pragmatics from utterance to understanding Any observation of normal conversational behavior makes it immediately clear that people never say exactly what they mean, and people always infer more than what was said. The question becomes, how are we able to accomplish this? How do we manage to say so little yet communicate so much? How do we communicate in spite of a language’s limitations?
Some “incomplete” messages • Wanna get a bite? • Have you got the time? • Q: “Where’s Mikey?” • A: “There was an accident on H-2.” • Q: “Wanna get a beer?” • A: “I got a paper due tomorrow.” • A: “It’s my girlfriend’s birthday.” • A: “I’m broke.”
communication as a joint activity Clark begins to answer these questions by looking at communication as an example of a joint activity. These are activities in which persons are seen as collaborating in order to accomplish some action or goal of mutual concern. The goal of communication is to establish a level of understanding sufficient to serve some secondary purpose.
The construal problem Clark claims that in order to establish understanding via communication we must resolve the construal problem. This refers to the establishing of some agreement as to what each party intends by what they have said. We rarely do this via explicit and effortful communicative behavior. However we do assume that our communicative partner is behaving cooperatively.
The cooperative principle Grice dealt with our ability to find meaning beyond the surface meaning of an utterance by invoking a cooperative principle which states that one should: “Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.”
conversational implicatures According to Grice, one way in which we are able to “mean” more than we say (i.e., activate more meaning than was evident in a surface analysis of an utterance) is by using conversational implicatures and appropriate inference-making.
Properties of conversational implicatures • They are non-conventional. • The implicature is not a logical consequence of the utterance. • They are calculable. • It is assumed that the hearer will be able to figure out the intended meaning. • The are defeasible. • The speaker can cancel or opt out of the implicature. Conversational implicatures have three main characteristics:
conversational maxims • Grice claimed that adhering to the cooperative principle would manifest in people following four maxims: • Quantity -- Make your contribution as informative as is required. • Quality -- Try to make your contribution true, one for which you have adequate evidence. • Manner -- Be clear. Avoid ambiguity and obscurity. • Relation -- Make your contribution relevant for the exchange.
Adhering to conversational maxims • Following the maxims need not be obvious. Cooperation is assumed; consequently communicators must figure out how utterances are consistent with the maxims. For instance a communicator may flout a maxim. Flouting refers to violating a maxim so blatantly (i.e., apparently committing a quality violation) that any reasonable person knows the utterance is not intended to be taken at face value.
deception and implicature What constitutes deception? Most theorists define deception as bringing about in another a belief that one does not personally believe. In short, getting you to believe X even though I don’t believe X. Most deception theorists identify roughly four methods of bringing about deception (i.e., four deception “types”): fabrication, denial, omission, and exaggeration. The problem is only the first two actually involve what is commonly perceived as “lying.” The latter two can lead to deception without any untruths being told. So why and how are they deceptive?
information manipulation theory (imt) Steve McCornack argued that what people commonly called deception was a function of Grice’s conversational maxims. Specifically, McCornack argued that covert violations of the maxims would be perceived as deceptive. Remember, flouts appear to be violations of maxims but they are designed to be overt. So McCornack argued that the failure to adhere to a maxim in a manner that was meant to go undetected would be seen as an attempt to produce a deception.
information manipulation theory McCornack et al., (1992) tested IMT by having research participants read a scenario in which one of the stimuli persons told something to another that covertly violated a maxim. In one scenario the person was completely disclosive (i.e., honest). Then the participants rated the degree of honesty of the stimulus person. Not surprisingly (and consistent with hypotheses) complete disclosure was rated as most honest and all of the violations were perceived to be significantly less honest than complete disclosure.
information manipulation theory • Complete disclosure 21.88 • Quantity violation 16.78 • Clarity violation 13.70 • Relevance violation 11.71 • Quality violation 6.99 The honest ratings of the maxim violations were particularly interesting. Each of the ratings were significantly different from the others.
information manipulation theory The results are supportive of IMT but they raise a new question of theoretical significance: Why are the various maxim violations perceived as differing in terms of honesty/deceptiveness? If deceptiveness were simply a function of covertly violating a maxim, each of the violations should have been perceived as equally deceptive. Yet they are systematically different. Why?
explaining degrees of deceptiveness Consider the specific and ordered differences across the honesty attributions. From “least deceptive” to “most deceptive” they are ordered: quantity violation, clarity violation, relevance violation, quality violation. What might explain our perceptions that each of these maxim violations is rated as significantly more deceptive than the next violation? Ask the questions, how was the deception accomplished? who is to blame for the target’s being deceived?
communicative responsibility theory • Communicators believe the primary goal of communication is to create a desired state of understanding between themselves. • The degree to which they hold themselves and their communicative partners responsible for creating this state of understanding is variable. • Judgments of communicative responsibility will affect communicative behavior. Aune (1998) introduced a theory of communicative responsibility (CRT) that begins with three simple assumptions:
communicative responsibility theory CRT builds on Grice’s theory of conversational implicature by addressing the question “how do we know how implicit/explicit to be in any conversation?” A message of a given level of explicitness can seem oblique in one setting, appropriate in another, and condescending in yet another. Interrogation can be appropriate in a journalistic setting but inappropriate between a boyfriend and girlfriend in casual conversation.
