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Both semantics and pragmatics study meaning. Semantics is the study of the literal meaning of linguistic expressions: There is no salt on the table, dear.

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Presentation on theme: "Both semantics and pragmatics study meaning. Semantics is the study of the literal meaning of linguistic expressions: There is no salt on the table, dear."— Presentation transcript:


2 Both semantics and pragmatics study meaning. Semantics is the study of the literal meaning of linguistic expressions: There is no salt on the table, dear. Pragmatics deals with speaker’s meaning. There is not salt on the table, dear  Pass me the salt, please.

3 It is very often the case that natural language speakers communicate more than that which is explicitly stated. When a diplomat says yes, he means ‘perhaps’; When he says perhaps, he means ‘no’; When he says no, he is not a diplomat. When a lady says no, she means ‘perhaps’; When she says perhaps, she means ‘yes’; When she says yes, she is not a lady. Voltaire (Quoted, in Spanish, in Escandell 1993.)

4 Today we will focus on the following subject areas which are within the interest of pragmatics: I.The role of context in the process of interpretation II. Presupposition III. Speech acts IV.Conversational maxims and implicatures

5 I. The role of context in the process of interpretation Pragmatics is the study of how contexts affects the meaning of linguistic expressions. Context is an important factor when we want to study language as a system of communication. Communication is understood as a transfer of information and it implies speaker and hearer.


7 Conclusion: Interpretation (semantics + pragmatics) Semantics to fully understand the meaning of a sentence, we must calculate how its meaning is built up from the meaning of its smaller elements in a compositional fashion. Pragmatics However, it is also important to understand the role of context in the process of interpetation.

8 Types of contexts: Situational context – where and when the conversation takes place Deictic pronouns are interpreted relative to situational context. Diectics are those linguistic expressions whose interpretation is dependent on the context in which they appear. They refer to the world outside the linguistic context.

9 I am glad he is gone. John is there. The interpretation of definite descriptions is dependent on situational context. I am glad the bastard is gone.

10 Epistemic context - background knowledge shared by the speakers and hearers It must be hot outside. If I uttered this sentence now, would you find it sensible? Probably not, because such sentences can be uttered only when we have some reasonable evidence. Can this sentence be uttered by someone who is standing in front of an open window and who is exposed to high temperature and sun-rays? No. This sentence must be based on some indirect evidence.

11 It must be hot outside. Scenario: Both a speaker and a hearer are in an office which is air-conditioned. They can see that people coming in wear T-shirts, sun-glasses and these people are sweating. A hearer bases his statement on the evidence-based reasoning.

12 Linguistic context - utterances previous to the utterance under consideration (all sentences which have been uttered earlier) The interpretation of anaphoric pronouns is dependent on the information provided in the sentences uttered earlier in discourse. Anaphoric expressions – in order to interpret them we have to refer to the entity that is mentioned earlier in the linguistic context. That entity relative to which an anaphora is interpreted is called an antecedent.

13 For instance, when we say She loves him out of context, we are not able to determine what this sentence means, because the meaning of pronouns she and him is dependent on linguistic context. Mary John I met Mary and John yesterday. I think she loves him.

14 John entered the room. He took off his coat. antecedent NP anaphoric pronoun

15 Social context: the social relationship between the speakers and hearers When a lady says no, she means ‘perhaps’; When she says perhaps, she means ‘yes’; When she says yes, she is not a lady. Voltaire (Quoted, in Spanish, in Escandell 1993.)

16 II. Presupposition – is a pragmatic phenomenon which exemplifies how the interpretation of linguistic expressions interacts with context. A presupposition is an implicit assumption about the world, the preexisting knowledge which has to be true before something is uttered. Simply speaking, presupposition is some body of knowledge which is assumed before the utterance is made.

17 Examples: Do you want to do it again? Presupposition: that you have done it already, at least once. John used to smoke. Presupposition: John no longer smokes. Why did you stop visiting John? Presupposition: You visited John in the past regularly. I regret telling John the truth. Presupposition: I told John the truth. Such expressions as: too, again, regret trigger presupposition.

18 III. Speech acts John Austin: "By saying something, we do something”, as when a minister joins two people in marriage saying, "I now pronounce you husband and wife." People perform some kind of acts simply by using lan­guage; these are called speech acts.

19 We use language to do a wide range of activities. We use it to: Convey information Request information Give orders Make requests Make threats Give warnings (1) I lost my wallet. (2) Who ate my sandwich? (3) Close the door!!! (4) Please scratch my back. (5) Say it again and I will kill you. (6) Beware of the dog!!!

20 Importantly, we use specific types of syntactic structures to conduct different kinds of spech acts: Declarative structures are used to convey information. (twierdzące) Interrogative structures are used to elicit information or to make a request. (pytające) Imperative structures are used to give orders, to make requests, give warnings. (rozkazujące)

21 Performative Verbs The fact that speaking is a legitimate kind of action is made clear by the linguistic use of perfermative verbs. Performative verbs name the speech act explicitly: Convey information Request information Give orders Make requests Make threats (1) I assert that lost my wallet. (2) I ask who ate my sandwich? (3) I order you to close the door!!! (4) I request that you scratch my back. (5) I threaten you that if you do it again, I will kill you.

