INTRODUCTION TO PRAGMATICS • the study of language use • the study of linguistic phenomena from the point of view of their usage properties and processes (Verschueren, 1999). • the study of meaning in interaction (Thomas, 1995) The linguistic phenomena to be studied from the point of view of their usage can be situated at any level of structure. The question pragmatics asks is: How are the language resources used? BRANCHES OF LINGUISTICS • Phonetics and phonology – unit of analysis? • Morphology – unit of analysis? • Syntax – unit of analysis? • Semantics explores the meaning of linguistic units, typically at the level of words (lexical semantics) or at the level of sentences or more complex structures PRAGMATICS AND PHONETICS • The level of speech sounds: Most speakers of languages with a significant degree of dialectal variation, who have grown up with a local dialect but who were socialised into the use of a standard variety through formal education, will find that the language they use sounds quite different depending on whether they are in their professional context or speaking to their parents or siblings. PRAGMAATICS AND MORPHOLOGY • The level of morphemes and words: there are pragmatic restrictions on and implications of aspects of derivational morphology. Consider the derivational relationship between grateful and ungrateful or kind and unkind. The reason why this relationship is not reversed, with a basic lexeme meaning “ungrateful” from which a word meaning “grateful” would be derived by means of the negative prefix, has everything to do with a system of social norms which emphasises the need for gratefulness and kindness. PRAGMATICS AND SYNTAX • At the level of syntax: the same state of affairs can be described by means of very different syntactic structures: • John broke the figurine • The figurine was broken by John • The figurine was broken • The figurine got broken. PRAGMATICS AND SEMANTICS • At the level of word meaning (lexical semantics), more than what would be regarded as ‘dictionary meaning’ has to be taken into account as soon as a word gets used. Many words cannot be understood unless aspects of world knowledge are invoked. • E.g. topless district – it requires knowledge about city areas with high concentration of establishments for (predominantly male) entertainment where scantly dressed hostesses or performers are the main attraction. ‘MEANING’ IN PRAGMATICS • ‘I promise to be back early’ means a promise on condition a future action is involved: ‘I’ll come back early’ (SEE the Speech act theory) ‘MEANING’ IN PRAGMATICS • Meaning is a triadic relation “Speaker means Y by X”. E.g: A: Shall we see that film tonight? B: I have a headache. The speaker means NO by saying I HAVE A HEADACHE. ‘MEANING’ IN PRAGMATICS pragmatics = utterance meaning. • Utterance meaning consists of the meaning of the sentence plus considerations of the intentions of the Speaker (the speaker may intend to refuse the invitation to go to the film), interpretation of the Hearer (the Hearer may interpret the utterance as a refusal, or not), determined by Context and background knowledge. ‘MEANING’ IN PRAGMATICS • pragmatics = meaning in context • ! Meaning is not seen as a stable. Rather, it is dynamically generated in the process of using language. Also, pragmatics as the study of ‘meaning in context’ does not imply that one can automatically arrive at a pragmatic understanding of the phenomena involved just by knowing all the extralinguistic information, because ‘context’ is not a static element. TASK 1 Jacob: Do you know the way back to the dining hall? We can go in my car. Mark: Oh, I thought you didn’t know the way to the campus. Jacob: I thought you didn’t know! TASK 2 What might be the functions of the following utterances? 1. It’s hot in here. 2. Can you pass me the salt? 3. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. 4. It’s a beautiful day today.
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