communicative responsibility theory Communicative responsibility (CR) can be described using two continua, one for each communicator in an interaction. Two continua must be use because they can vary independently. This leads to two dimensions used to describe CR in a communicative event: • Degree of symmetry in participants’ communicative responsibility; • Magnitude of each communicator’s CR.
communicative responsibility theory • As personal assessments of CR increase, communicators will engage in less implicating and less inference-making. • As personal assessments of one’s CR increase, one will increase the extent to which one is being explicit in message encoding. How does CR affect communicative behavior?
communicative responsibility theory So a message source can be expected to: • increase the use of redundancy via: • repetition of information; • creation of associations among units of information; • incorporation of additional codes and media; • increase the amount of information offered. Conversely, increases in CR will lead receivers to solicit more redundancy of the forms described above.
communicative responsibility theory Several aspects of a communicative situation can produce variance in judgments of CR. • Locus of Meaning – the extent to which meaning is seen to reside in one person is associated with that person’s CR; • Common Ground – the extent to which communicators believe they share relevant knowledge. • Communicators’ Ingroup-based Norms.
communicative responsibility theory • Perceived ability of the participants to process the message • How fully articulated the meaning is; • The extent to which the meaning can be presented in a commonly shared code; • The extent to which communicative participants are believed to be familiar with the code. • Motivation to Create Understanding
research support for Crt Several studies have been conducted to test the predictions made by CRT. The first study tested whether people do, in fact, systematically assign levels of CR to communicative participants. Research participants read pairs of scenarios that were designed to differ in how symmetrically distributed CR would be between the communicators in the scenarios.
research support for Crt • Jordan is studying for a midterm with a group of friends. She is trying to explain one of the most important theories to the group. Jordan believes she understands the theory and is confident that she can explain it well to others. (asymmetric CR) • Jordan is studying…….understands the theory but she is not so sure she can explain it to somebody else. (symmetric CR)
research support for Crt • James is giving directions to Chris on how to get to John’s house. James has been to John’s house numerous time before but Chris has never been there. (asymmetric CR) • James and Chris are looking at a map and discussing the best way to get to John’s house. Neither James nor Chris have been to John’s house before. (symmetric CR)
research support for Crt Ten pairs of scenarios were tested. The perceived CR was assessed for each character in the scenario. A difference score was created by subtracting the CR score of the character expected to have the lower responsibility from the CR score of the character expected to have the higher responsibility. A positive number would indicate that the character we expected to have more CR was indeed perceived by research participants as having higher CR.
research support for Crt In 8 of the 10 scenarios the difference score was positive and 7 of these scores were significantly different (i.e., probably not due to chance). These results provide evidence that we do make judgments of communicators’ communicative responsibility. But….do our judgments of communicative responsibility affect the way we communicate?
research support for Crt A second study was conducted to assess whether judgments of CR affect communicative behavior. Research participants were asked to give directions – based on a map of a fictitious town – to a stranger who was described as another UH student (i.e., culturally similar condition) or a student from University of Pretoria, South Africa( i.e., culturally dissimilar condition). We were testing the effect of perceived common ground (i.e., shared knowledge) on CR and subsequent communicative behavior. We expected that:
research support for Crt • Hypothesis: Perceived personal CR would be higher for the person in the culturally dissimilar condition. • Results: Participants giving directions to the South Africa student rated their CR significantly higher than did participants giving directions to the UH student.
research support for Crt • Hypothesis: Higher CR would lead to increases in message redundancy and elaboration. • Results: A significant positive correlation was found between participants’ personal CR and the length of the directions (i.e., number of words used). • Additional support: A significant negative correlation was found between the type-token ration (i.e., ration of unique words to total words) and CR, indicating greater repetition.
research support for Crt Last, after controlling for the total number of words used, a significant correlation was found between judgments of personal CR and the number of references to natural landmarks. This shows that higher CR participants were making reference to more generalizable information. In sum, CR was shown to vary in a systematic fashion and that judgments of CR had both quantitative and qualitative effects on one’ communicative behavior.
research support for Crt The studies reviewed so far demonstrate that we do form systematic judgments of CR and that these judgments affect our communicative behavior. The final study was designed to examine how we respond to another’s violation of our judgment of his/her CR. Specifically we exposed research participants to conversation scenarios that were created to be interrogation-appropriate or interrogation-inappropriate.
research support for Crt We developed a dialogue involving “Anna” and “Mike” in which Anna interrogates Mike as to his previous evening’s social behavior, i.e., who did he go out with? what did he do? where did he go? However, we manipulated the communicative context. In one case Anna and Mike were girlfriend/boyfriend having lunch (interrogation-inappropriate condition). In the other situation Anna was an Anthropology professor who was researching recreational behavior of college students. Mike was a research participant (interrogation-appropriate).
research support for Crt We assessed perceptions of Mike’s and Anna’s CR and how inappropriate the communicative behavior was perceived to be. Results showed that: • Anna/anth was judged higher in CR than was Anna/gf. • Mike/bf was judged slightly higher in CR than was Mike/subj. • Anna/gf’s behavior was seen as more inappropriate than was Anna/anth’s. • Mike/bf’s behavior was seen as slightly less appropriate than was Mike/anth/s.*
Politeness and language production Communicative responsibility provides one explanation for the extent to which we engage in implicature and inference-making in conversation. Another explanation can be found in Politeness Theory. The main proponents, Brown & Levinson, draw heavily from Goffman’s writings on Face Work. Face is “the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact.”
