Meaning as Sign and Action
Context of Situation:
• Within a community, different
patterns of speaking are evident
depending on contexts.
e.g: there would be differences
between speakers according to
status, like that of children and
adults, superior and subordinates,
difference in sexes, and occupations.
• Interpretation of the following
utterance:
“I didn’t see the stop sign”.
- to a policeman
- to a friend after jamming on the
brakes.
- to a friend who waited for your
arrival.
Context of Situation and Context of
Culture:
• The context of situation often cannot
be divorced from the context of
culture.
• Behaviour which is culturally linked
accompanies the interpretation of
signs manifested through language.
• Together with verbal, paraverbal and
non-verbal signs (contextualization
cues), interlocutors will be guided in
making the situated inferences.
• Actions that are carried out through
verbal means are called speech acts.
Coherence Breakdowns:
• Kramsch (1998) terms the act of
imposing meaning onto utterance
according to the situational and
cultural context as establishing
pragmatic coherence.
• Coherence breakdowns arise as a
result of mismatch in expectations
or discrepancies in participants’
inferences and frames of
expectations’ (Kramsch 1998: 29)
• e.g: use of silence
DEFINITION

Pragmatics is a subfield of
linguistics

It studies how the use of language is
based on the relationship established
between utterance, context and
interlocutors.
(Baena, E. 2002)
OBJECTIVES & PURPOSES

Why PRAGMATICS?
Common un everyday life
 Wide subject to be studied
 Comes out of language study

Making Meaning

EXAMPLES

EXAMPLES
THEORIES

SPEECH ACTS THEORY
Words do not have meaning by
themselves.
(Searle, J.R. ; Kiefer, F. & Bierwisch, M.
1980)
THEORIES
 Speech
acts can be analysed
by three levels
-
Locutionary act
Perlocutionary act
Ilocutionary act
THEORIES

LOCUTIONARY ACT
The performance of an utterance
Semantic and sintactic aspects
2. THEORIES

EXAMPLE
‘CLOSE THE WINDOW’
2. THEORIES

ILLOCUTIONARY ACT
Real intended meaning
EXAMPLE:
The person who is talking is cold
2. THEORIES
PERLOCUTIONARY ACT
It’s actual effect

EXAMPLE:
The action of closing the window
2. THEORIES

RELEVANCE THEORY
The meaning of a concept is the
subtotal of its impication for possible
observations and actions.
2. THEORIES
 There
are four subprinciples
within this theory called maxims
Quantity. (quantity of information)
 Quality (be truthful)
 Relevance/Relation (be relevance)
 Manner (be clear)

