistic level shows certain manifestations where the pragmatic influence is evident.

Establishing pragmatics as a component of language is controversial, but nearly all linguists acknowledge that pragmatics is an area of language study which has a big role in a comprehensive theory of language that combines language structure and language use. Chapman (2011: 10), for example, does not regard pragmatics as a component and states that ”It is often described as being a branch or field of linguistics”, while Thomas (1995: 184) notes that the pragmaticist has things to say about choices made within phonetics, syntax, semantics and discourse. For example, Trudgill (1972, 1974; cited in Ibid,) reports that the phenomenon of /h/ dropping among working-class males in Norwich can be in some cases explained not in terms of sociolinguistic variables (age, gender, social setting) but by pragmatic factors- the desire of one particular male on one particular occasion to distance himself or align himself with another person by consciously choosing not to pronounce /h/.

Verschueren (1999: 1) states that linguistics is traditionally divided into component disciplines such as phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics, each of which has a specific ‘unit of analysis’. The availability of units of analysis for these ingredients is due to the fact that each of these is part of the structure of language. But when it comes to pragmatics, the question posed is: what is its unit of analysis? He (Ibid, 2) argues that the linguistic phenomena to be studied from the point of view of their usage can be situated at any level of structure or may pertain to any type of form-meaning relationship. Most importantly, he stresses that ”pragmatics does constitute an additional ‘component’ of a theory of language, but it offers a different ‘perspective’ ”, (Ibid, 2).

Chapman (2011: 10-13) explores the relationship between pragmatics and linguistics, and discusses the role of pragmatics in the description of language in linguistic theory. She supports the proposition that pragmatics is a branch or field of linguistics rather than a component, and maintains that ”categorizing it in this way makes a lot of sense”, and that pragmatics, strictly speaking, should be described as outside of and separate from mainstream or ‘core’ linguistics (Ibid, 10). Chapman justifies that pragmatics stands apart from the established linguistic components ”because its subject matter is not, or not exclusively, language itself, but the production and interpretation of language in relation to contexts of use”, and therefore pragmatics can perhaps be seen, not as a component, but as ”an adjunct to linguistic theory”, (Ibid, 11).

1.3 Pragmatics and Semantics:
Huang (2007: 211) states that the distinction between semantics and pragmatics has been made in a variety of different ways. The two fields are related and complementary, both concerned with the transmission of meaning through language. Drawing a borderline between them is difficult and controversial. Even some theorists are skeptical about the distinction (e.g. Lakoff 1987, Langacker: 1987, cited in Saeed 1997: 19) while others accept it but draw the line in different places. The advantage of this distinction is that it facilitates the job of the semanticist by excluding from semantics the aspects that are not purely linguistic. It would be, then, the job of pragmaticists to investigate the interaction between purely linguistic knowledge and general or encyclopedic knowledge, (Saeed 1997: 18).

In other words, pragmatics is meaning described in relation to addresser and addressee according to a context; and semantics is meaning abstracted from users. Saeed (ibid, 18) cites the following simple example to clarify this division of labour. Sentence (1) below can be uttered by an addresser and meant as a simple statement, or as a warning to hurry and get the last purchase (if they are in a department store) or drink (if in a bar):
(1) The place is closing.
It could also be an invitation or command to leave. In fact, a whole series of users for this simple sentence can be imagined, depending on the addresser’s wishes and the situation the interlocutors are in.

1.4 Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis:
Discourse analysis shares with pragmatics an interest in language use, but as the name of the field suggests, it focuses on the structure of discourse, particularly naturally occurring texts and talk, rather than isolated or idealized utterances, (Allott 2010: 65). Some of the approaches to language description involve both pragmatics and discourse analysis, others involve either one or the other. Pragmatics and discourse analysis are approaches to study language’s relation to contextual background features. They have much in common: they both study ‘context’, ‘text’ and ‘function’, (Cutting 2008: 2).

Most importantly, where discourse analysis differs from pragmatics is in its emphasis on ‘structure’ of text. Discourse analysis studies how large chunks of language beyond the sentence level are organized, and how the social transaction imposes a framework on discourse, (Coulthard 1985: 4-5). It traditionally covers the topics of ‘exchange structure’, or how certain situations have fixed sequences in the overall framework of the exchange, and conversation structure or how what one interlocutor says can influence the next interlocutor’s response, (Cutting 2008: 3). Yule (1996: 84) points out that in discourse analysis, there is a great deal of interest in the structure of discourse, with particular attention being paid to what makes a well-formed text. Within this structural perspective, the focus is on topics such as the explicit connections between sentences in a text that create cohesion, or on elements of textual organization that are characteristic of storytelling, for example, as distinct from opinion expressing and other text types. However, within the study of discourse, the pragmatic perspective is more specialized. It tends to focus specifically on aspects of what is unsaid or unwritten (yet communicated) within the discourse being analyzed. In order to analyze the pragmatics of discourse, the analyst should go beyond the primarily social concerns of interaction and conversation analysis, look behind the forms and structures present in the text, and pay much more attention to psychological concepts such as background knowledge, beliefs, and expectations. In the pragmatics of discourse, what the addresser has in mind should inevitably be explored.

Further, pragmatics differs from discourse analysis in the importance given to the social principles of discourse. Pragmatics takes a socio-cultural perspective on language usage, examining how the principles of social behavior are expressed and determined by the social distance between interlocutors. It describes the unwritten maxims of conversation that interlocutors follow in order to cooperate and be socially acceptable to each other (Ibid, 3).

1.5 Pragmatics and Sociolinguistics:
There are certain phenomena that are central to both pragmatics and sociolinguistics. Phenomena such as how addressers express degrees of politeness through the linguistic choices they make are matters of concern to both pragmatics and sociolinguistics, but the two fields are nevertheless very different from each other, with different focuses, methodologies and motivations. Mey (2006: 1793) summarizes the difference as follows: ”Pragmatics studies the use of language in the users, while sociolinguistics focuses on the linguistic aspects of the social use”. While pragmatics is concerned with language in use in whatever kind of situation, sociolinguistics is concerned with the relationship between language and society, and it investigates the various social factors that impact on the linguistic resources available to people and how they use these resources. These social factors are generally variables such as age, social class, gender and ethnicity, (Chapman 2011: 184).

An important point of difference between the two fields is that the data analyzed in sociolinguistics must necessarily be drawn from instances of actual language use; invented examples cannot answer the questions of sociolinguistics in the way that they can arguably answer the questions of pragmatics. Furthermore, the terminology that is used in both fields also differs, and even when the same term is used, it may represent a different notion, e.g., ‘cooperation’ (Ibid, 185-187). Levinson (1983: 374) states that pragmatics and sociolinguistics have many areas of common interest, and that each has contributed much to the other. In particular, sociolinguists have contributed much to certain areas of pragmatics, especially the study of social deixis and speech acts and their use. In turn, pragmatics sheds light on the underlying structural properties and processes that constrain verbal interaction. This illumination helps sociolinguists in trying to understand the social significance of patterns of language usage, (Ibid,).

