This book "fills the unquestionable need for a comprehensive and up-to-date handbook on the fast-developing field of pragmatics" and "includes contributions from many of the principal figures in a wide variety of fields of pragmatic research as well as some up-and-coming pragmatists."
Van Dijk presents a new theory of context that explains how text and talk are adapted to their social environment. He argues that instead of the usual direct relationship being established between society and discourse, this influence is indirect and depends on how language users themselves 'define' the communicative situation. The new concept Van Dijk introduces for such definitions is that of context models. These models control all language production and understanding and explain how discourse is made appropriate in each situation. They are the missing link between language and society so far ignored in pragmatics and sociolinguistics. In this interdisciplinary book, the new theory of context is developed from a linguistic and psychological perspective. The theory is applied to the domain of politics, including the debate about the war in Iraq, where political leaders' speeches serve as a case study for detailed contextual analysis.