Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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EDITORS: Dawn Archer, Peter Grundy TITLE: The Pragmatics Reader PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis) YEAR: 2011
Zhen-qiang Fan, Zhejiang Gongshang University, P. R. China
This reader, edited by Dawn Archer and Peter Grundy (henceforth A&G), comprises 26 core articles in the field, many of them classics, from leading figures in pragmatics. It also includes four papers specially solicited for the present collection. Apart from an introductory section (section 1) and a concluding section (section 10, Theory and Practice in Pragmatics), the 28 contributions are placed in thematic groupings: (2) Linguistic Pragmatics, (3) Post-Gricean Pragmatics, (4) Indexicality, (5) Historical Pragmatics, (6) Politeness, Face and Impoliteness, (7) Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Pragmatics, (8) Pragmatics and Conversation -- Development and Impairment, (9) Pragmaticians on Pragmatics.
The introduction provides a survey of the pragmatics enterprise, thereby setting the scene for the remaining articles. First, the editors start their introduction by tentatively defining pragmatics as 'the study of meaning in context'. On this basis, they specify different competing paradigms of research. With regard to the relationship between meaning and context, they distinguish those who regard context as presumptive and those who consider context as emergent. In terms of the scope of context, they differentiate a narrow and idealized view of context from those views which interpret context as broad sociocultural or mental phenomena. They also present different theoretical perspectives concerning the semantics/pragmatics interface. Finally, the introduction also offers a snapshot of the readings which follow.
Section 2, ''Linguistic Pragmatics'', presents readings concerning three essential issues of linguistic pragmatics -- speech acts, conversational implicature, and presupposition. The editors' introduction provides some background knowledge and overview of the readings, as is done in other sections. In terms of speech act theory, J.L. Austin's ''How to Do Things with Words'' and John Searle's ''Indirect Speech Acts'' are presented. In the former, the editors include Austin's distinction of the three levels of speech acts: locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts; the latter reading presents Searle's proposition of certain 'rules' or 'conditions' for a speech act to be successful and his explanation of how we can derive the primary illocutionary act of indirect speech from the literal illocution. The third article is selected from H.P. Grice's canonical work, ''Logic and Conversation'', which brings forth the concept of implicature and its inference mechanism, the Cooperative Principle and conversational maxims. The next two readings are devoted to presupposition. Arguing against the two-value logic treatment of presupposition, Pieter Seuren's paper addresses numerous issues concerning existential presupposition and negation, and concludes that presupposition is a pragmatic phenomenon. In his paper 'Pragmatic Presuppositions', R. C. Stalnaker bases his discussion of presupposition on the shared assumptions of speakers and addressees, which he calls the 'common ground', and argues that this notion can offer “both rigorous and intuitively natural” (p. 77) explanations of various facets of presupposition.
Section 3 is divided into two subsections, reflecting two differing lines of development of Grice's conversation implicature theory: One, called 'neo-Gricean' pragmatics, is a follow-up refinement of Gricean theory; the other, named 'Post-Gricean' pragmatics' or relevance theoretic pragmatics, is a new orientation beyond Grice's framework, although inspired by it in the first place. In contrast to Grice's doubt on the necessity of the second maxim of Quantity, Levinson justifies its status as a maxim of minimalization and reformulates it as the Principle of Informativeness or the I-Principle. Compared with Grice's version, this new rendition takes both speaker and listener into account and is more detailed and operational than their earlier proposal (Atlas and Levinson 1981). Then in the second part of this selection, Levinson elaborates the significance of Generalized Conversational Implicature (GCI) to the pragmatics/semantics interface, or to the construction of the general theory of meaning, claiming that GCI can contribute to propositional content and is the input to truth conditions. The next reading is a new paper on lexical pragmatics. Working in a neo-Gricean framework, which assumes the Q principle and the R principle, Blutner draws on optimality theory to explain “the mechanism by which linguistically-specified word meanings are modified in use” (p. 101). It can be noted that Blutner, in his discussion, compares and contrasts optimality theory and relevance theory, so his reading provides a smooth transition from neo-Gricean pragmatics to post-Gricean pragmatics.
