Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2003 12:12:08 -0800 From: Zouhair Maalej Subject: Review of Cutting's Pragmatics and Discourse (2002)
Cutting, Joan (2002) Pragmatics and Discourse: A Resource Book for Students, Routledge, Routledge English Language Introductions.
Zouhair Maalej, Department of Linguistics, University of New Mexico
PURPOSE AND CONTENTS
Truthful to the nature of the series it is published in, the book is meant by its author to be an introductory resource book, covering the areas of pragmatics and discourse. The book includes four chapters of unequal length and importance that cannot be read in isolation because they are interdependent in theory and practice. Theoretically, the first chapter introduces the conceptions of pragmatics and discourse that the following chapters build on. In practice, although chapters two, three, and four deal with the same headings developed in the introduction, each chapter has a different practical purpose that makes its individuality as will be shown in the contents of the book.
Introduction: Concepts in pragmatics and discourse (pp. 1- 54)
In this introductory chapter, Cutting presents tools such as context, co-text, speech acts, co- operative principle, politeness, conversation analysis, which are instrumental to forthcoming chapters.
Development: Studies in pragmatics and discourse (pp. 55-76)
The author analyzes through various types of text (conversation, lecture, and literature) the various concepts and tools proposed in the Introduction. The author almost offers model corrections for the students.
Exploration: Data for investigation (pp. 77-107)
The author extends the analysis of text to other types of text (sports, medical, cookery, literature, journalism, tourism, conversation, emails, etc.), associating potential users with activities in the form of questions.
Extension: Readings (pp. 108-180)
This chapter is the longest in the book, consisting of extensive readings from authorities in the two disciplines under investigation, sending the readers to explore concepts for themselves and widen their horizons. Readings include the way conversation works (by Wardhaugh), lexical cohesion (by Hoey), discourse disorders (by Wodak), language and power (by Fairclough), and discourse strategies (by Gumperz). But the lengthiest part of this chapter relates to issues raised by relevance theory, namely, cognitive environment, mutual manifestness, ostensive- inferential communication, informative and communicative intentions, etc. The activities and questions that follow these readings get more complex and focused, including theoretical questions that incite students to think about their own stance on various issues in the pragmatics and discourse literature.
The book is a resourceful document, including mainly a variety of texts and activities. It also is written in accessible English to undergraduate students of linguistics. There are many instances of oversimplification that can be understood as contributing to making pragmatics and discourse accessible to students. The progression in the degree of difficulty implemented throughout takes the student by the hand with every chapter into more depth, difficulty, and active participation. The book is, thus, a valuable one, text variety- and pedagogy-wise.
However, from a purist perspective, the book includes the following problems.
Although she shows more relevance- theoretic knowledge of pragmatics, Cutting (p. 3) seems to mesh Grice's Co-operative Principle with Sperber and Wilson's Relevance Principle. It is important to keep these two theories distinct in the minds of students as Sperber and Wilson altogether undermine the Co- operative Principle by superseding it with the Relevance Principle. Many of the criticisms that Cutting herself addressed to Grice's theory make it psychologically justifiable to do so owing to the many instances of lack of co-operation that we witness in everyday life situations.
Presenting deixis as three types (person, place and time) (p. 7) is difficult to defend as a simplification as it leaves out the very important social deixis, which has been demonstrated to play a big role in the construction of social reality (see Levinson, 1983; Marmaridou, 2000).
There seems to be a misinterpretation of exophora, which is presented as first mention (p. 7). According to Halliday and Hasan (1976: 31), reference is exophoric when it is retrievable from the context of situation. Reference, however, is endophoric when it can be retrieved from the surrounding text (32-33). So, exophora is not necessarily first mention. Presenting endophora as synonymous with intertexuality is not accurate. This confusion can be resolved by De Beaugrande and Dressler's (1981: 183) definition of the latter as "the ways in which the production and reception of a given text depends upon the participants' knowledge of other texts."
The theory of discourse has been presented in its various trends, including conversation analysis, the exchange structure theory, and interactional sociolinguistics. However, the pragmatic side suffers huge simplification, in that not only is pragmatics reduced to speech acts and conversational maxims, but also very little has been said about presupposition and implicature as important features of this ostensive-inferential communication about which Cutting exhorted potential readers to extend their knowledge.
Beaugrande, R. de & W. Dressler (1981) Introduction to Text Linguistics. London/New York: Longman.
Halliday, M. A. K. and R. Hasan (1976) Cohesion in English. London: Longman Group Ltd.
Levinson, S. C. (1983) Pragmatics. London: CUP.
Marmaridou, Sophia S. A. (2000) Pragmatic Meaning and Cognition. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson (1995) Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell (Second edition).
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER The reviewer is an assistant professor of linguistics. His interests include cognitive linguistics, metaphor, cognitive pragmatics, psycholinguistics, critical discourse analysis, etc. He has been awarded a senior Fulbright research scholarship that he is currently spending at the Department of Linguistics, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (20022003) to write a book on cognitive metaphor, with special reference to Arabic.