1.6 Pragmatics and Literature (Literary pragmatics):
It may be thought that pragmatics has nothing to do with written texts since they do not involve face-to-face verbal interaction. Pragmatics focused on the spoken form of language in its early days, and this is quite clear in theories such as speech act theory and politeness theory. However, overtime, this restricted view of pragmatics began to fade away as the field became interested in written as well as spoken texts. This section investigates the possibility of applying pragmatic analysis to literary texts. This trend is rather new in pragmatics. Recently, an increasing interest in the pragmatics of written texts has been making itself felt across the disciplines of both literary science and linguistics, (Mey 2001: 236). The debates are not just about peripheral questions such as how to interpret this poem or that piece of prose, but that something more is afoot: the question of literature as such, and what it is doing in man’s life, (Ibid,).

Mey (2001: 236) argues that the question ”What is the significance of pragmatics for the study of written text?” or more broadly ”How do literature and pragmatics relate?” has to be seen from the angle of the ‘language user’. But who is this user, when it comes to literature? If literature is for the users, and the use of language is what determines pragmatics, then literary pragmatics is the expression not just of a trendy tendency, but of some deeper need for clarification of the relationship between humans, their words, and their worlds, (Ibid,). Reading is a collaborative activity, taking place between author and reader. The work that the author does in producing the text has to be supplemented and completed by the reader. The reader does not just buy a book: he buys an author to take home with him. As Byatt (1996: 214, in Mey 2001: 237), expresses it succinctly ”[A novel] is made in the head, and has to be remade in the head by whoever reads it, who will always remake it differently”. In other words, the reader, as an active collaborator, is a major player in the literary game. His or her contribution consists in entering the universe that the author has created, and by doing so, becoming an actor, rather than a mere spectator. The result is not only cooperation, but also innovation.
This survey sheds some light on the relationship between pragmatics and literary texts. As for IM, it is obvious that it takes a big amount of mental effort to tackle since the context in literary texts, and particularly in poetry, lacks the immediate factors of communication such as the presence of addresser and addressee in one place and time, as is the case in ordinary everyday verbal interaction.
1.7 Key Meaning Structures
1.7.1 Sentence, Utterance and Proposition:
The distinction between the three notions ‘sentence’, ‘utterance’ and ‘proposition’ is of fundamental importance to both semantics and pragmatics. To begin with, these notions are used to describe different levels of abstractness. A sentence concerns ”meaning in the abstract, independent of any actual realization in conversation or context”, (LoCastro 2012: 18). It is a well-formed string of words put together according to the grammatical rules of a language, (Huang 2007: 10). As a unit of the language system, it is an abstract entity or construct defined within a theory of grammar. In other words, it is an abstract grammatical element obtained from the utterance, i.e., generalized or abstracted from actual language use. Thus, the study of sentence-meaning normally belongs to the domain of semantics, (Ibid, 11). For illustration, example (2) is an acceptable and well-formed sentence in English, but example (3) is not:
(2) Zeki won the prize.
(3) Zeki the prize won.*

By contrast, an utterance is the use of a particular piece of language, be it a word, a phrase, a sentence, or a sequence of sentences, by a particular addresser in a particular situation, (Ibid.). From an utterance, the addressee derives ‘utterance meaning’ or ‘speaker meaning’, (LoCastro, 2012: 18). Example (5) is an utterance in English (The quotation marks indicate that it is taken from a specific context on a specific situation of use):
(4) ”Zeki won the prize”.

Consequently, the utterance has an extralinguistic dimension above its linguistic structure. Bar-Hillel (1954, cited in Levinson 1983: 18-19) describes it as a pairing of a sentence and a context, where the context is the situation in which the sentence is uttered. By definition, pragmatic analysis focuses on the context-dependent utterance meaning as it goes beyond the lexical meanings of the words used. Utterance-meaning, or addresser’s meaning, then, can be defined as what an addresser intends to convey by an utterance. As a result, the study of utterance-meaning normally falls within the domain of pragmatics.

In addition to these two notions, there is the notion of a proposition. When an English speaker utters sentence (5), and an Arab speaker utters sentence (6), there is a clear sense in which they have both said the same thing:
(5) Snow is white.
(6) ???????????? ????????

Moreover, given that they both intend sincerely to express their beliefs by uttering these sentences, there seems a clear sense in which they both believe the same thing. Philosophers label this thing that both have said and that both believe a ‘proposition’, (Crawford 2006, in Brown 2010: 617). Two or more sentences (in the same language or in different ones) can have the same proposition as their meaning- that is, they can express the same proposition- just as different numerals (e.g. the Arabic numeral ‘4’ and the Roman numeral ‘IV’) can designate the same number, namely four. Furthermore, propositions are supposed to be the contents of many of one’s mental states, such as belief, knowledge, doubt, supposition, memory, desire intention, etc., (Ibid,).

The propositional content of a sentence is that part of its meaning which can be reduced to a proposition. The notion of proposition allows semanticists to claim that different types of sentences may share the same propositional content, although they differ in other aspects of meaning, (Huang 2007: 12). For example, the interrogative sentence (7) has the same propositional content as the active declarative sentence (8) and the passive declarative sentence (9), namely (10), (Huang: Ibid,):
(7) Did John eat an apple?
(8) John ate an apple.
(9) An apple was eaten by John.
(10) JOHN ATE APPLE

The difference is that while in examples (8) and (9) the addresser asserts the corresponding proposition, that is, he commits himself to the truth of the proposition, in uttering (7) the addresser questions its truth. To illustrate, the relationship between sentence, utterance and proposition, figure (1) is provided below. [Is this figure necessary?]

 

 

 

Figure (1): Relationship between sentence, utterance, and proposition
(Adapted from Hurford & Heasley, and cited in Huang 2007: 13)
The figure shows the levels of abstractness of the three notions and their potential realizations. Proposition is the most abstract and utterance is the least abstract. Put differently, a given proposition can be expressed by different sentences, and a given sentence can be expressed by different utterances.

1.7.2 Context:
This section considers how addressors and addressees rely on context in constructing and interpreting the meaning of utterances. Context is one of the notions which are widely used in the linguistics literature, yet a precise definition of the term is difficult to provide. Huang (2007: 13) states that context can be defined, in a broad sense, from a relatively theory-neutral point of view, as referring to any relevant features of the dynamic setting or environment in which a linguistic unit is systematically used. Ariel (1990, cited in Huang, Ibid,) categorizes context into three different types, a view known as the ‘geographic’ division of context. First, there is the ‘physical context’, which refers to the physical setting of the utterance. Knowledge of the time and place in which an utterance is used is crucial to its interpretation, example (11) is provided for illustration. Thus, this type of context determines whether the ‘bank’ refers to the river’s side or to the financial establishment:
(11) The friends will meet at the bank.

Secondly, there is the ‘linguistic context’, which refers to the surrounding utterances in the same discourse. This is due to the fact that some pieces of discourse cannot be fully understood unless the previous pieces are taken into account, example (12) is illustrative. This type determines the referents of the pronouns ‘you’ and ‘him’ as well as which ‘plan’ is referred to:
(12) Did you tell him about the plan?

