Presentation on theme: "Discourse & Communication: The word in the world."— Presentation transcript:
Discourse & Communication: The word in the world
Language-mediated reference Our discussions of semantics have concentrated mainly on how words refer to either real-world entities or to abstract ideas –However, there is another important element that words can refer to, and that is: other words –Much of the coherence that we are able to extract from multi-sentence utterances or multi-sentence texts derives from the fact that sentences we use regularly refer back to previous sentences or to clauses within sentences –There are two ways this can happen: explicitly and implicitly
Explicit reference (anaphora) ‘Anaphora’ is the technical term which means referring back to previous text: anaphora
Types of explicit anaphora There are many common ways of referring back to prior language –i.) Pronominal reference –ii.) Demonstratives –iii.) Comparatives –iv.) Substitution –v.) Ellipsis –vi.) Conjunction –vii.) Idiosyncratic means
i.) Pronominal reference By definition, pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘we’, and ‘it’ [etc.] must refer to something which has already been mentioned; otherwise there is an error Note, however, that it is possible to use them to refer to a reference that has never been fixed linguistically –eg. you can say “He's my ideal man” pointing to someone walking by
ii.) Demonstratives Similarly, demonstratives such as ‘this’, ‘these’, ‘that’, ‘those’, ‘there’, ‘here’, ‘the’, and ‘a’ must also pick out a entity or text that has been previously referred to
iii.) Comparatives Comparatives make a contrast between two previously referred to items or text "My ideal man would look like Nicholas Cage, or at least no balder"
iv.) Substitution Substitution occurs when one text stands in for another "Moreover, the guy needs to be at least as rich as Cage". We often use substitution with words or phrases like ‘similarly’, ‘likewise’, ‘even better’, ‘furthermore’etc. "Even better, he should be richer."
v.) Ellipsis We can also refer by deletion, which is called ellipsis "And less whiny" A great deal of apparently non-grammatical discourse is the result of ellipsis – we are able to use it to make sentences that violate the normal formal requirements of syntax.
vi.) Conjunction Conjunction is perhaps the most widely used of all anaphoric tools Conjunctions are just ways of explicitly connecting sentences, and appear in several different forms, corresponding to different logical connectors and ordering tools –i.) Additive: ‘and’ –ii.) Adversative: ‘but’, ‘despite’, ‘or’ –iii.) Causal: ‘because’ –iv.) Temporal: ‘then’ –v.) Pragmatic
Pragmatic conjunction Although all conjunctions play a pragmatic role, some play no other role at all –Textbook example: "So, how ’bout them Blue Jays?" ‘So’ has no explicit anaphoric utility here: it serves no role except to mark a new topic (perhaps an implicit anaphora?) The word ‘so’ is complicated, since it can also have a radically anaphoric value, when it is used to resume an interrupted story: –"So, there I was, hanging outside the hotel room naked, drunk, and covered in peanut butter…"
Pragmatic limitations Related anaphoric examples are “That reminds me” and “Hey, I almost forgot to tell you about…” These tools are deeply engrained in pragmatic practice In a structured situation like a class, one can mark a new topic explicitly: “That's all I have to say about X, now I'm going to talk about Y” However, it is very odd in informal situations to be explicit about opening a new topic: “If we have finished talking about your feelings about your boss, I'd like to discuss my hockey pool results now.” [ I believe mental heath would be enhanced if such explicit topic changes were pragmatically acceptable…]
vii.) Idiosyncratic anaphora There are also a bunch of other ways of referring back that are idiosyncratic depending on the topic at hand “My dog is a real annoyance. The little rascal ate my slippers yesterday.”
Implicit Anaphora How do we decode idiosyncratic anaphora, and manage topic changes that cannot be explicitly marked? We use pragmatics, especially insofar as it encodes rules for context management
Grice’s Maxims (again) Many complex rules guide us, but the most well-known are known as the Gricean Maxims, after the guy who first enumerated them: i.) The Maxim Of Quality: Speakers should tell the truth as they know it, or explicitly acknowledge their uncertainty about the truth if they are aware of it ii.) The Maxim of Manner: Speakers should strive to be clear, succinct, and unambiguous iii.) The Maxim of Quantity: Speakers shouls say all that is necessary or required, but no more than that iv.) The Maxim of Relation: Speakers should say only what is relevant
Grice’s Maxims These maxims are usually put forth as maxims for action, but in fact Grice's point is not simply that this is what people should do: it is what people are implicitly assumed to be doing – We rely on them to make connections between words –When they are flouted without saying so, problems ensue There is a psychological term for the class of people who continuously flout Gricean maxims: What is it?
