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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Surveying multiple-criterion definitions for pragmatics


With a relatively consensual feel for what topics belong in pragmatics, the field of pragmatics of the late 1970s and the 1980s seemed to be rather well delimited for practical purposes. However, as a newcomer to the linguistics scene, pragmatics was in need of a conceptual positive definition, in order to become a respectable discipline. There were also contentious topics, such as the status of presuppositions (are they semantic or pragmatic?), which a definition could help resolve. Hence, the literature of the period reveals an abundance of definitions, or rather, defining characteristics for pragmatics, all seen as distinguishing it from grammar. This chapter reviews most of the important parameters which have been claimed to distinguish between pragmatic and grammatical phenomena, both individually and in combination with other parameters.

Ten criteria will be briefly presented and exemplified (Nemo, 1999 mentions thirty-five different dichotomous concepts for semantics and pragmatics). The criteria have been divided into three groups: differences between semantic and pragmatic meanings (2.1); differences in the analyses of grammatical and pragmatic phenomena (2.2); differences in the cognitive status assigned to grammatical and pragmatic competencies (2.3). Many of the examples have been chosen from earlier pragmatic research, to give the reader the flavor of the types of examples used when researchers were arguing for the particular grammar/pragmatics division of labor. As we shall see at the end of the chapter, many of the criteria actually converge on the set of classical pragmatic phenomena, at least partially.

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