Thirdly, there is the ‘general knowledge context’. The information derivable from this type explains why (13.a) is pragmatically well-formed but (13.b) is pragmatically anomalous:
(13) a. I went to Egypt last month. The pyramids were magnificent.
b. I went to Iraq last month. The pyramids were magnificent.*

The essence of the third type is a set of background assumptions shared by the addresser and the addressee. Stalnaker (1974; cited in Huang 2007: 14) calls this type ‘common ground’. Clark (1996: cited in Ibid,) elaborates the notion of common ground by distinguishing ‘communal’ from ‘personal’ common ground. The former refers to the set of background assumptions shared by members of a community, and the latter to the body of background knowledge two members of a community share from their past experience of each other.

In brief, the first type is, in fact, part of the third because one’s encyclopedic or general knowledge definitely includes knowledge about the physical presence of certain things such as the bank in example (11). This point is implied in the classification of context types by LoCastro (2012) and Verdonk (2002) below. Obviously, when it comes to the pragmatic analysis of poetry, all the three types of context come into play.

LoCastro (2012: 19-20) divides context into linguistic and non-linguistic. The linguistic context is ”all of the language, before and after, the particular instance that is the subject of analysis”, while the non-linguistic context consists of two main categories, (1) non-verbal features, such as paralinguistic cues that include voice quality, stress and intonation contours, and pragmatic markers; (2) the setting, which includes aspects of the physical environment and of the individuals involved in the interaction. Generally, the context of a piece of language is a source of clues that aid the addressee in working out what the addresser intends to convey. Since pragmatics deals with addresser meaning or what is communicated, and how the addressee works this out, context is central to pragmatics. Indeed, one popular way of distinguishing semantics from pragmatics is by incorporating context into the definition: semantics studies context-invariant meaning, while pragmatics is concerned with context-dependent meaning, (Allott 2010: 38).

Verschueren (1999: 26) states that the world of unexpressed information which an utterance carries along is called ‘background information’. Sometimes it also goes under the name ‘common knowledge’ or ‘common ground’, because it must be assumed to be shared- to a certain degree- by addresser and addressee. Thus, since such assumptions involve recursive and mutual embeddings, the term ‘mutual knowledge’ is also often used. Therefore, he prefers to use ‘background information’ or ‘background assumptions’ as they ”avoid claims about the actual or even assumed ‘sharing’ of the information in question”, but he also warns that ”whatever term is used, the implicit meaning it covers is not a fixed entity but is shaped and reshaped in the course of linguistic interaction”, (Ibid,).

Verdonk (2002: 19) argues that the external non-linguistic context ”is a very complex notion because it may include any number of text-external features influencing the interpretation of a discourse”. Accordingly, he specifies a list of components that contribute to the extralinguistic context. Though comprehensive, he notes that the list is by no means complete:
1. The text type, or genre (for example, an election poster, a recipe, a sermon).
2. Its topic, purpose, and function.
3. The immediate temporary and physical setting of the text.
4. The text’s wider social, cultural, and historical setting.
5. The identities, knowledge, emotion, abilities, beliefs, and assumptions of the addresser and addressee.
6. The relationships holding between the addresser and addressee.
7. The association with other similar or related text types (intertextuality).

Verdonk’s (2002) definition of the extralinguistic context is more precise and more comprehensive than Ariel’s (1990) ‘general knowledge context’ and LoCastro (2012) ‘non-linguistic context’. Therefore, it is adopted in this study as it best suits the type of context upon which IM is based.

1.8 Key Notions in Pragmatics
1.8.1 Implicature:
The term ‘implicature’ goes back to Grice (1913-1988). It first emerged in the William James lectures that he delivered at Harvard University in 1967, (Huang 2007: 23). The term refers to a type of meaning beyond the domain of semantics, namely that which is communicated by an utterance, but not explicitly expressed. In other words, an implicature is a communicated implication of an utterance. An addresser can intend to mean more by his utterance than what the words uttered literally mean, (Allott 2010: 92). Example (14) is illustrative:
(14) a. Andy: I think we should get a pet.
b. Bess: Cats are my favourite animals.

Here Bess’s literal meaning is that cats are her favourite animals. However, in making her utterance in the context, it is likely that she conveyed more than this (and that she intended to do so). She intentionally implied that she and Andy should get a cat (or cats) as pets. Pragmatically speaking, she ‘implicated’ that she and Andy should get a cat (or cats) as pets, (Ibid,).

In his theory of conversation, Grice divides implicatures into ‘conventional’ and ‘conversational’, and subdivides conversational implicatures into ‘generalized’ and ‘particularized’. All of these types of implicatures are distinct from what is said in that they do not contribute to the truth conditions of an utterance. Conversational implicatures, like the one in example (14), are not part of what the words of an utterance literally mean, but are inferred from the addresser’s utterance and how it is put in context. In Grice’s theory of conversation, the inference relies on (1) a Cooperative Principle (interlocutors should cooperate in conversation and other talk exchanges), and (2) conversational maxims (the addresser conforms to certain standards such as telling the truth and neither giving too much nor too little information). In contrast, conventional implicatures are supposed to be carried by particular words. For example, the word ‘but’ conveys an idea of contrast, but this contrast does not affect the proposition expressed by the utterance. Grice suggests treating such cases as conventional implicatures. These differ considerably from conversational implicature, (Ibid,).

Grice’s theory of conversation is an attempt to show how an addresser can implicate and how an addressee can work out what is implicated. When an addresser violates a maxim(s), if taken as the whole context of what the addresser is communicating, the addressee is entitled to look for some extra meaning beyond what is explicitly said in order to preserve the assumption that the addresser is being cooperative, (Ibid, 93).

The indirection of implicature is of special significance in poetry as the poet(ess) usually attempts to state something explicitly while at the same time ‘means’ something else by implication. Grice’s implicature is a kind of meaning which covers ”any meaning that is implied, i.e., conveyed indirectly or through hints, and understood implicitly without ever being explicitly stated”, (Grundy 2000: 73). For the purpose of this study, Grice’s theory of implicature is not adopted as a model of analysis because it does not cover the wide range of devices that convey IM in poetry. [Is this figure necessary?]

 

 

 

Figure (2): Types of Meaning according to Grice (1967), cited in Grundy (2000: 83)

1.8.2 Presupposition:
Levinson (1983: 167) argues that presupposition is a special kind of pragmatic inference which seems to be based, more closely than implicatures, on the actual linguistic structure of sentences, but which also cannot be thought of as semantic in the narrow sense, because it is too sensitive to contextual factors. He (Ibid,) states that while there is more literature on presupposition than almost any other topic in pragmatics (except perhaps for speech acts), much of it is of a technical and complex kind, and a great deal is also obsolete and sterile. Presupposition was a focal area in linguistic theory during the period 1969-1976, because it raised substantial problems for almost all kinds of (generative) linguistic theories then available. In addition, he points out to the distinction between the ordinary usage of the word ‘presupposition’ and its technical usage within linguistics. The technical concept accommodates only a small proportion of the usages associated with the ordinary language term. Levinson (1983: 167) states that, as a consequence of the large literature (on presupposition), even contradicted pronouncements can be found. Historically, concern with presupposition in pragmatics originates with debates in philosophy, especially debates about the nature of reference and referring expressions, problems which lie at the heart of logical theory, (Levinson 1983: 169).