Speech
Speech Act
Speech Event
Speech Situation
What speech events and acts would
you expect in the following situations?
•
•
•
•
A Trial
A Wedding
A Date
Yum Cha on Sunday
Speech Acts
• How we ‘do things’ with
words
• John Austin and John Searle
• ‘It’s cold in here.’
• Propositional Content
• Locutionary Force
• Illocutionary Force
• Perlocutionary Force
• ‘We would like to thank
customers for not smoking
while in this store.’
Illocutionary Force
• Sometimes difficult to identify
• Often depends on context
• Sometimes spread over several
utterances
• There may be more than one
illocutionary force
Kinds of Speech Acts
•
•
•
•
Representatives (S conveys a belief)
Directives (S tries to get H to do something)
Commissives (S commits to future action)
Declarations (S creates a new external
situation—performatives)
• Expressives (S expresses personal feelings)
Direct and Indirect Speech
Acts
• Direct speech acts
• Use verbs that have the meaning of the act (e.g. ‘I
promise I will go’, ‘Did you steal my pencil?’)
• Indirect speech acts
•
•
•
•
Use other ways to perform the speech act
‘Can you come tomorrow?’
‘I didn’t know I made you angry’
‘I suggest you get out of my office before I punch
you!’
What can we do with speech
acts?
• Recognize what actions users are doing in a natural
language based interface
• Sometimes mixed with domain level frames to detect
what someone wanted in a task based dialogue
system (scheduling a meeting, registering for a
conference, making an airplane reservation)
• If clusters of speech acts are associated with roles, you
can use them to identify roles within an interaction
• Current work on meeting summarization
• Some work on “social positioning” in the mixedinitiative dialogue community in the 90s
Speech act inventories
What questions can we answer with
them?
• You could think of them as moves in a game (like chess)
• Each move is part of a strategy
• Moves work together to accomplish intentions
• But each speaker has their own set of intentions – in some sense
they are competing
• You can explain what strategies were effective or not for
accomplishing any of these intentions
• From this analysis, you can conclude things about power,
positioning, influence, etc.
• Why might someone be insulted when you politely explain
something to them?
• You can talk about different social languages used to enact
speech acts (e.g., direct versus indirect)
Task
Threats
• How many
ways can you
express the
speech act of
• A threat or
warning?
Conditions
•
•
•
Not all speakers can
perform all speech acts
There are certain
conditions necessary
for an utterance to be
considered a certain
kind of speech act
Felicity conditions
Felicity Conditions
• Speech acts judged not by ‘truth value’ but
by their ‘happiness’
• Language (propositional content)
• Context (preparatory condition)
•
•
‘I now pronounce you man and wife’
Participants/setting
• Intention
•
Speaker is sincere, believes the act will have the
desired force
Felicity Conditions
• Rules that need to be followed for an
utterance to work.
• A promise:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
I say I will perform an action in the future
I intend to do it. I believe I can do it.
I think I would not normally do it.
I think the other person wants me to do it.
I intend to place myself under an obligation to
perform the action.
We both understand what I’m saying.
We are both normal, conscious human beings.
Both of us are in normal circumstances.
The utterance contains an illocutionary force
indicating device.
Task
• What are the conditions for:
•
•
•
•
A marriage proposal
A bet
A request
An order
Speech Acts across Cultures
• Apologies
• ‘Would you like a beer?’
• Have you eaten?
2. THEORIES