Politeness and language production Brown & Levinson see two aspects to “face:” positive face – the desire for connection with others; and negative face – the desire for autonomy. We may engage in “face work” to accomplish positive and negative face needs. Face needs enter into communicative situations and affect our behavior not only because our own face needs affect our behavior but because we infer others’ face needs and adjust our behavior accordingly.
Politeness and language production Consider, for example, a compliment. When we offer a compliment we may feel it adds to our positive face needs and the person to whom we offer the compliment. On the other hand, a compliment can threaten a receiver’s negative face needs by making him/her feel obligated to respond in a similar manner, thus imposing on that person. Similarly requests are inherently face threatening both to the speaker and the hearer.
Politeness STRATEGIES So we have an inherent conflict in every communicative situation: we want to manage each other’s face needs; at the same time we want to perform social acts that are inherently face threatening. In fact we could think of politeness as any deviation from Grice’s Cooperative Principle given that politeness involves deviations from maximal communicative efficiency. Brown & Levinson offer a typology of five superstrategies that range on a continuum from very impolite to very polite.
Off-record Politeness (face threatening act must be inferred) Violate conversational maxims: Quality Quantity Manner Relation Bald-on-record Positive Politeness Claim common ground Convey cooperation Fulfill hearer’s wants Negative Politeness Conventional indirectness Avoid assumptions Avoid coercion Communicate desire to avoid impingement Incur a debt Politeness STRATEGIES
Speech Act Theory Debate used to rage over what an utterance “meant.” Attempts were made to impose truth-conditional approaches on language. That works for “3+3=6” or other forms of reasoning such as “All Xs are Ys. B is an X, therefore B is a Y.” But linguistic utterances often don’t “mean” something definitive.
Speech Act Theory A truth value could be determined for the following utterance: It is raining outside. But not for this utterance: I apologize for what I said. John Austin referred to the latter as a performative utterance and the former as a constative utterance.
Speech Act Theory The “rain” utterance could be assessed as true or false but the “apology” utterance could, at best, “misfire” or be “infelicitous” (i.e., basically fail to “work” properly). In other words, the “apology” utterance may not be seen as sincere, it may not be well-formed or well-stated, or it may not “count” as an apology. Consider Clyde Arakawa’s “apology” for manslaughter: “I’m sorry for what happened.” A well-formed apology should indicate acceptance of responsibility for the offending action and sincere regret for the action.
Speech Act forces A speech act is described in terms of three “forces” associated with any communicative utterance: • Locutionary force – the actual utterance; what is spoken and heard. • Illocutionary force – what the speaker intends by the utterance; the intended meaning to be activated by the utterance. • Perlocutionary force – the actual effect of the utterance on the hearer; may or may not be consistent with the illocutionary force.
Types of Speech Act s • Directives – world to words (hearer); requesting, ordering, interrogating. • Assertives – words to world; asserting, concluding, informing, reporting, predicting. • Commissives – world to words (speaker); promising, threatening, guaranteeing. • Declaratives – world to words & vice versa; performing a marriage, declaring war, calling a runner “out.” • Expressives – null; thanking, complaining, greeting, apologizing.
felicity conditions According to John Searle, for a speech act to be effective it must satisfy four felicity conditions: • Propositional content – the MAP as constrained by the illocutionary force of the utterance. • Preparatory conditions – what must be already true about the world or the communicators prior to the speech act. • Sincerity condition – speaker must mean it. • Essential condition – the utterance must “count as” a performance of the relevant act.
communication accommodation theory CAT was developed by Howard Giles and was referred to originally as Speech Accommodation Theory. It was developed to explain how and why convergence and divergence of communicative behavior occur in communicative interaction(s). In short, Giles argued that our communicative styles tend to converge or diverge as a function of perceptions of affiliation with conversational partners.
communication accommodation theory • Upward vs. Downward • Full vs. Partial vs. Hyper • Large vs. Moderate • Uni- vs. Multicodal • Symmetrical vs. Asymmetrical • Subjective vs. Objective Convergence and divergence can be accomplished several ways:
communication accommodation theory • A speaker’s (often unconscious) need for social integration or identification with another. • Social approval. • Social attractiveness. • Perceived similarity. • Perceptions of power. • Social influence & Compliance Motives for and outcomes of accommodation: