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Pragmatics and Text Analysis. Chapter 6. Introduction .

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  • Pragmatics is the study of language usage from a functional perspective and is concerned with the principles that account for how meaning is communicated by the speaker (writer) and interpreted by the listener (reader) in a certain context.
  • Different from semantics, pragmatics studies the contextual meaning. This distinction can be seen in the following example:
  • Mike: What happened to that bowl of cream?
  • Annie: Cats drink cream.
  • Pragmatics concentrates on those aspects of meaning that cannot be predicted by linguistic knowledge alone and takes into account our knowledge about the physical and social world.
  • The four utterances in the following dialogue are all syntactically incomplete, but pragmatically they are all "appropriate" in the particular context.
  • Jane: Coffee?
  • Steve: Sure.
  • Jane: White?
  • Steve: White.
  • Like pragmatics, text analysis is also concerned with language used in particular contexts. It is the linguistic analysis of naturally occurring connected spoken or written texts.
  • In other words, it is the study of linguistic units larger than sentences or clauses.
speech act theory
Speech Act Theory
  • As pointed out by the British philosopher Austin in 1962, sentences are not always uttered just to say things, but rather, they are used to do things.
  • Based on this assumption, Austin advanced the Speech Act Theory.
  • All linguistic activities are related to speech acts. Therefore, to speak a language is to perform a set of speech acts, such as statement, command, inquiry and commitment.

When a sentence is uttered, the speaker is performing three kinds of speech acts simultaneously: locutionary act, illocutionary act, and perlocutionary act .

  • Among these kinds of speech acts, pragmatists are most interested in illocutionary act.

In order to perform a certain performative speech act, particular conditions should be met.

● Essential conditions

● Propositional conditions

● Preparatory conditions

● Sincerity conditions


Essential conditions

  • For example, when the speaker ORDERS/COMMANDS the hearer to leave the room, the following essential conditions should be met: the speaker has the authority to command while the hearer has the obligation to carry out this command.

Propositional conditions

  • For instance, if the speaker APOLOGIZES, the propositional content of the apology must be an action which he or she did or was responsible for in the past.

Preparatory conditions

  • For example, if the speaker makes a PROMISE / COMMITMENT, two preparatory conditions should be presumed. First, the speaker should have the ability to carry out the promise/commitment. Second, what is promised/committed should be beneficial to the hearer.

Sincerity conditions

  • When the speaker performs an illocutionary act in an utterance expressing a certain propositional content, he also expresses a certain mental state.
  • When the speaker makes a STATEMENT, he or she also expresses the mental state of "belief".

A locutionary act may have different illocutionary forces in different contexts. In other words, an utterance may be interpreted as a direct or indirect speech act.

  • "Don't you think it's too stuffy in here?"
  • What is the speaker is saying?

Similarly, an illocutionary act can be performed by different locutionary acts.

  • a. Command: Open the door please.
  • b. Request: Would you please open the door?
  • c. Statement: The doorbell is ringing.
indirect speech act
Indirect Speech Act
  • Indirect speech act refers to an indirect relationship between the propositional content and illocutionary force of an utterance.
  • A sentence which expresses an indirect speech act is an indirect performative.

Example A below is an explicit performative in which the speech act of request is directly coded by the performative verb request. Example B is an indirect performative in which the speech act of request is indirectly expressed by a question:

  • A. I request that you help me with the luggage.
  • B. Can you help me with the luggage?

A: What are the police doing?

  • B: I've just arrived.
  • A: Let's go to the movie tonight.
  • B: I have to study for an exam.
the cooperative principle
The Cooperative Principle
  • the literal meaning and the non-literal meaning.
  • In order to account for such a linguistic phenomenon, Grice in 1967 found that tacit agreement exists between the speaker and the hearer in all linguistic communicative activities. They follow a set of principles in order to achieve particular communicative goals. Thus, Grice proposed the term of the cooperative principle and its maxims.

The maxim of Quality

  • try to make your contribution one that is true, especially: (i) do not say what you believe to be false and (ii) do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
  • The maxim of Quantity
  • (i) make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purposes of the exchange, and (ii) do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

The maxim of Relevance

  • make your contribution relevant.
  • The maxim of Manner
  • Be perspicuous, and specifically: (i) Avoid obscurity of expression; (ii) Avoid ambiguity; (iii) Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity) and (iv) Be orderly.

But in real communication, the participants often flout the cooperative principle and its maxims.

  • In this example, B flouts the quantity maxim by not making his or her contribution as informative as is required:
  • A: When are you going to the airport?
  • B: Sometime this morning.

A: The hostess is an awful bore, don't you think?

  • B: The roses are lovely, aren't they?
  • A: Let's get the kids something.
  • B: Okay, but I veto I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M.
the politeness principle
The Politeness Principle
  • In order to explain why in many cases people express themselves implicitly and indirectly by flouting the four maxims of the cooperative principle, Brown and Levinson (1978) advanced the Face Theory. Leech (1983:132) developed the face theory further and formulated the politeness principle.
the face theory
The Face Theory
  • According to this theory, everybody has face wants, i.e. the expectation concerning their public self-image. In order to maintain harmonious interpersonal relationships and ensure successful social interaction, we should be aware of the two aspects of another person's face, i.e. the positive face and the negative face .

A: Bob is really mischievous, isn't he?

  • B: Children are children.
  • a. I order you to answer the phone.
  • b. I want you to answer the phone.
  • c. Would you answer the phone?

● Tact (得体)maxim

  • (i) Minimize cost to other
  • (ii) Maximize cost for self.
  • ● Generosity Maxim
  • (i) Minimize benefit to self
  • (ii) Maximize praise of other.

● Approbation (赞扬)Maxim

  • (i) Minimize dispraise of other
  • (ii) Maximize dispraise of self.
  • ● Modesty Maxim
  • (i) Minimize disagreement between self and other
  • (ii) Maximize sympathy between self and other.

● Agreement Maxim

  • (i) Minimize disagreement between self and other
  • (ii) Maximize agreement between self and other
  • ● Sympathy Maxim
  • (i) Minimize antipathy between self and other
  • (ii) Maximize sympathy between self and other
  • Presupposition can be defined in linguistics as any kind of background assumption against which an expression or utterance makes sense or is rational.
  • Presuppositions refer to the conditions that must be met in order for the intended meaning of a sentence to be regarded as acceptable.
  • Their team won this year’s African finals.
  • Their team played in the African finals.
exchange and adjacency pair
Exchange and Adjacency Pair
  • Empirical findings reveal that some spoken texts can be represented by variations of recursive exchanges. The term exchange is used here to refer to the minimal unit of interactive spoken texts.
  • An exchange may be of a two-part question-answer type, like (1), or of a two-part greeting-response type like (2). It may also be a typical three-part teacher-pupil talk like (3):
exchange and adjacency pair32
Exchange and Adjacency Pair
  • A: What time is it by your watch? (Question)
  • B: Nine thirty. (Answer)
  • (2) A: Hello. (Greeting)
  • B: Hi. (Response)
  • (3) Teacher: What's the capital of France? (Initiation)
  • Pupil: Paris. (Response)
  • Teacher: Right. (Feedback)
exchange and adjacency pair33
Exchange and Adjacency Pair
  • A further analysis of the logical relationship in spoken texts reveals some automatic sequences. They are called adjacency pairs. An adjacency pair always consists of a first part and a second part, produced by different speakers. For example:
  • Anna: Hello.
  • Bill: Hi.
  • Halliday and Hasan (1976): Cohesion in English
  • A text is not a collection of lexical items and/or sentences in random. In other words, it must have texture, i.e. the property that distinguishes a text from a non-text. The unity of a text can be achieved by a number of semantic and lexicogrammatical means, among which the most important is cohesion .

Cohesive ties may be either grammatical devices such as reference, ellipsis and substitution, and conjunction, or lexical devices such as general words, reiteration and collocation.

  • Reference refers to the semantic relation in which a word or words are used to enable the addressee to identify someone or something. The word or words used for reference are called the reference item. The person(s) or thing(s) identified by the reference item are called the referent.
  • John has moved to a new house. He had it built last year.
substitution and ellipsis
Substitution and Ellipsis
  • Substitution refers to the replacement of one item by another and ellipsis the omission of an item. Unlike reference, substitution and ellipsis are a relation between linguistic items. Substitution and ellipsis are two closely related processes.
  • A: I ate two eggs and a cup of milk for my breakfast.
  • B: I ate the same.
  • Conjunction in grammar refers to a word or expression like and, but, or that connects words, phrases, clauses and/or sentences.
lexical cohesion
Lexical Cohesion
  • Lexical cohesion refers to the cohesive effect achieved by the choice of lexical items.
  • English lexical cohesive ties fall into two categories: reiteration and collocation. Reiteration can take the following four forms: repetition, synonymy, antonymy, and hyponymy and meronymy.
theme and rheme
Theme and Rheme
  • According to Halliday (1994) ,theme can be defined as the element which serves as the point of departure of the message conveyed by the clause. It is the ground from which the clause is taking off. In English, this element always takes the first position of a clause. The remaining part of the message, the part in which the Theme is developed, is called the Rheme .
given new
Given + New
  • An information unit usually consists of two components.
  • To Halliday (1994), the part which the speaker invites the addressee to attend to as unexpected, or important is the New, and the part which the speaker presents as being already known to the addressee is the Given. In the tone structure, the New is always signaled by the tonic accent.
  • The duke gave my aunt that teapot.

End of lecture

  • Thank you for your attention