22 There are some requirements which need to be satisfied for identifying whether a given statement is a performative act. 1) The subject of the sentence is the same as the doer of the speech act (the speaker). The subject must be I. 2) The statement must be in present tense. 3) Presence of performative verbs. 4) The statement cannot be negated and it cannot be a question.

23 There is a test which checks whether a given statement is a performative utterance. Try to insert ‘hereby’ – ‘niniejszym’. I hereby assert/advise/declare/warn/invite you… Niniejszym oświadczam/radzę/deklaruję/ostrzegam/ zapraszam * I hereby convince you/inspire you/provoke you… *Niniejszym przekonuję cię/inspiruję cię/prowokuję cię…

24 There are three types of acts of speaking: The most general act is called LOCUTION LOCUTION is any act of saying something meaningful. The act in which a speaker specifies or has some purpose of his utterance e.g. his purpose is to threaten sb, to warn someone, persuade sb, nominate sb is called ILLOCUTION. The final effect an act of speaking exerts on a speaker is called PERLOCUTION. For instance, when someone is annoyed, upset, thrilled to bits after hearing some sentence, we refer to this final effect as perlocution.

25 Speech acts can be further subdivided into direct and indirect. Direct speech acts are perfomed in a direct literal manner. Open the window!!! – the speaker makes an order directly Indirect speech acts are implied. The speaker’s intention is not stated directly. Isnt’t it too hot in here? (means Open the window)

26 Examples of direct and indirect speech acts which have more less the same illocutionary effect DIRECT SPEECH ACT Turn down the radio, please. Get off my foot!!! Henry VIII had six wives. Close the window, please. Take the garbage out!!! INDIRECT SPEECH ACT The radio is too loud. Could you get off my foot!!! Illocutionary effect: order Do you know that Henry VIII had six wives? Isn’t it too cold in here? The garbage isn't out yet.

27 IV. Conversational maxims and implicatures Is the following example of communication possible? Kim: How are you today? Sandy: Oh, Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania. Gail: Really? I thought the weather would be warmer. Mickey: Well, in my opinion, the soup could have been more salty.

28 This example of communication seems impossible, because the process of communication between a speaker and a hearer is driven by some principles of cooperation. These principles have been formulated by the philosopher Paul Grice:

29 Grice argued that there are a number of conversational rules, or maxims, that regulate conversation. These are: Maxims of Quality Maxim of Relevance Maxim of Quantity Maxim of Manner

30 A. Maxims of Quality: 1. Do not say what you believe to be false. 2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence. (informally – do not lie) In a scenario in which your sister tells you that Kate told her that John had a car accident, would you inform someone about it using the statement in A or B? A: John had a car accident. B: I heard that John had a car accident. By virtue of the maxim of Quality, you would prefer to use B, because you would not have enough evidence to assert A.

31 B. Maxim of Relevance: 1. Be relevant. Supposing your friend asked you: Do I look good? Would you respond: A. Yes, you look good or Not really. B. The sky is blue. You would probably choose A to abide by the maxim of Relevance.

32 The next pair of maxims are the Maxims of Quantity. C. Maxims of Quantity: 1. Make your contribution as informative as is required. 2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required. In a scenario in which you know that John has exactly 23 apples, would you say: A: John has exactly 23 apples. B: John has about 23 apples. You would say A to make your contribution as informative as possible.

33 D. Maxims of Manner: 1. Avoid ambiguity. 3.Be brief. 4.Be orderly. Grice also observed that speakers sometimes choose to violate Maxims of Conversation to indirectly convey some hidden meanings. Those hidden meanings which arise from the violation of Gricean maxims are called IMPLICATURES:

34 Examples of implicatures: Grice gave an example of a professor who was asked to write a letter of recommendation for a recent Ph.D. who was applying for a teaching position. Suppose that the letter went like this: Dear Colleague: Mr. John J. Jones has asked me to write a letter on his behalf. Let me say that Mr. Jones is unfailingly polite, is neatly dressed at all times, and is always on time for his classes. Sincerely yours, Harry H. Homer

35 Do you think Mr. Jones would get the job? This is an example of flouting a maxim - the Maxim of Quantity. Professor Homer was expected to be as informative as possible about the candidate’s qualifications as a teacher. The receiver of this letter will assume that Professor Homer violated the Maxim of Quantity intentionally to convey a hidden message that the candidate is not suitable for the position of a teacher. Conclusion: the violation of the Maxim of Quantity resulted in the IMPLICATURE that the student was not a good candidate for the announced position.

36 Another example of IMPLICATURE is as follows: A: Would you like to go to the cinema with me? B: The weather is wonderful today, isn’t it? The speaker B violates the Maxim of Relevance and the implicature arises: No, I do not want to go with you to the cinema.


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