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Jary and Kissine examine the meaning of imperative sentences, taking the existing relevance-theoretic semantic analysis, in terms of the desirability and potentiality of the described state of affairs, as their point of departure. In their view, a complete account of the interpretation of imperatives has to explain how they can result in the addressee forming an intention to perform an action, and this requires the theory to make room for ‘action representations’ (in addition to factual representations, such as assumptions). They claim that the imperative form is uniquely specified to interface with such action representations.
The editors provide a brief overview of the interdisciplinary significance of the relevance theory framework, which has developed and deepened considerably since Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson published their ground-breaking monograph Relevance: Communication and Cognition in 1986. They then provide an overview of the contents of the chapters of the current volume, situating them within this interdisciplinary context (which spans linguistics, philosophy of language, the psychology of language processing and literary studies, among others). Finally, they present the volume as a set of essays to celebrate and honour Deirdre Wilson’s pioneering work in pragmatics.
Ingrid Lossius Falkum uses data from young children’s communicative development to argue that metaphor and metonymy rely on different pragmatic mechanisms. Metaphor and metonymy do have certain characteristics in common: they both target individual words or phrases, they both contribute content to the proposition explicitly expressed, and they both lie on a continuum of literal and figurative uses. However, developmental data suggests that early metonymic uses may be the result of a more basic process than metaphorical uses, one in which the child exploits salient associative relations to compensate for gaps in vocabulary.
Nicholas Allott considers how relevance theory can be seen as responding to doubts about the possibility of any kind of systematic pragmatic theory. He considers three sceptical positions: Fodor’s argument that pragmatic processes are not amenable to scientific study because they are unencapsulated (highly context-sensitive), Chomsky’s claim that human intentional action is a mystery rather than a scientifically tractable problem, and a third view which maintains that intentional communication is too complex for systematic study. Allott argues that work in relevance theory can be seen as successfully challenging these sceptical views and he gives concrete examples of its achievements.
The editors of the volume asked me to provide a broad overview of the beginnings of relevance theory back in the 1970s, how it has developed over the decades and where I see it moving in the future, reflecting in the process on the collective work that Deirdre Wilson and I initiated and that has been joined and considerably enriched by many others. Here are some personal notes to help address these questions.
Bringing together work by leading scholars in relevance theory, this volume showcases cutting-edge research within the theory, and demonstrates its influence across a range of fields including linguistics, pragmatics, philosophy of language, literary studies, developmental psychology and cognitive science. Organised into broad thematic strands that represent the latest research and debates, the volume shows the depth of analysis now possible after nearly forty years of intensive work in developing and applying the principles of relevance theory. The breadth of influence of the framework is reflected in the chapters of the volume, in some cases moving beyond the traditional realms of semantics and pragmatics to include discourse analysis, language acquisition, media and education. The volume will be essential reading for researchers in these fields, as well as for those already working within relevance theory or with other pragmatic theories.
This chapter discusses the origins, activities so far, and future plans of the Integrating English project (http://integratingenglish.org). This project has aims that are very much in line with those of the English: Shared Futures project, since it seeks to celebrate the diversity of the discipline while also seeing the diverse range of activities it encompasses as unified. They are unified by their focus on how texts are produced, understood, circulated and evaluated. In this essay, we present a brief account of the origins and development of Integrating English, explain the project's approach to the nature of English as a diverse academic discipline and describe some of the activities we have carried out so far. We also highlight connections with English: Shared Futures, including some reflection on activities at the conference in Newcastle in 2017, and conclude with thoughts about how we see the future direction of the project. The main conclusions are that the view of English advocated by our project is timely, beneficial and suggests reasons for optimism about the futures of English.
Origins and Development
The project began in response to informal discussions with undergraduate students and university staff. Students approached more than one member of the project team asking about ‘lang-lit’ work. Some of these students had taken A-Level Language and Literature and moved on to BA programmes with titles such as ‘English’ or ‘English Language and Literature’. They had noticed that the modules they were now taking each focused either on aspects of language or on aspects of literature. Very few, if any, genuinely involved ‘lang-lit’ work understood as work that included integrated linguistic and literary study. These conversations suggested that students were used to doing integrated linguistic and literary work at AS and A-Level. We later discovered that this was not an accurate impression. At this stage, we discussed these comments with colleagues in other HE institutions who pointed out that many of their programmes were combinations or had ‘joint honours’ structures. Here too, there appeared to be no more connection between work on language and on literature than there would have been if they had combined one of these with any other subject.
Topics: utterances and propositions; words, concepts and the world; higher-level explicatures; strength of explicatures
The previous chapter looked at the way in which relevance theory draws the distinction between explicit and implicit communication, and at some of the differing views about how to draw the distinction. This chapter considers some of the properties of explicatures and some of the different kinds of explicatures which might be communicated. First, it considers the proposition expressed by an utterance. This is followed by a discussion of the relationships between words and concepts and between concepts and the world. Within relevance theory, the proposition expressed is the propositional form arrived at by fleshing out a linguistically encoded semantic representation. It is arguably always the case that the lowest-level proposition is embedded under other more complex representations and Section 6.4 looks at these ‘higher-level explicatures’ in more detail. The chapter concludes by considering the extent to which explicatures can vary with regard to the strength with which they are communicated. This includes considering poetic utterances where some of the details of the proposition expressed are not clear.