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Bringing together a team of global experts, this is the first volume to focus on the ways in which meanings are ascribed to actions in social interaction. It builds on the research traditions of Conversation Analysis and Pragmatics, and highlights the role of interactional, social, linguistic, multimodal, and epistemic factors in the formation and ascription of action-meanings. It shows how inference and intention ascription are displayed and drawn upon by participants in social interaction. Each chapter reveals practices, processes, and uses of action ascription, based on the analysis of audio and video recordings from nine different languages. Action ascription is conceptualised in this volume as not merely a cognitive process, but a social action in its own right that is used for managing interactional concerns and guiding the subsequent course of social interaction. It will be essential reading for academic researchers and advanced students interested in the relationship between language, behaviour and social interaction.
Despite the centrality of the notion of identity to human communication and within discourse studies and sociolinguistics, a critical mass of identity-related work within different sub-fields of pragmatics is still lagging behind. As a result, this chapter is partly a review of existing work and partly programmatic. We specifically argue that the notion of identity is crucial to the postulates of some of the major approaches that have constituted the bases of sociopragmatics, namely speech act and politeness theories as well as some of their most common applications, interlanguage and inter/cross-cultural pragmatics and, more recently, the pragmatics of social media. However, as these theories and their applications have developed mostly in a top-down fashion (i.e. based on categorizations and taxonomies) and as they have largely been non-discursive (utterance based) in orientation, identity has more often than not been treated as a given, as structurally pre-allocated properties rather than as co-constructed and discursively achieved. As sociopragmatics is embracing discursive and interactional perspectives on its mainstay concerns (esp. politeness), we show the need for identity construction -- always at the heart of discourse(s) -- to take centre stage along with associated processes of agency in the study of situated practices.
Sociopragmatics encompasses the study of social dimensions of language use. This chapter discusses directions in the rapidly growing field of sociopragmatics. It begins by first introducing the rationale for producing the first handbook of sociopragmatics, before briefly discussing the different, albeit complementary, ways in which the scope of sociopragmatics has been framed in the field. In the course of this discussion we draw particular attention to three key anchors of sociopragmatic research: social, interactional and normative dimensions of language use. We then offer an overview of the contents of the handbook, explaining how we have brought together a range of different research areas, topics and approaches under the umbrella of sociopragmatics. We conclude with thoughts on the place of sociopragmatics with respect to the broader field of pragmatics.
In this chapter, we consider what methods and research in conversation analysis (CA), which examines the systematic accomplishment of action in its natural ecological contexts, can bring to sociopragmatics. While CA shares some of its methods with some other approaches in pragmatics – including its data-driven focus – we begin by first focusing on two aspects of the CA method that make it distinct from other approaches to language use: transcription and collections. We then go on to illustrate through two case studies how CA methods and research can help us leverage open areas of ongoing interest in sociopragmatics. The first case study focuses on (im)politeness and speech acts, while the second focuses on inference, identity and relationships. The chapter concludes by reflecting on the intersection between CA and sociopragmatics and possible directions for future research.
Sociopragmatics is a rapidly growing field and this is the first ever handbook dedicated to this exciting area of study. Bringing together an international team of leading editors and contributors, it provides a comprehensive, cutting-edge overview of the key concepts, topics, settings and methodologies involved in sociopragmatic research. The chapters are organised in a systematic fashion, and span a wide range of theoretical research on how language communicates multiple meanings in context, how it influences our daily interactions and relationships with others, and how it helps construct our social worlds. Providing insight into a fascinating array of phenomena and novel research directions, the Handbook is not only relevant to experts of pragmatics but to any reader with an interest in language and its use in different contexts, including researchers in sociology, anthropology and communication, and students of applied linguistics and related areas, as well as professional practitioners in communication research.
Haugh’s chapter aims to further understandings of the metapragmatics of consideration by Australian and New Zealand English speakers. He examines what the term considerate is taken to mean, and the broader semantic field in which it is constituted. To tease out the metapragmatics of consideration, both quantitative, corpus-based and qualitative, interactional methods are used, laying the groundwork for a comparative study of evaluations of (in)consideration among Australian and New Zealand speakers of English in praising and criticising in online settings. The findings show that concepts are constituted within complex semantic fields; studying them in isolation risks a reductive understanding. Participants invoked different senses of an evaluative concept to varying degrees of granularity, degrees which must be taken into account in metapragmatic analysis. Shared commonalities in speakers’ conceptualisations of consideration do not preclude systematic differential tendencies emerging across groups of speakers. Haugh’s analysis shows the importance of systematic metapragmatic studies of the various emic concepts that underpin evaluations of im/politeness in different settings.
The present book has so far analysed politeness as it emerges and develops in a given interaction. Indeed, in many cases understandings of politeness come into existence ‘on the spot’, as the interactants draw from certain sets of expectancies in co-constructing interaction in localised, situated contexts. If we put politeness on a time scale, it can be argued that evaluative moments of politeness in the here-and-now represent a cycle of participant actions and reactions, which come into existence in either the punctuated or emergent sense of the present moment. However, understandings of politeness are not always completely localised in this way. A certain interaction is often the continuation of a previous one, and so the interactants construct politeness in the light of understandings formed in prior interactions. Even more importantly, many contexts do not necessitate such localised understandings. In many settings, perhaps most typically formal or institutionalised ones, understandings of politeness are arguably less localised in the here-and-now given the interactants are expected to follow certain ‘scripted’ expectations. In such contexts politeness tends to follow certain underlying schemata: pre-existing patterns of thought or behaviour used in recurrent ways that are readily recognisable to members. These schemata reduce uncertainty in the formation and interpretation of linguistic politeness for the simple reason that by relying on them the interactants can follow pre-existing ways of understanding politeness. It can be argued that, if localised understandings of politeness arise in the here-and-now of time, such schemata represent a pre-existing frame for understanding politeness in the here-and-now.
If we were to ask someone what they think politeness is, they might mention things such as remembering to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (e.g. in many varieties of English), using honorifics (e.g. in Japanese), or calling people by familial titles when greeting them (e.g. in Chinese). However, it is now widely accepted that politeness does not reside in particular linguistic forms or behaviours, but rather in evaluations of those forms and behaviours. In this volume, we have taken this idea a step further and proposed that politeness arises through evaluations of social actions and meanings. Social actions and meanings are recognisable to us because they draw on practices, regular or recurrent ways of formulating talk and conduct that are understood by participants as doing and meaning certain things. These regular ways of accomplishing social actions and meanings in interaction are constituted as part of what we take for granted in interacting with others. What is particular about these sets of expectancies is that because they are the means by which we constitute the familiar scenes of everyday life as familiar and everyday, they are inherently moral in nature. In other words, they are open to evaluation as good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate, and, of course, polite, overpolite, not polite, mock polite, impolite, not impolite, mock impolite and so on. Evaluations of politeness are thus not idiosyncratic but rooted in a moral order. It is in this sense that politeness can ultimately be understood as a form of social practice.