The groups of readings in the next subsection bring us beyond linguistic pragmatics and philosophy of language to the domain of cognitive pragmatics and philosophy of mind. This subsection starts with two readings offering an overview of relevance theory: Blakemore's paper, published in 1995, provides an interpretation and comment on Sperber and Wilson (1986); Clark's article discusses the major modifications of relevance theory from the “postface” (as opposed to “preface”) of Sperber and Wilson (second edition 1995) and surveys the recent developments and applications of relevance theory since 1995. Robyn Carston's reading is extracted from her 2002 book dedicated to explicit communication. This selection reflects her amendments to Sperber and Wilson's notion of explicature and her unique redefinition of this concept. This section ends with Sperber and Wilson's paper which focuses on the mapping between words and concepts. They claim that there is no exhaustive one-to-one mapping between concepts and words, and “words are used as pointers to contextually intended senses” (p. 160). So in inferential communication, the speaker's utterances are his/her evidence of his/her intention, the understanding of which requires the listener's construction of ad hoc concepts.
Indexicality, a topic which many pragmatics books tend to put before other topics like speech act theory, implicature, presupposition, etc. is placed in section 4 where three representative readings are selected, the reason being that A&G “make the transition from theories of language usage, typically exemplified with invented examples or with examples abstracted from real contexts of use, to explanations of contextualized language” (p. 164). That is to say, discussions of indexicality rely on naturally-occurring data. In his paper ''Deixis'', Stephen C. Levinson first presents some challenges of indexicality, including its semantic deficiency, its dependence on context for achieving reference and its lack of clear boundaries. He then reviews the approaches to this phenomenon from semantics and philosophy of language, and illustrates the role of pragmatics in the resolution of deictic expressions. Finally, he concentrates on six deictic categories. ''Alternative grounds in the interpretation of deictic expressions'' by Jo Rubba attempts to explain how place deictics whose referents are not present in the immediate utterance situation are processed. The author approaches this phenomenon by drawing on key theoretical models from cognitive linguistics, such as mental spaces, profiling and Idealized Cognitive Models (ICMs). Jef Verschueren, in ''Notes on the role of metapragmatic awareness in language use'', treats deixis as an implicit metalinguistic phenomenon and extends indexicality beyond deictics to include “a very wide range of phenomena that index, guide or constrain the desired pragmatic interpretation of utterances and link code and message overtly” (p. 165). Notably, he argues that it is “absolutely necessary” to see indexicality as a dimension of language rather than an object. This article also expounds on the functions of metapragmatic awareness and its social implications concerning language ideologies and identity construction.
The three readings in section 5, ''Historical Pragmatics'', adopt a diachronic perspective to investigate the evolution of certain pragmatic features. In ''The role of pragmatics in semantic change'', Elizabeth Closs Traugott introduces her own model for explaining semantic change -- the Invited Inferencing Theory of Semantic Change (IITSC). This model stresses that it is “speaker/writer-negotiated meaning [that] motivates the strong tendency in semantic change toward subjectification” (p. 225). She demonstrates the explanatory power of her model by applying it to explaining the change of 'as/so long as' in English. The next two readings explore diachronic change of pragmatic markers and speech acts respectively. Laurel Brinton's reading addresses 'I gesse' in Middle English. She discusses the functions and grammaticalization process of pragmatic markers. Andreas Jucker and Irma Taavitsainen in their paper, ''Diachronic speech act analysis: Insults from flyting to flaming'', offers an account of the speech act of insulting, covering the diachronic changes of their realization and their underlying speech function. Notably, it adopts a prototype-based approach to speech acts and its applicability to other speech acts besides insulting.
Section 6, “Politeness, Face and Impoliteness”, starts with an extract from Erving Goffman's book ''On facework: An analysis of ritual elements in social interaction'', a pioneering work in the field of 'face' and 'facework'. In choosing Goffman's material, A&G opt for those notions which are inherited or developed by the following three readings, making these group of readings highly connected. In ''Politeness: some universals in language use'', Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson define several key concepts concerning politeness such as 'positive face', 'negative face', 'rational agents', and 'face threatening acts (FTA)'. They also propose five strategies to minimize the threat when doing FTAs and discuss the factors that can influence the choice of these strategies. Their method is to construct an idealized model person (MP) and attribute politeness to a rational MP's wants. In contrast, ''Politeness, face and impoliteness'' by Miriam Locher and Richard Watts, views politeness as a social norm. They place more emphasis on the role of participants themselves, taking 'impolite' or 'polite' to refer to participants' judgment of their co-participant's verbal behavior in ongoing social interaction. This more dynamic approach combines both Goffman's social approach and Brown and Levinson's cognitive explanation in the sense that “what an individual develops as his/her continual construction of self depends on social interaction, and social interaction takes place between individuals” (p. 318). In presenting his model of impoliteness and his analysis of 'impoliteness as entertainment' in a quiz show, Jonathan Culpeper, in ''Impoliteness and entertainment in the television quiz show: The Weakest Link'' employs and develops some notions from the previous papers, e.g. Goffman's distinction between intentional, accidental and incidental face threat, and Brown and Levinson's politeness strategies.
Section 7, “Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Pragmatics”, starts with Shoshana Blum-Kulka, Juliane House and Gabriele Kasper’s reading which was originally the introduction of their book entitled “Cross-cultural pragmatics: requests and apologies”. The book represents the findings of the Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP), which is regarded as “the most carefully conceived, comprehensive study in cross-cultural pragmatics” (p. 341). The selected reading introduces the instrument of measurement, population, procedure, data analysis and the primary features coded for requests and apologies. Centering on the indexical function of language, Haruko Minegishi Cook, in ''Why can't learners of JFL distinguish polite from impolite speech styles?'', examines how students of Japanese as a foreign language (JFL) interpret and use contextualization cues and their pragmatic competence to distinguish polite from impolite speech styles. The study indicates that “in order to understand the pragmatic meaning of a speech style, JFL students need to know a wider range of co-occurring linguistic forms and their pragmatic functions which constitute various speech registers as well as their specific cultural norms of interpretation” (p. 369), hence the complexities involved in explicit instruction of contextualization cues. The last reading, ''Intercultural pragmatics'', is a new paper by Istvan Kecskes who elaborates his socio-cognitive approach (SCA) for the study of intercultural pragmatics. According to this approach, interculturality is defined as “a situationally emergent and co-constructed phenomenon that relies both on relatively definable cultural norms and models as well as situationally evolving features” (p. 376). SCA synthesizes a number of contrasting but interactive concepts such as social/individual, intention/attention, cooperation/egocentrism, relevance/salience, and private experience/actual situational experience. The author also contrasts intercultural pragmatics and other paradigms in pragmatics.
To reflect the achievements of pragmatics prioritizing spoken interaction, Section 8, ''Pragmatics and conversation -- development and impairment'', is devoted to developmental pragmatic and clinical pragmatic research which overlaps with ethnomethodological studies. Anat Ninio and Catherine Snow's book extract, ''Children as Conversationalists'' presents their conversation-analysis (CA)-based exploration of children's development of conversation skills such as turn-taking and turn-management skills, and children's handling of repair sequences used by their caregivers. Also drawing upon insights from CA, Emanuel Schegloff examines video data related to patients with disabled communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Contrary to the then accepted view regarding the problems such patients face like the handling of turn-taking, commands and requests, or politeness, Schegloff's minute and holistic analysis reveals that the patients' evidence for communicative behavior is to be found in their nonverbal bodily actions. Schegloff's study stresses the advantage of the CA-based approach over laboratory testing in capturing patients' conversational behavior. Also emphasizing the importance of concentrating on naturally-occurring patient-partner interactions, Heidi Hamilton adopts an interactional sociolinguistic approach to investigate the communication competence of an Alzheimer's patient named Elsie. It is pointed out that researcher's intervention can affect their conclusion.
The three readings in section 9, “Pragmaticians on Pragmatics”, represent the arguments and approaches of the Chicago School, which, instead of reducing pragmatics to the study of propositional meaning by a rational agent, argue for scrutinizing language use in a broader sociocultural context. The main part of Roman Kopytko's paper, ''Against rationalistic pragmatics” is his critique of the assumptions and methodologies of rationalistic pragmatics (RP). Drawing on insights from philosophy, linguistics, sociology and social psychology, he critically analyses the inadequacies of RP in terms of 'rationality', 'reductionism', and 'context'. He proposes that the theoretical foundations of a unified view of empirical pragmatics should be based on features like: “(1) non-modular, (2) non-essentialist, (3) non-categorical, (4) non-deterministic in its view of pragmatics, (5) contextual, (6) non-reductionist in its approach to pragmatics” (p. 449). Jon F. Pressman, in ''Pragmatics in the late twentieth century countering recent historiographic neglect'', outlines the ideas of Jakobson, Silverstein, and two of Silverstein's students -- Charles Briggs and Greg Urban, and stresses the need for linguistic pragmaticians to integrate insights from an ethnolinguistic approach to pragmatics. Questioning the widely-adopted practice in pragmatics that seeks abstract and general rules governing 'ordinary' and 'everyday' conversation, Charles L. Briggs, in ''From the ideal, the ordinary, and the orderly to conflict and violence in pragmatic research'', shifts the focus to 'extraordinary' discourse of conflict and violence and methods truly free of preconceived analytical frames.
The Reader is rounded off by the editors' discussion on theory and practice in pragmatics. This section provides snapshots of three applied pragmatic disciplines -- developmental pragmatics, which concerns how language-intact children develop their pragmatic competence; clinical pragmatics, which studies disruptive aspects of communication of individuals who are normal or have cerebral injury or pathology; and experimental pragmatics, which utilizes laboratory experiments to test the assumptions made in theoretical pragmatics. A&G also elaborate on how theoretical pragmatics and applied pragmatic disciplines can feed into each other.
Pragmatics is growing far beyond its origins in analytic philosophy to encompass areas which have been studied by a number of disciplines like cognitive psychology, language acquisition, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, etc. Two schools of thought have been identified in contemporary pragmatics: the Anglo-American school, also known as “the component view” of pragmatics, which treats pragmatics as a core component of a theory of language and contains topics such as deixis, speech acts, implicature, presupposition and so forth; and the Europe Continental School, which adopts “the perspective view” of pragmatics, taking it as presenting a functional (social, cognitive and cultural) perspective on every aspect of language use (see Huang, 2009:4). “The Pragmatics Reader” attempts to make a balanced representation of both schools when selecting and arranging the topics, so it is more comprehensive than those which represent only one (e.g. Horn and Ward 2006). In order to make the readings more coherent in the collection, the editors add a diachronic dimension to them and organize them in the order 'philosophical, cognitive, and sociocultural', and this order can even be reflected in one section (e.g. section 5). The coherence of the collection is also captured by how different approaches adopt an increasingly broad (as reflected in the sequential organization of the book) treatment of 'context' and 'meaning', two core issues in defining pragmatics. This unique arrangement distinguishes this book from other collections which are either just thematically grouped (Davis 1991; Kasher 1998) or alphabetically sequenced (Mey 2010; Cummings 2010). Finally, the coherence of the collection is shown by numerous cross-references and the interrelatedness mentioned in the sectional introductions (e.g. pp. 12 and 14).
Another distinctive feature of this book is that, unlike other pragmatics readers (e.g. Davis 1991) or collections (e.g. Kasher 1998), it shows the editors' unique trimming and guiding to make it highly pedagogical, engaging and selectively focused. Firstly, it is very suitable for both self-study uses and instructional purposes. Each section begins with a sectional introduction designed to help readers contextualize the papers in that section and ends with an annotated list of further readings. Moreover, each reading follows the same format: they are preceded by a pre-reading activity, contain an in-reading activity and are followed by a post-reading activity. The pre-readings are meant to set the users thinking in the right direction (so that the reader would know what kinds of issues need to be resolved); the in-reading activities are designed to guide and assist the reader to gain a deeper understanding (so when reading the user can have a specific purpose); and finally the post-reading activities are intended to provide important food for thought (so users could find their own point of departure). Second, compared with Kasher's six-volume collection, this reader is more condensed and focused in that A&G select from published papers or monographs only the most representative parts which fit the overall 'philosophical, social and cultural' order.
It must be clarified that the editors' 'interventions' in the readings do not limit the reader's own thinking or channel the reader into some biased views. Rather they are playing an assisting role in one way or another. For instance, some in-reading activities provide a photograph (e.g. p. 119) to help the reader grasp the key points of the reading; and many others just highlight some key points with a marginal mark to provoke the reader into critical thinking in an open way.
Because most of the chapters are selected from whole books or complete articles, collections like the present one might run the risk of losing the completeness of the original publication. The editors successfully avoided this by not only offering a highly accessible background-providing introduction at the beginning of each section but also including selections which specifically review the development and state-of-the-art research in the related area (e.g. Blakemore and Clark's survey of relevance theory in section 3).
There are also some very minor bugs related to typos. For example, on p. 208, 'arc' appears in lieu of 'are'. In addition, the full form of some acronyms of special terms are not written in full at first mention (e.g. on p. 91, GCI means 'Generalized Conversational Implicature'; on p. 92, PCI means 'Particular Conversational Implicature'), the reason being that the part of text containing their precedents are not included in the reader. Moreover, one scholar’s name is misspelt, i.e. Elizabeth Closs Traugott, the author of the first reading in section 5, is misspelt as Elizabeth Close Traugott. However, the above does not detract from the book's coherence and readability.
The volume only mentions applied disciplines like developmental pragmatics, clinical pragmatics and experimental pragmatics in passing when discussing theory and practice in the last section. Future editions may be expanded to include more readings in more fields as is acknowledged by A&G.
Overall, this reader provides students and researchers alike with access to the primary literature. It both serves as an accessible introduction to pragmatics, and forms an important reference work which charts the evolution and range of research in pragmatics. It can be used as a core text in undergraduate or graduate level courses on pragmatics, or as a resource by interested scholars and lay readers who would like to gain a better understanding of the pragmatics enterprise.
Atlas, J. D. and Levinson, S. C. 1981. It-clefts, informativeness and logical form. In P. Cole (ed.) Radical Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press, pp. 1-61.
Carston, R. 2002. Thoughts and Utterances: the pragmatics of explicit communication. Oxford: Blackwell.
Cummings, L. 2010. The Pragmatics Encyclopedia. London: Routledge.
Davis, S. (ed.) 1991. Pragmatics: a reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Horn, L. R. and Ward. G. (eds.) 2006. The Handbook of Pragmatics. Oxford: Blackwell.
Huang, Y. 2009. Pragmatics. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.
Kasher, A. (ed.) 1998. Pragmatics: critical concepts. London and New York: Routledge.
Mey, J. L. 2010. Concise Encyclopedia of Pragmatics. Oxford: Elsevier Science.
Sperber, D. and Wilson, D. 1986. Relevance: communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Sperber, D. and Wilson, D. 1995. Relevance: communication and cognition, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Fan Zhen-qiang is a lecturer in linguistics at Zhejiang Gongshang
University in Hangzhou, China. He obtained his doctoral degree in the
Center for the Study of Language and Cognition, Zhejiang University, China.
In 2008, he was a visiting PhD at the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics
(Uil-Ots), Utrecht University, the Netherlands. His research interests lie
in the areas of pragmatics, cognitive linguistics, and discourse analysis.