To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Semantics and pragmatics – the study of meaning, and meaning in context, respectively – are two fundamental areas of linguistics, and as such are crucial to our understanding of how meaning is created. However, their theoretical ideas are often introduced without making clear connections between views, theories, and problems. This pioneering volume is both a textbook and a research guide, taking the reader on a journey through language and ultimately enabling them to think about meaning as linguists and philosophers would. Assuming no prior knowledge of linguistics, it introduces semantics, pragmatics, and the philosophy of language, showing how all three fields can address the 'big questions' that run through the study of meaning. It covers key theories and approaches, while also enabling increasingly more sophisticated questions about the interconnected aspects of meaning, with the end goal of preparing the reader to make their own, original contributions to ideas about meaning.
In ‘Being pragmatic about syntactic bootstrapping’, Hacquard (2022) argues that abstract syntax is useful for word learning, but that an additional cue, pragmatics, is both necessary and available for young children during the first steps of language acquisition. She focuses on modals and attitude verbs, where the physical context seems particularly impoverished as the sole basis for deriving meanings, and thus where linguistic cues may be particularly helpful. She convincingly shows how pragmatic and syntactic cues could be combined to help young language learners learn and infer the possible meanings of attitude verbs such as “think”, “know” or “want”. She also argues that, in some circumstances, syntax and pragmatics would need to be supplemented by semantic information from context – for instance, in the case of modals such as “might”, “can”, or “must”. We agree with Hacquard on the importance of the synergies between these different cues to meaning, and wish to add two other aspects of the input that might also be used by young children in these contexts. The aspects we describe can only be noticed when one analyzes concrete examples of what children hear in their everyday lives, something which Hacquard does very often in her work (e.g., Dieuleveut, van Dooren, Cournane & Hacquard, 2022; Huang, White, Liao, Hacquard & Lidz, 2022; Yang, 2022). Taking into account different cues for meaning would help the field go beyond current models of syntactic bootstrapping, and create an integrated picture of the synergies between different levels of linguistic information.
Psycholinguistic research on pragmatics in the neurotypical population has increasingly framed pragmatic competence and related cognitive skills in terms of individual differences, co-constructed discourse, and meaning negotiation. However, research on pragmatics in the Autism Spectrum has risen from a wide and biased view of autistic communication as fundamentally compromised and autistic pragmatic abilities as impaired. Mostly due to the impactful theory of a deficit in Theory of Mind, early research on autistic communication presumed a unitary pragmatic impairment, only to find that several pragmatic abilities seem to be “preserved.” However, the interpretation of these findings usually takes an ableist turn, as most studies subsequently suggest that surface-level performance should not be interpreted as competence, but rather as a result of “compensatory” strategies. The raising number of contributions from autistic academics and participatory research enriched the field with new perspectives focusing on differences rather than impairments and drawing hypotheses on communication difficulties between neurotypes rather than within a specific neurotype. However, such contributions are hardly ever cited in the most prominent works. In conclusion, the field would benefit from a higher level of citation of autistic-led research and from an epistemological perspective shift within the mostly neurotypical academic community.
Chapter 9 discusses the SO preference observed in the domain of language production, i.e., that sentences with SO orders are more frequently produced than sentences with OS orders in many languages. Although the language production mechanism is often assumed to be universal, the range of languages investigated so far is typologically quite limited. We conducted a sentence production experiment with a picture description task to clarify word order selection in Kaqchikel. In this experiment, participants verbally described the target pictures with a simple sentence. Speakers of Kaqchikel had a general preference for producing the SVO order over the VOS order. This is consistent with the prediction of the UCV, but not with that of the IGV. Therefore, the SO word order might be a universal preference in sentence production, which is in line with the results of previous studies.
Ironic language is a salient reminder that speakers of all languages do not always mean what they say. While ironic language has captured the attention of theorists and scholars for centuries, it is only since the 1980s that psycholinguistic methods have been employed to investigate how readers and hearers detect, process, and comprehend ironic language. This Element reviews the foundational definitions, theories, and psycholinguistic models of ironic language, covering key questions such as the distinction between literal and ironic meaning, the role of contextual information during irony processing, and the cognitive mechanisms involved. These key questions continue to motivate new studies and methodological innovations, providing ample opportunity for future researchers who wish to continue exploring how ironic language is processed and understood.
Discourse analysis is one of the clinical methods commonly used to assess the language ability of individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, the majority of published analytic frameworks are not geared for highlighting the pragmatic aspect of discourse deficits in acquired language disorders, except for those designed for quantifying conversational samples. This study aimed to examine how pragmatic competence is impaired and reflected in spoken monologues in Chinese speakers with TBI.