A striking feature of presuppositions is that they can be preserved under negation. This feature is called ‘constancy under negation’ and is usually regarded as a test for presuppositions, (Palmer 1981: 167; Yule 1996: 26). It means, simply, that when the opposite in a sentence is produced by negating it as in (16) below, the relationship of presupposition does not change, i.e. the presupposition of a statement remains true even when that statement is negated:
(15) Mary’s dog is cute.
(16) Mary’s dog isn’t cute.
(17) Mary has a dog.

Finch (2005: 165) states that the feature of constancy under negation indicates an important difference between presupposition and entailment, as the latter is a logical relationship with which presupposition is sometimes confused. He also points out that presuppositions allow language users the freedom not to make everything absolutely explicit in communication. If all the details have to be spelt out every time language is used, then communicating would be an extremely lengthy and tedious business. He proposes two types of presupposition, (1) the sentence presupposition and (2) the pragmatic or utterance presupposition. Many sentence presuppositions are produced by the presence of certain words termed ‘lexical triggers’, (e.g., factive verbs). The second type depends on extra-linguistic and/or paralinguistic information, and this is incorporated into the eclectic model of the study under the heading ‘pragmatic presupposition’ because it conveys IM.

Saeed (1997: 93) states that presupposition seems to lie at the borderline between semantics and pragmatics. In some respects presupposition seems like entailment: a fairly automatic relationship, which involves no reasoning, and seems free of contextual effects. In other respects, though, presupposition seems sensitive to facts about the context of utterance. He (Ibid, 100-101) observes:
So we can see that different levels of context can cause fluctuations in presupposition behaviour. At the most general level, the context provided by background knowledge; then, the context provided by the topic of conversation; and finally, the narrower linguistic context of the surrounding syntactic structures- all can affect the production of presuppositions.

Yule (1996: 27-30) proposes a model comprising six main types of presupposition which he views as indicators of potential presuppositions that can only become actual presuppositions in contexts with addressers:
1. Existential Presupposition (Possessive constructions; Definite NP’s).
2. Factive Presupposition (Verbs like regret, realize, matter, explain; Adjectives like (be) odd, sorry, aware).
3. Non-factive Presupposition (Verbs like dream, imagine, pretend).
4. Lexical Presupposition (Verbs like manage; Change of state verbs like ‘stop’, ‘start).
5. Structural (or syntactic) Presupposition (Wh-question constructions; time clauses with past reference, e.g. ”We loved each other when you were in Baghdad” which presupposes ”We were in Baghdad”; Relative clauses; Comparative clauses).
6. Counterfactual Presupposition (Conditional structures like if-clause).

LoCastro (2012: 29) contrasts entailment with presupposition as follows:

While entailments logically follow from what is asserted by the linguistic forms in a proposition, presuppositions comprise the background information, such as knowledge of the world, that enable inferences to be made and meaning derived. They are part of what is communicated, but not part of what is said. Presuppositions are properties of speakers and listeners, whereas entailments are properties of sentences.

A problematic aspect of presupposition is ‘pronoun choice’ in some languages such as Arabic. For example, the use of the pronoun ”????????” to address a singular individual in Arabic seems to presuppose that the addressee is socially superior to the addresser. Keenan (1975: 51, cited in Levinson 1983: 177) views such behaviour of pronouns to indicate social status as an independent and distinct class of pragmatic phenomena, which he calls ‘pragmatic presupposition’. Such behaviour is best described as a relation between an addresser and the appropriateness of a sentence in a context. In contrast, Levinson (Ibid, 128-129) argues that this behaviour is in fact an aspect of social deixis encoded as a conventional implicature, and observes that ”The whole vast range of honorofics in, for example, the S.E. Asian languages, like Korean and Japanese, are similarly encoded as conventional implicatures”, (Levinson 1983: 129).

Finally, Palmer (1981: 172) notes that the range of discussion on presupposition shows that two major problems arise, neither of them easily solved. The first is whether a distinction can be drawn between what is asserted and what is presupposed. The second is what phenomena should be brought under the heading of presupposition. This is far more difficult, since the phenomena are disparate, but not unrelated.

1.8.3 Inference:
Before her discussion of Grice’s theory of conversational implicature, Thomas (1995: 58) discusses the difference between implicature and inference, i.e. implying and inferring, and presents some reasons to stress the importance of the difference. The most important reason, according to her, is that it is the confusion of these two levels of interpretation which is at the root of some misunderstandings of Grice’s theory. The second is that in Britain, if not in other parts of the English-speaking world, there is widespread misuse of the terms themselves- people frequently say ‘inferring’ when they really mean ‘implying’. At this point, she notes that the semantic use of ‘imply’ is different from the pragmatic. In semantics it is used of a formal relation between propositions, e.g., ”She lives in London” implies ”She lives in England”. The difference, simply, is that ‘to imply’ means to hint, suggest or convey some meaning indirectly by means of language, an implicature is generated intentionally by the addresser and may (or may not) be understood by the addressee. On the other hand, ‘to infer’ is to deduce something from evidence (this evidence may be linguistic, paralinguistic or non-linguistic), (Ibid,).

Verschueren (1999: 30) defines pragmatic ‘inference’ as the process of inferring meaning in a way that cannot be imagined without taking contextual information into account. Moreover, he argues that there are also inference types that are supposed to lead ‘logically’ to relations between forms and implicit meanings. These are usually called ‘(logical) implications’ or ‘entailments’, or sometimes ‘conventional implicatures’. Finch (2005: 160) defines inference as the process of deduction that addressees characteristically employ in interpreting utterances. Inference is crucial to interpretation because a good deal of meaning is implied rather than explicitly stated. The amount of inferring that addressers expect addressees to make depends on the degree of shared knowledge between them.

Hudson (2000: 312) presents five important ways that addressers can use to infer meanings beyond those of the forms of language, and shows how a few principles of language structure and language use make this possible. The relation between language and its context of use is important in the understanding of how language works, because linguistic form alone fails to explain all the meanings that can be obtained from a piece of language in use- for example, that when a person asks another if he knows what time it is, the former wishes to know the time. What happens is that meanings which are absent in the forms of language may be inferred from the context. Hudson’s model of pragmatic inference rests on five sorts of meaning which can be inferred by comparing language and its context of use. These include: (1) ambiguity, (2) deictics, (3) figures of speech, (4) indirect illocution, and (5) presupposition.

1.9 Salient Pragmatic Theories:
1.9.1 Speech Act Theory:
Saeed (1997: 203) states that speech act theory is based on the idea that an important part of the meaning of an utterance is its intended social function, because it is clear that linguistic communication involves more than acquiring the pronunciation and grammar. That is, an addresser needs to know the uses to which utterances are conventionally put in the language community, and how these uses are signalled in order to use language in a realistic way. Similarly, an addressee needs to know, as part of understanding the meaning of an utterance, whether he has been asked a question, invited to do something, etc. In Austin’s terminology, such functions of language are called ‘speech acts’, (Ibid,).

