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Pragmatics and Society

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ISSN 1878-9714
E-ISSN 1878-9722

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  • The paradox of communication: Socio-cognitive approach to pragmatics
    • Author: Istvan Kecskes
    • Source: Pragmatics and Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2010, pages: 50 –73
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    • Communication is not as smooth a process as current pragmatic theories depict it. In Rapaport’s words “We almost always fail […]. Yet we almost always nearly succeed: This is the paradox of communication” (Rapaport 2003: 402). This paper claims that there is a need for an approach that is able to explain this “bumpy road” by analyzing both the positive and negative features of the communicative process. The paper presents a socio-cognitive approach (SCA) to pragmatics that takes into account both the societal and individual factors including cooperation and egocentrism that, as claimed here, are not antagonistic phenomena in interaction. This approach is considered an alternative to current theories of pragmatics that do not give an adequate account of what really happens in the communicative process. They consider communication an idealistic, cooperation-based, context-dependent process in which speakers are supposed to carefully construct their utterances for the hearer taking into account all contextual factors and hearers do their best to figure out the intentions of the speakers. This approach relies mainly on the positive features of communication including cooperation, rapport and politeness while almost completely ignores the untidy, trial-and-error nature of communication and the importance of prior contexts captured in the individual use of linguistic units. The overemphasis on cooperative, societal, contextual factors has led to disregard individual factors such as egocentrism and salience that are as important contributors to the communicative process as cooperation, context and rapport. The socio-cognitive approach is presented as a theoretical framework to incorporate and reconcile two seemingly antagonistic sides of the communicative process and explain the dynamic interplay of prior and actual situational contexts.
  • “Who knows best?”: Evidentiality and epistemic asymmetry in conversation
    • Author: Jack Sidnell
    • Source: Pragmatics and Society, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2012, pages: 294 –320
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    • This essay reviews current work in conversation analysis with an eye to what it might contribute to the study of evidentiality and epistemic asymmetry. After a brief review of some aspects of the interactional organization of conversation, I turn to consider the way in which participants negotiate relative epistemic positioning through the use of particular practices of speaking. The analytic focus here is on agreements and confirmations especially in assessment sequences. In conclusion, I consider a single case in which various practices are employed to convey a delicate balance of knowledge and simultaneously to attend to a range of other, non-epistemic, interactional issues.
  • Images of “good English” in the Korean conservative press: Three processes of interdiscursivity
    • Author: Joseph Sung-Yul Park
    • Source: Pragmatics and Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2010, pages: 189 –208
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    • In South Korea, English as a symbolic resource frequently mediates relations of class, privilege, and authority, and the Korean media play a significant role in the negotiation of the place and meaning of English in the country. This paper identifies interdiscursivity (Agha and Wortham 2005) as an important semiotic mechanism for this process, and illustrates this through texts of the conservative print media which rationalize the privileges of Korean elites by representing them as successful learners of English. This paper identifies three distinct yet interrelated processes of interdiscursivity that accomplish this work. First, the process of spatiotemporal extension links geographically and temporally distant communicative events with the here-and-now, setting up the relevance of the English language within local social context. Second, the process of recursivity (Irvine and Gal 2000) reapplies global oppositional relations locally so that the linguistic legitimacy of native speakers of English comes to serve as a basis for local elites’ authority. Third, the process of mediatization (Johnson and Ensslin 2007) allows the media institution to selectively highlight the achievements of elite learners while erasing the problems of unequal opportunities for English language learning in Korea. Together, the three interdiscursive processes in the texts naturalize the linguistic legitimacy of elite learners of English, thereby justifying and reproducing the structure of the linguistic market in which the global language of English indexes local relations of power and privilege.
  • “I’m sorry, flower”: Socializing apology, relationships, and empathy in Japan
    • Author: Matthew Burdelski
    • Source: Pragmatics and Society, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2013, pages: 54 –81
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    • Apologies have long been considered an important social action in many languages for dealing with frictions of everyday interaction and restoring interpersonal harmony in response to an offense. Although there has been an increasing amount of research on apologies in non-Western languages, little research involves children. Japan is an interesting case in which to examine apologies. In particular, Japan has been called a “culture of apology” in the sense that speakers often ‘apologize’ (ayamaru) in a wide range of communicative contexts. This article examines children’s socialization to a culture of apology as evidenced by a large corpus of audiovisual recordings made over the last decade in households, playgrounds, and a preschool in Japan. In particular, it examines ways Japanese caregivers (e.g. parents, preschool teachers) use the expressions Gomen ne and Gomen-nasai ([I’m/We’re] sorry) when addressing third parties, including not only other people (e.g. children’s peers) but also a range of entities in the surround (e.g. animals, supernatural objects, objects in the environment such as a stone), and ways they prompt children to say these expressions to such third parties. This analysis suggests that apology situations are an important site through which children are socialized to empathy and relationships in the social world. It also examines ways children use these expressions when addressing peers and inanimate objects, and ways they prompt others including peers and even on occasion adults to say them. These findings suggest that while children deploy strategies in ways that reflect the socialization process, they also deploy them in ways that construct this process in creative ways.
  • For a constitutive pragmatics: Obama, Médecins Sans Frontières and the measuring stick
    • Authors: François Cooren, and Frédérik Matte
    • Source: Pragmatics and Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2010, pages: 9 –31
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    • This paper proposes to explore the mechanisms by which speaking, writing and, more generally, interacting pragmatically contribute to the mode of being and acting of social forms, whether these forms be identities, relations or collectives. Such an approach to pragmatics, which we propose to call constitutive, amounts to showing, both theoretically and empirically, that human interactants are not the only ones who should be deemed as “doing things with words” (Austin 1975), but that other figures — which can take the form of policies, statuses, tools, groups, collectives, etc. — can also be identified as being active in a given situation, especially through the way they are mobilized and staged in interaction. According to this approach, interactions can therefore be considered dislocated loci where specific con-figurations are (re-)produced and embodied. As we will see, such a constitutive view also allows us to deal with issues of power, authority and responsibility, three questions that tend to be relatively marginalized in pragmatic studies, especially when a performative and interactive viewpoint is adopted.
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