Discourse samples of five tasks (personal narrative, storytelling, procedural, single- and sequential picture description) were elicited from ten TBI survivors and their controls. Each discourse sample was measured using 16 indices (e.g., number of informative words, percentage of local/global coherence errors, repeated words or phrases) that corresponded to the four Gricean maxims. Twenty-five naïve Chinese speakers were also recruited to perform perceptual rating of the quality of all 50 TBI audio files (five discourse samples per TBI participant), in terms of erroneous/inaccurate information, adequacy of amount of information given, as well as degree of organization and clarity.
The maxim of quantity best predicted TBI’s pragmatic impairments. Naïve listeners’ perception of pragmatics deficits correlated to measures on total and informative words, as well as number and length of terminable units. Clinically, personal narrative and storytelling tasks could better elicit violations in pragmatics.
Applying Gricean maxims in monologic oral narratives could capture the hallmark underlying pragmatic problems in TBI. This may help provide an additional approach of clinically assessing social communications in and subsequent management of TBI.
In this paper I explore how the evolution of emotional expression and co-operative planning in humans may inform the way they communicate about risks, and what implication this may have for models of rationality in risk communication. In particular, I focus on aspects of human language that enable successful co-ordination around shared tasks that involve the management of uncertainty by a group. I distinguish between performative (action-oriented) and constative (description-oriented) aspects of human communication, and argue that the human logical vocabulary of conditionals, quantifiers and probability expressions often conveys pragmatic signals that implicitly encourage or discourage a course of action that is under discussion. I review some studies that illustrate this perspective by highlighting the role of emotional undertone in risk communication and management, and show how it differs from existing models of risk communication and decision-making.
Two psychological sources of uncertainty bear implications for judgment and decision-making: external uncertainty is seen as stemming from properties of the world, whereas internal uncertainty is seen as stemming from lack of knowledge. The apparent source of uncertainty can be conveyed through linguistic markers, such as the pronoun of probability phrases (e.g., I am uncertain vs. It is uncertain). Here, we investigated whether and when speakers use different pronoun subjects as such linguistic markers (Exp. 1 and 2) and what hearers infer from them (Exp. 3 and 4). Speakers more often described higher probabilities and knowable outcomes with internal probability phrases. In dialogue, speakers mirrored the source of their conversational partner. Markers of the source had a main effect or interacted with the probability conveyed and speaker expertise to shape the judgments and decisions of hearers. For example, experts voicing an internal probability phrase were judged as more knowledgeable than experts using an external probability phrase whereas the result was the opposite for lay speakers. We discuss how these findings inform our understanding of subjective uncertainty and uncertainty communication theories.
In Chapter 1, we introduce the subject of pragmatics and cover some basic concepts, definitions, and topics that will be central to the ideas discussed in the rest of the book. We begin with some definitions of pragmatics, and a key distinction is made between approaches which focus on social factors, and those which take a more theoretical approach. We move on to think about the role that context plays in interpretation. This leads us to a key distinction between sentences and utterances, with utterances as the focus of pragmatics. We then consider two different ways in which meaning may be communicated: via code and via inference. As we will see, inference plays a central role in the interpretation of utterances. Next, we discuss the idea that the identification of intention lies at the heart of utterance interpretation. This leads to a discussion of the cognitive abilities that are thought to underlie inferential processes, including mindreading, metarepresentation, and theory of mind. We look at what it means to be able to have thoughts about other people’s thoughts and why this is key for pragmatic processing.
Pragmatics – the study of language in context, and of how we understand what other people say – is a core subject in English language, linguistics, and communication studies. This textbook introduces the key topics in this fast-moving field, including metaphor, irony, politeness, disambiguation, and reference assignment. It walks the reader through the essential theories in pragmatics, including Grice, relevance theory, speech act theory, and politeness theory. Each chapter includes a range of illustrative examples, guiding readers from the basic principles to a thorough understanding of the topics. A dedicated chapter examines how research is conducted in pragmatics, providing students with resources and ideas for developing their own projects. Featuring exercises, a comprehensive glossary, and suggestions for further reading, this book is accessible to beginner undergraduates, including those with no prior knowledge of linguistics. It is an essential resource for courses in English language, English studies, and linguistics.
