Review of Pragmatics and Discourse
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
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
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
However, from a purist perspective, the book includes the following
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,
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.