COOPERATION THEORY
The way in which people try to make
conversations work.
The Cooperative Principle
• Having identified the structural features that
characterise speech, we also need to
understand the pragmatic rules that govern
how we choose and interpret those features
• A key pragmatic framework is known as the
‘Cooperative Principle’, most associated with
the work of Paul Grice
• Grice came up with a well-known model for
analysing conversation according to this
principle:
The Co-operative Principle:
• Grice suggests that there is a set of
assumptions guiding the how people
conduct conversations.
• Grice proposes a general cooperative principle which comprises
four basic maxims of conversation.
Conversational Implicature
• We guess what people mean by
referring to certain DEFAULT
EXPECTATIONS
• When people do not fulfill the default
expectations
• They create IMPLICATURE (‘special
meaning’
Implicature
• I love you.
• Thank you.
• How is Alan doing in his new job at
HSBC?
• Oh, quite well, I think. He likes his
colleagues and he hasn’t been to prison
yet.
Default Expectations
•
•
•
•
Grice
Conversation is ‘rational behavior’
The Cooperative Principle
Make your conversational contribution
such as is required, at the stage at
which it is occurs, by the accepted
purpose or direction of the talk
exchange in which you are engaged.
Conversational ‘Maxims’
•
The Maxim of Quantity
•
•
The Maxim of Quality
•
•
Say only what you believe to be true and adequately
supported.
The Maxim of Relation
•
•
Be only as informative as required for current
conversational purposes.
Be relevant.
The Maxim of Manner
•
Be clear: be brief and orderly and avoid obscurity and
ambiguity.
Maxims vs. Rules
• Sets of expectations which we exploit to
make meaning.
• The point is not that we follow these
maxims or that we ‘should’ follow them.
• The point is that when we deviate from
them we create a IMPLICATURE.
Maxim of Quantity
• Make your contribution as informative
as required for the current purposes of
the exchange.
• Do not make your contribution more
informative than is required.
Maxim of Quality
• Try to make your contribution one that is
true.
• Do not say what you believe to be false.
• Do not say that for which you lack
adequate evidence.
Maxims of Relevance and
Manner
• Maxim of Relevance
• Be relevant
• Maxim of Manner
•
•
•
•
Avoid obscurity of expression
Avoid ambiguity
Be brief
Be orderly
Examples
•
•
•
•
Which Maxim/s is/are being flouted?
What kind of implicature does it create
Do you have any money on you?
Is there anywhere I can powder my
nose?
• Isn’t my new boyfriend handsome?
• He has a very nice personality.
•
•
•
•
A Well, how do I look?
B Your shoes are nice.
‘I could eat a horse’
‘Remember that as a teenager you are at the last
stage of your life when you will be happy to hear
that the phone is for you.’
• A So what do you think of Mark?
• B His flatmate’s a wonderful cook.
• A Does your dog bite?
• B No.
• A [Bends down to stroke it and gets bitten]
Ow! You said your dog doesn’t bite.
• B That isn’t my dog.
• Husband
How much did that new dress
cost, darling?
• Wife I know, let’s go out tonight. Now,
where would you like to go?
• Infringing a maxim:
• Fail to observe a maxim because of their imperfect
linguistic performance (a child or a foreign learner):
nervousness; drunkenness; excitement; cognitive
impairment; incapability of speaking clearly.
• Example:
• Bush said Gates would not routinely attend Cabinet
meetings but would take part in sessions where
intelligence was necessary for making decision.
Implicature
l By observing the cooperative principle, interlocutors are
l
l
l
l
able to work out what is meant from what is said.
Utterances do not always carry their literal meaning.
Non-literal meaning must be inferred from context and the
cooperative principle.
Non-literal interpretations are referred to as implicatures.
Implicature is a special type of inference in which the
hearer makes the assumption that the speaker is NOT
breaking one of the conversational maxims of quantity,
quality, relation, and manner.
Limitations of the cooperative
principle
• Different cultures, countries, and communities
have their own ways of observing and expressing
maxims for particular situations.
• There is often an overlap between the four
maxims. It can be difficult to say which one is
operating and it would be more precise to say that
there are two or more operating at once.
Relevance
• Sperber and Wilson went on to suggest that it is
Relevance that is the key to understanding how we
interpret utterances. It is our assumption of relevance
that allows us to explain the many ways in which we
use language in ways that cannot be explained
simply by lexical, semantic and grammatical
knowledge (and which might otherwise flout Grice’s
maxims):
• A. How do I get to Sainsbury’s mate?
B. It’s twenty past twelve.
B. There’s a petrol station just round the corner.
B. You’re not going anywhere.
Etc…
Relevance and meaning
(Gee 1999)
l Meaning is not merely a matter of decoding
grammar. It is also a matter of knowing which of
the many inferences that one can draw from an
utterance are relevant.
l Relevance is a matter deeply tied to context, point
of view, and culture.
lExample: Sentence 1. May have multiple meanings
2-4. What does it mean? Try to fill in the blanks.
1.
2a.
2b.
2c.
2d.
3a.
3b.
3c.
3d.
4a.
4b.
4c.
4d.
4e.
4f.
4g.
Lung cancer death rates are clearly associated with an increase in
smoking
[lung cancer] [death rates] = rates (number) of people dying from lung
cancer = how many people die from lung cancer
[
][
] = rates (speed) of people dying from lung
cancer = how quickly people die from lung cancer
[lung] [cancer death] [rates] = rates (number) of lungs dying from cancer
= how many lungs die from lung cancer
[
][
][
] = rates (speed) of lungs dying from cancer =
how quickly lungs die from cancer
cause
caused by
correlated with
writer does not want to commit herself/himself
increased smoking = people smoke more
increased smoking = more people smoke
increased smoking = ____________________
the same people are smoking and dying
the people smoking and dying are not all ___________
the situation being talked about is real (because)
the situation being talked about is hypothetical (
)
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Discourse and Pragmatics - Universiti Putra Malaysia