Words have meanings vastly undetermined by the contexts in which they occur. Their acquisition therefore presents formidable problems of induction. Lila Gleitman and colleagues have advocated for one part of a solution: indirect evidence for a word’s meaning may come from its syntactic distribution, via syntactic bootstrapping. But while formal theories argue for principled links between meaning and syntax, actual syntactic evidence about meaning is noisy and highly abstract. This paper examines the role that syntactic bootstrapping can play in learning modal and attitude verb meanings, for which the physical context is especially uninformative. I argue that abstract syntactic classifications are useful to the child, but that something further is both necessary and available. I examine how pragmatic and syntactic cues can combine in mutually constraining ways to help learners infer attitude meanings, but need to be supplemented by semantic information from the lexical context in the case of modals.
The chapter addresses the relation between post-Gricean pragmatics and intercultural pragmatics. As such, it addresses meaning in relation to intentions and inferences and provides an overview of the main developments in this tradition, placing them in the context of the utility they have for understanding cross-cultural communication, and specifically the acquisition of pragmatic competence. Section 1.2 introduces the concept of pragmatic universals and moves to discussing how Grice’s account of cooperative conversational behavior can be viewed as such pragmatic universal principles. After pointing out some problems with Grice’s original account as it is seen from the perspective of several decades, Section 1.3 proceeds to post-Gricean approaches to linguistic communication, focusing not so much on the traditional debates concerning the number and scope of the necessary maxims or principles (covered briefly in Section 1.3.1) but rather on the semantics/pragmatic boundary and the related question of the truth-conditional content that opened up interesting contextualist pursuits (Section 1.3.2). Section 1.4 addresses different versions of contextualism and places them in the context of the debates between minimalists and contextualists. Section 1.5 concludes with comments on the utility of post-Gricean pragmatics for intercultural communication, stressing the significance of pragmatic universals.
Linguistics and philosophy, while being two closely-related fields, are often approached with very different methodologies and frameworks. Bringing together a team of interdisciplinary scholars, this pioneering book provides examples of how conversations between the two disciplines can lead to exciting developments in both fields, from both a historical and a current perspective. It identifies a number of key phenomena at the cutting edge of research within both fields, such as reporting and ascribing, describing and referring, narrating and structuring, locating in time and space, typologizing and ontologizing, determining and questioning, arguing and rejecting, and implying and (pre-)supposing. Each chapter takes on a phenomena and explores it through a set of questions which are posed and answered at the outset of each chapter. An accessible and engaging resource, it is essential reading for researchers and students in both disciplines, and will empower exciting and illuminating conversations for years to come.
Considering the paucity of research done on the reported speech of L2 speakers compared with the body of work based on native speakers, particularly in the domain of education, this study investigates ‘polyphony’ (the dialogic nature of discourse) in the indirect reports of Iranian English as Foreign Language (EFL) learners in light of Bakhtin’s concept of ‘double-voiced discourse’ (DVD) (Bakhtin, 1984; Zbikowski, 2002). The goal of the article was to characterise the types of reporting attested in L2 data in the language-learning classroom and to analyse instances of discord between speakers’ voices to better understand what gives rise to these differences in an additional language. To achieve this, we observed naturally occurring interactions between Iranian EFL learners to see how they change the original speech in their indirect reports via the use of semantic and syntactic transformations. The findings revealed traces of distorted reported speech that not only refute the monophonic nature of indirect reports among the interactants but also emphasise the representational characteristics of DVD in its different forms. Samesaying and distorted reported speech are closely examined in accord with the nature of an L2 produced in a language-learning classroom. This article contributes to interlanguage pragmatics, with a focus on sociopragmatic variations that delve into intersubjectivity in language interaction in an institutional context.
Politeness serves to manage social relations or is wielded as an instrument of power. Through good manners, people demonstrate their educational background and social rank. This is the first book to bring together the most recent scholarship on politeness and impoliteness in Ancient Greek and Latin, signalling both its universal and its culture-specific traits. Leading scholars analyse texts by canonical classical authors (including Plato, Cicero, Euripides, and Plautus), as well as non-literary sources, to provide glimpses into the courtesy and rudeness of Greek and Latin speakers. A wide range of interdisciplinary approaches is adopted, namely pragmatics, conversation analysis, and computational linguistics. With its extensive introduction, the volume introduces readers to one of the most dynamic fields of Linguistics, while demonstrating that it can serve as an innovative tool in philological readings of classical texts.
