lec - pragmatica


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LIMBA ENGLEZ CONTEMPORAN. PRAGMATIC Conf. univ. dr. Ilinca CRINICEANU Semestrul II Course 1. The Domain of Linguistic Pragmatics For characterizing the subject matter of (linguistic) pragmatics, the conceptions of Morris (1971) regarding the three branches of semiotics still turn out to be basic. Semiotics is a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntax, semantics and pragmatics. According to Morris, pragmatics deals with the relation of signs to their users. In more precise terms, pragmatics is that portion of semiotics which deals with the origin, uses and effects of signs within the behaviour in which they occur. As such, pragmatics deals with all the psychological, biological and sociological phenomena which occur in the functioning of signs. Therefore, social aspects of signs (sociolinguistics) and psychological aspects of signs (psycholinguistics) are part of the domain of pragmatics. Morris had in view the pragmatics of any semiotic system. We will, of course, restrict ourselves to linguistic pragmatics, simply pragmatics from now on. From the above description of the subject matter of pragmatics it appears that linguistic pragmatics finds itself at the borderline between linguistics and disciplines that characterise the language users: psychology, sociology, biology. Lieb (1976) attempts a more precise specification of the domain of pragmatics. He starts from the apparent truism that the subject matter of linguistics consists of the semiotic properties of natural language and of communication in natural language. A natural language is a special kind of communicative complex, which, in its turn, is a set of means of communication. Any means of communication is a means of communication for somebody during a certain time. As examples of pragmatic properties Lieb mentions any relation between communicative means (that is, linguistic structures), users (that is, human organisms) and some space-time portion. The introduction of the specification and some space-time portion is highly relevant. It points out to the importance of the concept of context in pragmatics. Thus, the study of the determination of meaning in context is a matter of pragmatics. For example, David Lodge in his novel Paradise News gives the following piece of conversation: Speaker A: I just met the old Irishman and his son, coming out of the toilet Speaker B: I wouldnt have thought there was room for the two of them Speaker A: No silly, I meant I was coming out of the toilet. They were waiting. It is the larger context (not just one sentence) that helps us sort out ambiguities in spoken or written language. Context is a dynamic not static concept: it stands for the surroundings that enable the participants to interact in the communication process. Context is a matter of reference and understanding what things are about.75

Another example to prove the point is the following one due to Peter Grundy (1995): Speaker A: Its a long time since you visited your mother This sentence, when uttered at a coffee table after dinner by a married couple in their living-room has a meaning different from the one it has when uttered by a husband to his wife while they are standing in front of the chimp enclosure at the local zoo. The context is also of paramount importance in assigning the proper value to such phenomena as deixis, presupposition, implicature, speech acts and the whole set of context-oriented features. We shall say a few words about these domains of pragmatics as schetchy introductory remarks. Deixis. Take the following example: I am the British Prime Minister. To interpret this sentence we have to know what the referent of I is. What is referred to by I depends on who says the word I at a particular time. The sentence is true now if it is uttered by Tony Blair but false if it is uttered by John Major. Not only is who utters the sentence important but also when the sentence is uttered. There is a class of words whose referents depend crucially on the time, place and participants in the speech events. These words are called deictic terms or simply deictics and the phenomen in general is called deixis. Besides the personal pronouns, deictics include reference to location (this, that, here, there) and time (now, then, yesterday, tomorrow). Presupposition. The basic intuition behind the notion of presupposition is the relationship between something that is actually said and something else which has to follow for the sentence to make sense: p q. Karttunen (1979) offers the following definition to presupposition: a proposition p presupposes another proposition q if and only if p entails q (we infer q) and the negation of p also entails q. For example: factive predicates: presupposition e.g. John regrets insulting Ann John insulted Ann change of state verbs: e.g. Sally stopped smoking Sally had been smoking iteratives: e.g. Johns rash came back John had a rash earlier cleft constructions: e.g. It was John who kissed Ann Someone kissed Ann Implicature. By conversational implicature, we understand, roughly speaking, the principle according to which an utterance, in a conventional setting, is always understood in accordance with what can be expected. Thus, in a particular situation involving a question, an utterance that on the face of it does not make sense can very well be an adequate answer. If two people are in a bus stop and one of them asks the other: What time is it? and receives the answer: The bus has just went by, makes perfect sense, although there are no strictly gramaticalized items that could be identified as carriers of such information about the context. It follows that the hearer makes inferences about meaning based on context. Speech acts. It has been proposed (Austin, How To Do Things with Words, 1962) that communication involves the performance of utterance acts or speech acts. Any utterance act or SA is a complex act including the following:76