Mey (2001: 92) traces the stages of development of speech act theory, discussing the status of linguistics and philosophy of language in the period preceding the theory’s inception. The philosophers of language whose interests are directed more towards the semantic than the formal-syntactic aspects of language found it difficult to have their voices heard against the impressive success of transformational grammar initiated by Chomsky (1957, 1965). The emergence of speech act theory, which focuses on language use, represents a new direction in the study of language. Example (18) below involves the act of ‘asking a question’. This type of act, structurally corresponding to sentences is called a ‘speech act’. The concept of speech act was introduced by Austin (1962), where he states that utterances have force as well as meaning, thus, are basic ingredients of pragmatics.
(18) Go anywhere today?

In his own search for ways of coping with language as a form of action (in reaction to positivism, which does not accept meaning outside the realm of what could be tested for its truth or falsity), Austin first made a distinction between ‘constative’ and ‘performative’ utterances, (Verschueren 1999: 22). In this dichotomy, constatives are utterances in which something is ‘said’ which can be evaluated along a dimension of truth, as in (19) below. Performatives, on the other hand, are utterances in which something is ‘done’ which cannot be said to be true or false, but which can be evaluated along a dimension of felicity, as in (20) below:
(19) Go to Baghdad?
(20) I name this ship Queen Mary.

Thus, example (19) is not felicitous as a question unless the addressee is interested in the response of the addressed party, (Verschueren 1999: 22).

According to Austin’s preferred account, speech act theory distinguishes between three kinds of acts that may be performed by an utterance, i.e., the ‘locutionary’ act, the ‘illocutionary’ act and the ‘perlocutionary’ act, (Allott 2010: 178). The locutionary act is the act of saying a particular sentence (a word or phrase) that makes sense in a language, i.e., follows the rules of pronunciation and grammar. The illocutionary act is the action intended by the addresser, i.e., expressing the intended meaning. This is what Austin and his successors have mainly been concerned with. In fact the term speech act is often used with just this meaning of illocutionary acts, (Saeed 1997: 212). The perlocutionary act is the act of bringing about certain effects by means of the utterance: the effect or ‘take-up’ of an illocutionary act, (Allott 2010: 178). In other words, the perlocutionary force is concerned with how much the addressee understands the illocutionary force (the intended meaning), which is difficult to measure, but determines the success/failure of communication.

An important distinction is made between direct and indirect speech acts (Searle 1975: cited in Saeed 1997: 214-215). Indirect speech acts such as (21) have a double illocutionary force: there is a primary illocutionary act (a request to pass the salt in this case) and a secondary act (i.e. the one by means of which the primary force is indirectly obtained, in this case a question pertaining to one of the preparatory conditions for the addresser being able to make the request), (Verschueren 1999: 25; Cobley 2001: 268).
(21) Can you reach the salt?

An often heard critique of the Searlean approach to speech act theory (and, by implication, also of Austin’s and Grice’s) is that it concentrates on ‘speech’ to the exclusion of other phenomena (e.g. ‘writing’) that also fall into the category of ‘language’, (Mey 2001: 93-94). As a result of this critique, some linguists suggest replacing the term ‘speech act’ by a more ‘general’ one, such as ‘act of language’.

1.9.2 Politeness Theory:
The study of politeness in linguistic interaction, or what is known as ‘politeness theory’, draws heavily on pragmatic theories, particularly on speech act theory and Grice’s account of conversational implicature. The link is perhaps obvious; speech act theory is concerned with how people negotiate and perform various different acts, including those that might be socially difficult, while implicature is concerned with the ways in which people convey messages indirectly or without being blatant. Politeness is centred on the interaction of pragmatics with sociolinguistics and with sociology more generally; it is a theory of meaning that puts language fully in its social context, (Chapman 2011: 132-133).

Within the vast literature on politeness which has built up since the late 1970s there is tremendous confusion. The confusion begins with the very term ‘politeness’, which like ‘cooperation’, causes much misunderstanding. Under the heading of ‘politeness’, five separate, though related, sets of phenomena are discussed, (Thomas 1995: 149):
1. Politeness as a real-world goal.
2. Deference.
3. Register.
4. Politeness as a surface level phenomenon.
5. Politeness as an illocutionary phenomenon.

Pizziconi (2006, in Mey 2009: 706) states that despite several decades of sustained scholarly interest in the field of politeness studies, a consensual definition of the meaning of the term ‘politeness’, as well as a consensus on the very nature of the phenomenon, are still top issues in the current research agenda. Pragmatic approaches to the study of politeness began to appear in the mid-1970s. Lakoff (1973: 297) provides pioneer work by linking politeness to Grice’s ‘Cooperative Principle’ to explain why interlocutors do not always conform to maxims such as ‘Clarity’.
In a similar vein, but wider scope, Leech’s (1983) model postulates that deviations from the Gricean conversational maxims are motivated by interactional goals, and posits a parallel ‘Politeness Principle’, articulated in a number of maxims such as ‘Tact’, ‘Generosity’, ‘Approbation’, ‘Modesty’, ‘Agreement’ and ‘Sympathy’. He also envisages a number of scales: cost-benefit, authority and social distance, optionality, and indirectness, along which degrees of politeness can be measured.

Another model, proposed by Brown and Levinson (1978), sets the approach agenda for the following quarter of a century. The study was republished in its entirety as a monograph with the addition of a critical introduction in 1987. Like Lakoff and Leech, Brown and Levinson (1987) accept the Gricean framework, but note a qualitative distinction between the Cooperative Principle and the politeness principles: while the former is presumed by interlocutors to be at work all the time, politeness needs to be ostensibly communicated, (Ibid, 5). Brown and Levinson see politeness as a rational and rule-governed aspect of communication, a principled reason for deviation from efficiency (Ibid, 5) and aimed predominantly at maintaining social cohesion via the maintenance of individuals’ public ‘face’.

Yule (1996: 60) states that it is possible to treat politeness as a fixed concept, as in the idea of ‘polite social behaviour’, or etiquette, within a culture, and that it is also possible to specify a number of different general principles for being polite in social interaction within a particular culture. Some of these principles might include being tactful, generous, modest, and sympathetic towards others. By nature, interlocutors in an interaction are generally aware that such norms and principles exist in the society at large. Within an interaction, however, there is a more narrowly specified type of politeness at work. In order to describe it, the concept of ‘face’ is needed. As a technical term, ‘face’ means the public self-image of a person. It refers to the emotional and social sense of self-image that everyone has and expects everyone else to recognize. Politeness, in an interaction, can then be defined as the means employed to show awareness of another person’s face, (Yule 1996: 60).

1.9.3 Relevance Theory:
Within a relevance-theoretic approach to communication, the entire framework of Gricean maxims is superseded by a principle of relevance. Sperber and Wilson (1991: 381, cited in Cummings 2005: 17) contend that this principle achieves a necessary simplification of Grice’s framework, while at the same time losing none of the explanatory power of that framework:

[A]ll of Grice’s maxims can be replaced by a single principle of relevance- that the speaker tries to be as relevant as possible in the circumstances- while, when suitably elaborated, can handle the full range of data that Grice’s maxims were designed to explain.