Exceptions to Grice’s maxims In some situations like court cases, it is in the interests of some party to conceal the truth or deflect attention from that it relevant –Note that what we get people to do in that situation is basically to swear that they will not violate the maxims: we get them to swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth". Impolite people flout the maxims to some extent: –We rarely allow ourselves to state explicitly that someone is violating them, and so we suffer from bores, exaggerators, boasters, and narcissists –Cf. My hockey-loving lunch companion
Context and implicit anaphora We can also use context to decode implicit anaphora (cf. Pete Dixon’s talk) - Your textbook has a good example of the importance of linguistic context in comprehension [pg. 282] Context can remove ambiguity and resolve uncertainty, but it can also do the opposite –it can allow for the deliberate and overt multiplication f meanings, as in the cases of irony and sarcasm Context also allows for indirect commands: “It’s hot in here.”
Genres We have generally been treating the English language as if it were a single thing, as if it were used in the same way by everyone –Of course this is not true: there are many systematic sub-categories of language that use their own rules and structure = genres –We are all aware of them and easily move between the different genres which we have mastered, almost without thinking
Genres For example, in writing a paper we structure and connect sentences in very different ways than when we are eating with our friends, We might be very different again when we are out on a first date or interacting with our partner's parents or trying to convince our landlord to makes repairs at his own expense –It becomes difficult to specify how many different genres we inhabit: maybe we have a different set of discourse rules for almost everyone we interact with – Maybe it is worse than that: we have a different set for different kinds of discussions even with the same people!
Genres & Computers "Each of us is alone in the world. He is shut in a tower of brass, and can communicate with his fellows only by signs, and the signs have no common value, so that their sense is vague and uncertain. We seek pitifully to convey to others the treasures of our heart, but they have not the power to accept them, and so we go lonely, side by side but not together, unable to know our fellows and unknown to them. We are like people living in a country whose language they know so little that, with all manner of beautiful and profound things to say, they are condemned to the banalities of the conversation manual. Their brain is seething with ideas, and they can only tell you that the umbrella of the gardener’s aunt is in the house." Somerset Maugham The Moon And Sixpence
Genres & Computers "It hath been written of each of us that he is alone upon this earthly sphere. Every soul hath been said to be enclosed within in a tower of brass, and each canst communicate with his fellow men only by signs, and the signs have no common value, so that their sense hath been said to be vague and without certainty. We seeketh most pitifully to convey to others the treasures which lie within our hearts. Alas, they have not the power to accept them. We go lonely, side by side but not together, unable to know what lies within the hearts of our fellow men and with the secrets of our own inner hearts unknown to them. We art like a people abiding in a land whose language they know but little. Therefore, with all manner of fair and profound things to say, they art condemned to the banalities of a tome of conversation. Their brain seetheth with ideas, and they canst only tell thee that the umbrella of the gardener’s aunt remains within the lonely room in which they dwell." Somerset Maugham The Moon And Sixpence
Genres & Computers "Each of us is alone in thuh planet. Every dude is shut in, like, a tower of brass, man, and can communicate with his pals only by signs, and thuh signs have no common value, so that their sense is like weird and farout. Like, it's really pathetic the way that us dudes seek to convey to each other thuh greatness of, like, our inner minds, man, but they have not thuh power to accept them, and so we're like all alone in the universe, man, side by side but not together, unable to know our buddies and unknown to them. Us dudes are like some dudes livin' in a country whose language they know so little that, even though they got wicked smart thin's to say, they are forced tuh stick tuh to thuh sentences in some translation book. Their brain is flashin' on infinity, man, but they can only tell you that thuh umbrella of thuh gardener’s aunt got left back in their pad." Somerset Maugham The Moon And Sixpence