Pragmatic variation and cultural models

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The present paper focuses on pragmatic variation between national varieties of English, reporting an experimental study conducted in the framework of variational pragmatics. It is argued that experimental methods such as dialogue production tasks do not reveal actual verbal behaviour, which is subject to the specific circumstances of concrete social situations, but the underlying behavioural norms of the respective sociocultural community of speakers. These norms emerge from repeated encounters with similar verbal behaviour in social situations of the same type and are collectively shared prototypical patterns of behaviour stored in cultural models in the long-term memory. Such cultural models specify what is expected and considered appropriate in a given type of situation. More particularly, they specify what can be said when and how, i.e. discourse topics, discourse positions, and speech act realizations, as is exemplified in the empirical study reported on.


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