Relevance theory can best be regarded as both a reaction against, and a development of, the classical Gricean pragmatic theory. The main ideas of the theory are presented in Sperber and Wilson (1986, 1995) and updated in Wilson and Sperber (2004), (Huang 2007: 181). Grounded in a general view of human cognition, the central thesis of the theory is that the human cognitive system works in such a way as to tend to maximize relevance with respect to communication, (Ibid,). The theory is described by R. Kempson as ‘unrepentant cognitive psychology’, (1988: 16, cited in Cummings 2005: 2). It is a cognitive theory arising from Sperber and Wilson’s dissatisfaction with Grice’s co-operative principle. Their criticism is essentially that to search an utterance for meanings which might be implicated gives excessive freedom of interpretation, since no bounds are set on the implicatures which might be generated. The theory holds that only the maxim of relation (relevance) is necessary. That is, any communicative act carries the presumption of its own relevance, (Black 2006: 80).

For Sperber and Wilson (1986, 1995), relevance is a potential property of inputs to cognitive processes. Any input may deliver a variety of different types of cognitive effect; it may, for instance, combine inferentially with existing assumptions to yield new conclusions (known as ‘contextual implications’), or it may provide evidence that strengthens existing beliefs, or it may contradict and eliminate already held information. At the same time, getting at the effects of a particular input demands processing effort. For Sperber and Wilson, relevance is, roughly speaking, a trade-off between cognitive effects and processing effort: the greater the ratio of effects to effort the greater the relevance of an input.

1.10 Salient Approaches to Meaning
This section discusses the notion of ‘meaning’ and surveys three models of meaning that are most relevant to IM. To begin off with, meaning is a complex notion that is notoriously difficult to define. Philosophers discuss what it is for an entity such as a word, sentence, utterance or thought to mean something and how such entities differ from other entities such as rocks and protons, which do not have meaning (at least not in the intended sense of the word). Typically, pragmatics and linguistic semantics take a more modest approach, explaining meaning at one level in terms of meaning at another level, (Allott 2010: 116). The basic aim of theories of meaning is to give insight into the nature of meaning, the main question being ”what is meaning?”. Theories of meaning are views on meaning; they are attempts to understand the nature of meaning. There are many definitions of meaning, none of which is unanimously agreed upon, each being based on the assumptions and purposes of a particular field of knowledge. Cruse (2000: 10-12) cites philosophy, psychology, neurology, semiotics and linguistics as disciplines that exhibit an academic interest in meaning. Moreover, within certain of these disciplines meaning is studied within specialized branches (e.g., semantics and pragmatics in linguistics). Even within the specialized branches of disciplines meaning is analyzed differently according to perspective or tendency, (Cummings 2005: 39). For example, within pragmatics there are many approaches to meaning that are different in orientation. For example, Blakemore (1992) takes a cognitive approach, firmly rooted within relevance theory; Mey (1993, 2001) approaches the subject from a social point of view; Dascal (1983) approaches the field from the viewpoint of the philosophy of language; and Green (1989) places an emphasis on textual pragmatics and more formal aspects of pragmatics, (Thomas 1995: xiii).

Verschueren (1999: 51) views meaning as ”the product of the interacting forces of language production and interpretation, firmly located in a cognitive, social and cultural world”. Furthermore, meaning is also found outside language. For example, the traffic lights have meaning that is well understood by drivers, yet it is not linguistic. Meaning exceeds the limits of language and leeks to the external world, and, thus, it cannot be put in a frame or be delimited. Theories of meaning are treated traditionally in semantics rather than pragmatics and are therefore dealt with in brief in this thesis. Akmajian et al. (2001: 228) maintain that ”in the history of pragmatics a few ‘leading ideas’ have emerged concerning the nature of meaning”. To trace the historical development of the notions and controversies related to the study of meaning from the start of human thought and writing, and to relate the various threads across cultures and traditions of thought, is a task beyond the scope of this thesis. Therefore the researcher’s focus is on the various approaches to the study of meaning, and specifically IM.

One of the most important problems confronting linguists is the explanation of what types or varieties of meaning exist in language, and how to distinguish and separate them from one another. In the same line, Cruse (2000: x) stresses that ”even the messy bits can, at least to some extent, be tamed by the application of disciplined thinking”. Thomas (1995: 208) stresses that ”The process of making meaning is a joint accomplishment between speaker and hearer”, i.e., it is interactively determined. She (Ibid,) argues that:

In producing an utterance a speaker takes account of the social, psychological and cognitive limitations of the hearer; while the hearer, in interpreting an utterance, necessarily takes account of the social constraints leading a speaker to formulate the utterance in a particular way.

1.10.1 Leech (1974):
Leech (1974: 10) states that the study of meaning can be pursued in a wide sense of ”all that is communicated by language”, or can be limited in practice to the study of logical or conceptual meaning. He prefers the former and, depending on careful distinction, divides meaning into seven different types. The objective is to show (1) how all of these types fit into the total construct of meaning, and (2) how methods of study appropriate to one type may not be appropriate to another. As for poetry, he (Ibid, 48) stresses that it involves all of these types:

But the main semantic point about poetry is that it is language communicating ‘at full stretch’: all possible avenues of communication, all levels and types of meaning, are open to use. But the poet and the reader bring heightened sensitivity to meaning to bear on the act of communication.

A. Conceptual Meaning:
Conceptual meaning (also called ‘denotative’ or ‘cognitive’ meaning) is considered the most important as it is the central factor in linguistic communication, but it is not necessarily so in all acts of communication (Ibid, 10). This type has a complex and sophisticated organization of a kind which may be compared with similar organization on the syntactic and phonological levels of language, (Ibid, 11). Leech gives priority to conceptual meaning because it is the only type that can be analyzed linguistically, i.e., linguistic techniques can be applied to it. Without this type it is impossible to make the process of communication. Finally, he stresses that ”Conceptual meaning is an inextricable and essential part of what language is, such that one can scarcely define language without referring to it”, (Ibid, 13).

B. Connotative Meaning:
Connotative meaning is ”the communicative value an expression has by virtue of what it refers to, over and above its purely conceptual content”, (Leech 1974: 14). Connotative meaning cannot be analyzed according to linguistic criteria such as contrastive features (e.g. +Human, – Male, +Adult for the word ‘woman’); instead, a group of non- linguistic properties make up this type of meaning. These properties can be social, psychological or physical, and may extend to features which are merely ‘typical’ rather than ‘invariable’ in the referent.
Connotations are relatively unstable: that is, they vary considerably according to culture, historical period, and the experience of the individual. Connotative meaning is open-ended in the same way as one’s knowledge and beliefs about the universe are open-ended: any characteristic of the referent, whether identified subjectively or objectively, may contribute to the connotative meaning of the expression which denotes it, (Ibid, 15). Most importantly, among the seven types of meaning, connotative meaning is the only type relevant to IM.

