An Introduction to English Semantics and Pragmatics Patrick Griffiths, 2006.
MEANING SEMANTICS & PRAGMATICS
SEMANTICS & PRAGMATICS Study sentence meaning and word meaning, not tied to context. Study utterance meaning. Utterances are expressions identified only by their contexts.
Three stages of interpretation: 1st stage: Literal meaning (Semantic) its meaning is based on the semantic information that you know from your knowledge of English. The meaning can be recognized without wondering who might say or write the words, where or when. No consideration of context is involved. “That was the last bus”
Three stages of interpretation: 2nd stage: Explicature(Pragmatic) Goes beyond the literal meaning. It’s a basic interpretation of an utterance, using contextual information and world knowledge to work out what is being referred to and which way to understand ambiguous expressions. “That was the last bus”
Three stages of interpretation: 3rd stage: Implicature(Pragmatic) it goes further and looks for what is hinted at by an utterance in its particular context. What the speaker mean. “That was the last bus”
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE • Figurative language is often employed whenever we are unable to find the words which, used in their literal and conventional sense, will adequately express our meaning. • The use of figurative language requires to abstract meaning beyond “physical” words. It’s about being capable of inferring information beyond syntax or semantics.
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE • If the not grammatically expressed information is not unveiled, the real meaning is not accomplished and the figurative effect is lost. • The use of figurative language shows us how Pragmatics complements semantics.
Irony: A purely pragmatic phenomenon Verbal irony: communicates an opposite meaning; when a speaker says something that seems to be the opposite of what he/she means. When we open the window in the morning an see rain and a grey sky we say “What a beautiful day”.
In 2004, Halle Berry won an Oscar for acting, but in 2005 she attended an award ceremony to receive a Razzi (A golden raspberry) for “worse actress” in a different film. “oh, this is wonderful”
Irony: A purely pragmatic phenomenon • Situational irony: This type of irony may occur when the outcome of a certain situation is completely different than what was initially expected. It is often referred to as an “irony of events.”
Examples of situational irony: • A person who claims to be a vegan and avoids meat but will eat a slice of pepperoni pizza because they are hungry. It may not make sense, but it is an illustration of irony. • A man who is a traffic cop gets his license suspended for unpaid parking tickets. • An ambulance driver goes to a nightime bike accident scene and runs over the accident victim because the victim has crawled to the center of the road with their bike.
Sarcasm: Another popular form of irony where the user intends to wittily attack or make a derogatory statement about something or someone. Often, sarcasm is confused with irony instead of being a recognized form of irony. • A beautiful actress walked by a table of talent agents as one said “there goes a good time that was had by all”. The talent agent said the phrase referring to the young actress’ extracurricular activities with fellow talent agents. It was a derogatory statement, yet created with wit. • In "The Canterbury Tales" Chaucer criticizes the clergy who had become corrupt, by referring to the Friar as a "wanton and merry" person who takes bribes and seduces women. Sarcasm can often be funny, and witty yet simultaneously it can be hurtful and humiliating.
Responses to irony: • React to what is said. • React to what is implied. • Laugh • Not react
Presuppositions Are those beliefs, preconceptions and information, that are taken for granted by the speaker/writer and are expected to be used for interpreting the message. Presuppositions do not have to be true: communication may depend on mutual awareness of fiction, ideologies, prejudices, national stereotypes that are false of many individuals. For anything that humans talk or write about, there are always presuppositions to be retrieved from memory. Presuppositions are involved in formulating utterances and interpreting them.
Presuppositions are a crucial part of advertising as they can cause the reader to consider the existence of objects, propositions, and culturally defined behavioural properties. For example: "Have you had your daily vitamins?" Presupposes that you take or need "daily vitamins", thereby creating and perpetuating the idea that the behaviour of taking vitamins daily is part of our culture.