1). a locutionary act (=LA) - this is an act of saying something to an audience, an act of uttering a sentence with meaning (sense and reference). 2). an illocutionary act (=IA) - this is an act of doing something, it is what the utterance counts as. 3). a perlocutionary act (=PA) - the speakers utterance affects the audience in a certain way, it has a certain intended or unintended effect on the hearer. These acts are intimately related. In uttering some sentence the speaker S says something to a hearer H; in saying something to H, S does something, and by doing something S affects H. Austin mostly focuses on IAs and has but little to say about the LAs and PAs. The locutionary act should be kept distinct from the illocutionary act. This is proved by the fact that a sentence may have a perfectly clear meaning (sense and reference) without being clear at the illocutionary force level. For example: Speaker A: What do you mean by saying that you are driving to London tomorrow? Speaker B: Well, I was offering to take you allong. Pragmatic competence. While syntax and semantics (as parts of the grammar) give an account of language structure, pragmatics gives an account of language use. The term language use may be misleading, since it might suggest that pragmatics is simply an account of performance phenomena. Pragmatics is not only concerned with linguistic performance but also with pragmatic competence, that is with the speakers knowledge of how to use language. Pragmatic competence should roughly be understood as communicative competence which may also include the speakers stylistic or rhetoric competence, his textual competence a.s.o. Thus, what we call linguistic competence in a broad sense appears to include linguistic competence proper (grammatical competence), conceptual competence (intimately related to the speakers knowledge of the world), and finally communicative competence. EXERCISE: USING AND UNDERSTANDING LANGUAGE Checking understanding (1) Try to identify the main features of the following piece of conversation heard on the radio: A1: Mr. Majors going to be at Wincanton today B1: Oh, he is, I didnt know that A2: No, the horse, not the Prime Minister B2: Oh, the gray A1 calculates that B1 will take Mr. Major to refer to the Prime Minister although the true referent is a horse. ANSWER: Oh implies that B has just heard some surprising news. Although B has nowhere indicated that he takes Mr. Major to refer to the Prime Minister, A assumes it and uses No, the horse, not the Prime Minister to contradict something that B has never stated. B implies that the Prime Minister is a gray character. Course 2. Deixis Introduction. The most obvious way in which the relationship between language and context is reflected in the structures of language is through the77

phenomenon of deixis. The term is borrowed from the Greek word for pointing or indicating, and has as prototypical exemplars the use of demonstratives, first and second personal pronouns, tense and specific time and place adverbs. Essentially, deixis concerns the ways in which languages encode or grammaticalize features of the context of utterance or speech event. Thus, the pronoun this does not name or refer to any particular entity on all occasions of use; rather it is a variable for some particular entity given by the context (e.g. by a gesture, for example). The importance of deictic interpretation of utterances is perhaps best illustrated by what happens when such information is lacking (Fillmore, 1975). Consider, for example, finding the following notice on someones office door: (1) Ill be back in an hour. As we do not know when it was written, we cannot know when the writer will return. The many facets of deixis are so pervasive in natural languages, and so deeply grammaticalized, that it is easy to think of them as only pertaining to the domain of semantics. If semantics is taken to inclu