C. Stylistic Meaning:
Stylistic meaning is the meaning a piece of language conveys about the social circumstances of its use. The decoding of stylistic meaning depends on the addressee’s recognition of different dimensions and levels of usage within the same language. In an influential work, Crystal and Davy (1969: 66-77) provide a pioneering account of English style by recognizing eight main dimensions of stylistic variation, i.e., individuality, dialect, time, discourse, province, status, modality and singularity. None of these levels has to do with IM.

D. Affective Meaning:
Affective meaning is the type of meaning which reflects the personal feelings of the addresser, including his attitude to the addressee, or his attitude to something else he is talking about, (Ibid, 18). The tone of voice is important in this type: the impression of politeness in example (21) can be reversed by a tone of biting sarcasm; and example (22) can be turned into a playful remark between intimates if delivered with the intonation of a mild request.
(21) I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, but I wonder if you would be so kind as to lower your voices a little.
(22) Will you belt up!

E. Reflected Meaning
This type involves interconnection on the lexical level of language; thus it has nothing to do with IM. Reflected meaning is the meaning which arises in cases of multiple conceptual meaning, when one sense of a word forms part of one’s response to another sense. A person who hears, in a church service, the synonymous expressions ‘The Comforter’ and ‘The Holy Ghost’, both referring to the ‘Third Person of the Trinity’, reacts to these terms while influenced by the everyday non-religious meanings of ‘comfort’ and ‘ghost’.

F. Collocative Meaning:
This type of meaning depends on the associations a word acquires from the meanings of the words which tend to occur in its environment. ‘Pretty’ and ‘handsome’, shown below, share common ground in the meaning ‘good-looking’, but may be distinguished by the range of nouns with which they are likely to collocate. The ranges may well overlap: handsome woman and pretty woman are both acceptable, although they suggest a different kind of attractiveness because of the collocative associations of the two adjectives, (Ibid, 20):
-pretty (girl, boy, woman, flower, garden, colour, village, etc.)
-handsome (boy, man, car, vessel, overcoat, airliner, typewriter. etc.)

G. Thematic Meaning:
Thematic meaning is what is communicated by the way in which an addresser organizes the message, in terms of ordering, focus and emphasis, (Ibid, 22). The examples (22) and (23) below are treated as different in meaning, although they seem to share the same conceptual content:
(22) Mrs Bessie Smith donated the first prize.
(23) The first prize was donated by Mrs Bessie Smith.

Certainly these have different communicative values in that they suggest different contexts: the active sentence answers an implicit question ”What did Mrs Bessie Smith donate?”, while the passive sentence answers an implicit question ”Who donated the first prize?”.

1.10.2 Thomas (1995):
Thomas (1995) proposes a view of pragmatics that is balanced in terms of orientation, i.e., which neither focuses on the producer of the message (addresser) nor on the receiver of the message (addressee). She states that pragmaticists tend to fall into one of two camps- those who equate pragmatics with ‘speaker meaning’ and those who equate it with ‘utterance interpretation’ (they do not necessarily use these terms explicitly). Certainly each of these definitions captures something of the work undertaken under the heading of pragmatics, but neither of them is entirely satisfactory. In fact, each represents a radically different approach to pragmatics (Ibid, 2).

The term ‘speaker’ meaning tends to be favoured by writers who take a broadly ‘social’ view of the discipline; it puts the focus of attention firmly on the ‘producer’ of the message, but at the same time obscures the fact that the process of interpreting what is heard involves moving between several levels of meaning. On the other hand, the other term, ‘utterance interpretation’, which is favoured by those who take a broadly ‘cognitive’ approach, avoids this fault, but at the cost of focusing too much on the ‘receiver’ of the message, which in practice means largely ignoring the social constraints on utterance interpretation, (Thomas Ibid,). She argues that the difference between the two approaches can be understood by examining what is meant by ‘levels of meaning’, which, in her approach, include two main levels, semantic (which she calls ‘abstract meaning’) and pragmatic (which she calls ‘speaker meaning’). Then speaker meaning is divided into ‘utterance meaning’ (or contextual meaning) and ‘force’. Finally, utterance meaning is divided into ‘sense’ and ‘reference’. That is, there are three pragmatic levels.

 

 

 

 

Figure (3): Levels of Meaning according to Thomas (1995: 2-20)

I. Sense:
The first step in the understanding of the intended meaning is assigning ‘sense’ to the piece of language used, i.e., the sense in which the addresser is using a word. In general, this process is straightforward, but problems can occur in cases of (1) homonymy, (2) polysemy, (3) homography, and (4) homophony, (Thomas 1995: 5-8). Homonyms are words which have the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings. The word ‘flight’, for example, has a number of different senses, including ‘a series of steps’, ‘a journey by air’, and a ‘digression’. But to know which of these is most appropriate in the title ”The Flight of the Bumblebee”, one needs to take into account that the suitable sense of the word ???flight??? could only be assigned correctly with the help of the context, (Finch 2005: 208-209).

A polysemous word has two or more closely related meanings, e.g., ‘foot’ in (24) and (25):
(24) He hurt his foot.
(25) She stood at the foot of the stairs.

Homographs, words which have the same spelling but different pronunciation and meaning, can cause similar problems. Example (26) is scrawled on a wall and (27) is added by way of comment by a different graffiti-writer, in a willful misinterpretation of the intended sense of ‘lead’ (Ibid, 7-8):
(26) In People’s China the workers take the lead!
[To which has been added]:
(27) In capitalist England, the sods also take the iron, copper, floorboards and fillings from your teeth.

In addition, homophones, words which have the same pronunciation but different spelling and meaning, can also be a cause of incorrect assignment of sense. The following example, which appeared in the minutes of a management meeting at the BBC, was caused by the fact that the original newsreader spoke with a Northern Irish accent:
(28) The solicitor reported that the BBC was being sued in Ireland by a man who thought he had been described as having herpes. The BBC’s defence was that it had accused him of having a hairpiece.
In each of these cases, if the addressee fails to assign sense correctly, he would probably completely misunderstand what the addresser means, (Ibid, 8).

II. Reference:
The next step in understanding the intended meaning of a piece of language is to assign ‘reference’ in context. It is possible to understand the sense of every word an addressee uses, yet still not understand what he means. In order to understand an utterance, addressees not only have to assign sense to words, but also to assign reference. Thus the notice in example (29) could be understood to some extent by all literate members of a community- they would know what the words mean and that the notice constitutes a warning. But the notice could only fulfill its warning function properly if it is clear to the reader precisely what is being referred to, i.e., what must not be touched, (Ibid, 9).
(29) Danger! Do not touch!

The best example on reference assignment is deictic expressions, which derive part of their meaning from their context of utterance. Virtually all deictic expressions, by their very nature, cause problems of reference assignment when removed from the original context of utterance. In cases of ambiguity, generally, only one utterance meaning is intended by the addresser. Yet, there are exceptions, the most obvious being in literary discourse (particularly poetry) and in jokes, (Ibid, 14-15). Poets sometimes phrase their words in such a way that allows more than one interpretation by using deliberate ambiguity. Various linguistic and pragmatic techniques are used by poets as tools to achieve this aim.

