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

1 - What's under the big-tent pragmatics?


Defining Pragmatics offers a conceptual survey of the delimitation of pragmatics. We identify the problems that have plagued attempts to define the field. Such endeavors occupied pragmatists quite a lot in the 1970s and 1980s, but when no satisfactory solution was found, researchers simply settled into separate niches and practices of how to do pragmatics. Some, perhaps even most, pragmatists seem content with this state of affairs, where no coherent definition is available for pragmatics. Many researchers don't venture out of the comfort of their pragmatic niches, limiting their interactions to fellow-believers. But these practical arrangements cannot serve as a foundation for a unified field of pragmatics, and the field stands to lose from such fragmentation. Defining Pragmatics offers as an alternative an integrated vision of the field, which provides a framework for communication among all practitioners of pragmatics on the basis of shared concerns with the role of pragmatics in clarifying fundamental questions of language.

This chapter provides the background and motivation for the book. We remind the reader how prevalent and how varied the issues currently considered pragmatic are in section 1.1. We then try to explain why and how pragmatics got to its current “big-tent” state (1.2). Section 1.3 outlines where Defining Pragmatics is headed.

A taste of big-tent pragmatics

This first section has a double function. First, by way of introduction, we remind the reader what kinds of questions researchers who are considered pragmatists address themselves to.

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