Metonymy A person or object being referred to using as the vehicle a word whose literal denotation is somehow pertinently related. Metonym vehicles must be distinctive properties of the people or objects referred to. The vehicle must also be relevant in the context of utterance. The term for a figuratively-used word (or phrase) is vehicle. The vehicle carries the figurative meaning
Example 1: Countries have capital cities and the name of the capital can be used as a metonymic vehicle to talk about the country, as in: “Moscow and Kiev certainly don’t agree on everything”. Example 2: In a head-on collision, both father and son are critically wounded. They are rushed into hospital where the chief surgeon performs an emergency operation on the son. But it is too late and the boy dies on the table. When an assistant asks the surgeon, "Could you have a look at the other victim?", the surgeon replies "I could not bear it. I have already lost my son". Does the chief surgeon's reply make sense?
The following utterance was a comment by veteran singer Tom Jones regarding an intricately braided chain he was wearing during a 2002 interview8 about his venture into hip-hop with Wyclef Jean. “When you’re working with bling-blings, you’ve gotta wear blingblings.” This was only three years after the 1999 introduction of the word bling blingin the lyrics of New Orleans rapper BG, to describe an ostentatious earring. The meaning soon firmed up as ‘large, expensive, sparkling jewellery’ such as worn by African American hip-hop artists. For some it now also denotes black music culture. In the sentence, at the end of the first clause, Tom Jones was using bling-blingsas a metonym for hip-hop artists, who prototypically had (and displayed) bling blings.
Metaphor Metaphors tend to provoke thoughts and feelings to a greater extend than more literal descriptions do. Is a figure of speech containing an implied comparison, in which a word or phrase ordinarily and primarily used of one thing is applied to another. A metaphor is distinct from, but related to a simile, which is also a comparison. The primary difference is that a simile uses the word like or as to compare two things, while a metaphor simply suggests that the dissimilar things are the same.
One of the most prominent examples of a metaphor in English literature is the All the world’s a stage monologue from As you like it: All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances. (William Shakespeare, As you like it) This quote is a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By figuratively asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses the points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the lives of the people within it.
“He is a vast (metaphorically speaking) databank of information.” This was from BBC presenter Sarah Montague, writing about James Naughtie, a moderately bulky person. She was signalled that vast should not be taken literally as a comment on his physical size, but treated as a modifier within the vehicle phrase. Readers were to do their interpretation by contemplating how the main features of a vast databank of information could help one form an impression of the nature of her colleague: that she rated him as extremely knowledgeable, efficient at supplying facts, etcetera.
Metaphores vs. similes Similes are very close to metaphors, but make a comparison instead of actually suggesting that two things are essentially the same. Some authors agree on that we can explain how metaphors work by saying that they are just similes with the like erased. For example, the quote by Qan Zhang that "Success is like a pie, there are different layers"comparessuccess to a pie. It was proposed that there should be a superficial distinction between these two figures. Stern states that “Similes should be analysed on the model as metaphors”.
This sentence has the form of a simile, but it can be taken either figuratively or literally: • She’s like my mother (Figurative or literal) • She is a mother to me (Figurative, a standard metaphor) • She’s similar to my mother (Literal)
Summary • The chapter has given a sketch of figurative interpretation in terms of two stages of pragmatics – explicature and implicature. • Semantically, words and sentences have literal meanings. A literal interpretation of an utterance in context is an explicature that involves only literal meanings. • Figurative interpretation is explicaturein which one or more literal meanings are replaced, for example by an antonym in some types of irony. • Wilson and Sperber’s more sophisticated account of irony was one illustration of how presuppositions (beliefs presumed to be shared) are the source for figurative alternatives to literal meanings.
Summary • Stern’s (2000) theory of metaphor was informally recounted, according to which vehicle expressions (ones that carry figurative meanings) are used rather in the manner of a deictic demonstrative (like the word that) to “point” out presuppositions for use in interpretation. • Figurative interpretation is somewhat openended because different people come with different presuppositions and differ over what they regard as relevant in a given context. • Similes were argued to be metaphors too.