III. Force:
The term ‘force’ is used in pragmatics to refer to the addresser’s communicative intention. The term is a concept introduced by Austin, and is the second component of speaker meaning in Thomas’s (1995) model. Miller (1974, cited in Thomas (1995: 18)) is one of the first to point out the significance of this level of analysis:
Most of our midunderstandings of other people are not due to any inability to hear them or parse their sentences or understand their words??? A far more important source of difficulty in communication is that we often fail to understand a speaker’s intention.

When it comes to force assignment, a simple utterance such as (30) can be problematic:
(30) Is that your car?

Supposing that there are no ambiguities of sense and reference assignment, i.e. that the word ‘that’ indicates a unique entity (your car) and ‘your’ refers to the addressee, yet he might not understand the force behind the question. Is the addresser expressing admiration or scorn? Is it a complaint that the addressee’s car is blocking the drive? Is the addresser requesting a lift into town? These are all examples of the different pragmatic forces which the same utterance might have, (Ibid, 18).
Thomas (1995: 18-20) states that the two components of speaker meaning interrelate and explores ”four possible permutations” in understanding them:
a. Understanding both utterance meaning and force.
b. Understanding utterance meaning but not force.
c. Understanding force but not utterance meaning.
d. Understanding neither utterance meaning nor force.

1.10.3 Akmajian et al. (2001):
Akmajian et al. (2001: 229-230) distinguish between two important types of meaning: linguistic meaning and speaker meaning. The two terms are similar, but not identical, to literal and non-literal meaning respectively. The linguistic meaning of an expression, in general, is simply the meaning or meanings of that expression in the language. In contrast, the speaker meaning exceeds the limits of the dictionary meaning(s) and requires considering the context in which it occurs. Confusing speaker meaning with linguistic meaning may lead to misunderstanding, as example (31) shows:
(31) The door is right behind you!

If this instance is taken literally, it indicates nothing more than the location of the door in relation to the addressed party; and if taken non-literally, it indicates either an order to leave (which is usually the case) or something else. Only the context can determine which reading is suitable, and what pragmatic or speaker meaning is meant.

Akmajian et al’s model also takes account of dialect, ”We must note that meanings can vary across dialects and across individual speakers” (Ibid,). The meaning of a particular word in a given dialect may be different from its meaning in another dialect within the same language. In American English the word ‘bonet’ refers only to a type of hat, whereas in British English it can refer to the hood of a car.

The varieties of meaning according to Akmajian et al’s (2001) model are shown in figure (2) below.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure (4): Akmajian et al.’s (2001: 230) model of meaning.

The model is not comprehensive for Akmajian et al. (2001: 230) list only three subcategories (sarcasm, irony & metaphor) under the category ‘speaker meaning’. As shown in figure (4), the dashed lines indicate this point.

 

1.11 Implied Meaning (IM):
According to Verschueren (1999: 50), implicit meaning is ”what can be meant or communicated beyond what is explicitly or literally said, by means of presuppositions, implications, and implicatures”. He (Ibid, 25) states that pragmatics must pay attention to types of meaning that go beyond what is ‘given’ by the language form itself, or what is literally said. IM covers all types or levels above what is explicitly stated. It refers to any meaning that is ”conveyed indirectly or through hints, and understood implicitly without ever being explicitly stated”, (Grundy 222: 73). For example, Thomas’s (1995) three types or components of speaker meaning (i.e., sense, reference, and force) are implied meanings. As a result, IM depends crucially on the extralinguistic context in which a given piece of language is used. Verschueren (1999: 25) regards implicit meaning as a general term which covers ”a range of meanings emerging from the contextually embedded action character of speech” and calls attention to three important points involved in this type of meaning:

I. The impossibility of complete explicitness:
No matter how elaborate an utterance is, it still leaves more implicit than it is able to make explicit. The unexpressed information against which the meaning of an utterance is dependent is called ‘background information’. Alternative terms are ‘common knowledge’, ‘common ground’, ‘mutual knowledge’ and ‘background information’. There are subtle differences between them, however. Verschueren (Ibid, 24) maintains that ”whatever term is used, the implicit meaning it covers is not a fixed entity but is shaped and reshaped in the course of linguistic interaction”. This means that there is always a chance or an area for implicitness, both in written and spoken texts:

What counts for spoken discourse is equally true for writing. Though written texts form a medium which necessitates certain types of explicit formulation because producer and interpreter usually do not share the same time and space, nor in many cases a joint communicative purpose, they carry along an equal amount of unexpressed information which is assumed to be known, (Ibid, 26).
Politeness and humour both exploit the impossibility of full explicitness strategically, using many of the machanisms described by Grice, to generate implicated meaning, (Ibid, 36).

II. Conventional means for conveying implicit meaning:
Language provides numerous conventionalized carriers of implicit meaning, tools for linking explicit content to relevant aspects of background information. One category of such tools is presupposition-carrying expressions and constructions, (Verschueren 1999: 27). Presuppositions are relations between a form of expression and an implicit meaning which can be arrived at by a process of ‘(pragmatic) inference’. In addition to this type, there are also inference types that are supposed to lead ‘logically’ to relations between forms and implicit meanings. These are usually called ‘(logical) implications’ or ‘entailments’, or sometimes ‘conventional implicatures’, (Ibid, 30). Thomas (1995: 208) stresses that ”The process of making meaning is a joint accomplishment between addresser and addressee”, that is, it is interactively determined:

In producing an utterance a speaker takes account of the social, psychological and cognitive limitations of the hearer; while the hearer, in interpreting an utterance, necessarily takes account of the social constraints leading a speaker to formulate the utterance in a particular way, (Ibid, 208).

III. Strategic avoidance of explicitness:
The feature of impossibility of complete explicitness has been shown to be natural and normal in point (I) above. The same feature can be exploited for a given purpose deliberately since ”the impossibility of being fully explicit in language lends itself to strategic exploitation”, (Ibid, 31). Verschueren (Ibid,) observes that ”whatever conventional means are provided for conveying implicit (as well as explicit) meaning, they are always manipulable”. Deliberate ambiguity, or strategic avoidance of explicitness, can be performed mainly through (1) pragmatic presupposition, (2) conversational implicature, (3) irony, (4) metaphors, (5) politeness, and (6) humour, (Ibid, 32-36). Since addressers are expected to be cooperative by using language in accordance with the maxims, any clear breaching or flouting will be interpreted by a cooperative addressee as a conscious act signalling special (implicit) meaning, (Ibid, 33).

To recapitulate, Verschueren (Ibid, 33-34) divides implicit meaning into four types:
1. Presupposition: implicit meaning that must be pre-supposed, understood, taken for granted for an utterance to make sense.
2. (Logical) implication, entailment, conventional implicature: implicit meaning that can be logically inferred from a form of expression.
3. Conventional or standard conversational implicature: implicit meaning that can be conventionally inferred from forms of expression in combination with assumed standard adherence to conversational maxims.
4. (Non-conventional or occasion-specific) conversational implicature: implicit meaning inferred from the obvious flouting of a conversational maxim in combination with assumed adherence to the co-operative principle.

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