Some utterances are pragmatically ambiguous. For instance, Tu peux fermer la fenêtre ? (“Can you close the window?”) can be a request for information or an “indirect request” (IR) to close the window. A possible way for speakers to make it clear whether they intend these expressions as a direct or indirect speech act is to use cues such as gestures or prosody. It has been shown for English that participants’ identifications of IRs are predicted by f0 slope, mean f0, and f0 duration. However, the extent to which these findings extend to other languages remains unknown. In this article, we explore the prosodic features associated with French IRs, a language poorly documented from that perspective. We address two research questions: Are listeners’ pragmatic interpretations of French IR constructions predicted by speaker’s original intent? Do prosodic cues play the same role in French modal interrogatives as in declarative remarks? We find, first, that remarks with more positive f0 slope are more likely to be interpreted as requests, but modal interrogatives with more positive f0 slope are more likely to be taken as questions. Second, while longer remarks were more likely to be interpreted as requests, longer modal interrogatives were more likely to be interpreted as questions.
This chapter presents a systematic linguistic classification and analysis of the forms of verbal silences. While verbal silences cover unarticulated verbal signifiers chosen by the addresser (holding the floor) as a verbal means of expression (in place of particular articulated speech) signifying meaningful content, the forms of verbal silence are identified and determined by the speech grounding it. These speech forerunners are grammatical or lexical stumps signalling the location, category and content of the verbal silence in the specific utterance. These ruptured words, grammatical or lexical particles that are articulated without their required complementation, or intertextual spaces are overtly fragmented and so perceived as complete only once the verbal silence component is assumed. Verbal silence as a signifier is studied and presented from the level of a single phoneme to the level of a complete discourse or text, in line with the conventional division of linguistic into phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics-lexicon. Incorporating the study of absence as something (rather than nothing) in linguistic exploration compels us to refine notions such as ‘the zero sign’ and ellipsis, and sheds new light broadening linguistic phenomena such as suppletion and onomatopoeia.
Verbal silence is examined and illustrated in light of the communicative functions it serves and the cooperative maxims it fulfils. Our starting point is Jakobson’s (1960) model. Each of Jakobson’s six functions (the referential function, emotive, conative, phatic, poetic and metalinguistic) is considered here in terms of the manner in which it is served by verbal silence in general, and particularly by iconic depictions of absences and presences (such as trauma or the shortage of words) as well as communicative events in which verbal silence is the unmarked means fulfilling the communicative function (such as in turn switching and the expression of threats). In addition to illuminating the functions served by verbal silence, this examination also contributes to the discovery of the circumstantial function overlooked by Jakobson and to the refinement of broadly studied linguistic issues such as the distinction between questions cooperatively answered in silence and rhetorical questions and the fundamental difference in terms of the function of silence between silence as consent and the right to silence. The unique pragmatic quality of verbal silence to activate the addressee moving hem to the addresser’s position is discussed and illustrated throughout our discussion of the communicative functions played by verbal silence.
After a brief overview of the advent of functional approaches to language in the mid– and late 1900s, stressing the importance of investigating pragmatic, i.e. implicit aspects of language use, and of simultaneously approaching language from different perspectives, this overview stresses the importance of understanding – rather than of finding some definite truth about language. The analysis of pragmatic particles (you know, like, well) in the mid–1960s showcased a plethora of challenges for investigations of language function and use that had previously not attracted scholars’ attention. This strand of research has fruitfully continued, especially so within the DiPVaC community, and constantly opens up new avenues of research. This overview lastly offers a reinterpretation of the author’s 1981 study of you know in terms of aspects of responsibility, suggesting that precisely responsibility – and its various facets – need to be given a more central task in future studies of language function and use, discourse, and pragmatics.
One typical use of negation is to refer to exceptions. In a visual display showing several similar items (majority) and one exception, referring to the exception by negating the majority should therefore be pragmatically felicitous. We investigated whether comprehenders are sensitive to these pragmatic aspects when processing negative sentences and having to identify the according items in the visual display. In Experiment 1, participants read affirmative and negative sentences referring to either the exception or the majority object in strongly biased displays. Additionally, unbiased displays were implemented, showing equal numbers of objects of each type. Identification times of the correct referent were shorter with the biased display independent of sentence polarity. Also, picking the exceptional item in the biased display was faster than picking a majority item, independent of sentence polarity. Thus, participants did not specifically profit from pragmatically felicitous conditions when processing negation. Critically, in the biased displays, the exceptional object was highly salient, which might have initially drawn the participant’s attention to this object, resulting in a general speed-up. Therefore, in Experiment 2, we used a biased display with reduced saliency of the exceptional object. Again negation did not result in a specific speed-up due to pragmatically correct negation use. Thus, negation does not seem to facilitate the identification of an exceptional object.