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Social Pragmatics

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Emma Ewen

on 17 March 2014

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Transcript of Social Pragmatics

Social Pragmatics

Content of Presentation
- What are social pragmatics?
- Inferences
- Speech acts
- Indirect speech
- Politeness
- Cooperative principle
- Cultural differences in social pragmatics
Speech Acts
A listener's task is to discover the goals of the speaker.
Austin (1962/76) & Searle (1969) believe we perform a speech act every time we speak.
- falls into 1 in 5 categories

The means in which a person taking part in a conversation shows awareness of the other’s face.
Brown and Levinson, 1987
The Cooperative Principle
Grice (1967) constructed 4 maxims

1. Quantity
2. Quality
3. Relation
4. Manner
What are social pragmatics?
Definition: aspects of meaning that do not affect the literal truth of what is being said; this is often utilised in social situations.

Looks at how we deal with the aspects of language that
go beyond the simple meaning of what we hear and say

How we work out the meaning behind a speakers utterances.

- The derivation of additional knowledge from the facts already known; going between text or speech to maintain coherence or to elaborate on what was actually presented (Harley)
- Play an important part in understanding text and conversation
- We can make inferences from- what people say, how they say it and from what they do not say

speaker asserts a fact and conveys his or her belief that a statement is true.

Brown and Levinson's (1987) Politeness Theory
'Face': the public self-image that every member of society expects others to recognise.
There are two kinds of 'face' that people attempt to maintain:

Positive Face:
the desire for others’ approval, appreciation and sense of belonging and the consistent image that they have of themselves.

Negative Face:
the desire for freedom of action, and not to be imposed upon
Face Threatening Acts (FTAs)
phrasing or requests that make the 'face' of an interlocutor vulnerable
Face Saving Acts (FSAs)
Techniques used to prevent or lessen the effects of FTAs
Don’t touch my phone!
Could I get my phone back please?

Everything you've done is wrong.
What you've done is interesting but I think there are some inaccuracies.

Politeness Techniques
Brown and Levinson, 1978
1) Bald on record:

making absolutely no attempt to save ‘face’
2) Positive Politeness -
‘strategies of involvement’ ‘solidarity politeness’ (Scollon & Scollon 1995):

Satisfies positive face by indicating similarities or showing appreciation for the interlocutor’s self-image

3) Negative Politeness
‘strategies of independence’ ‘deference politeness’ (Scollon & Scollon 1995) :

Satisfies negative face by acknowledging any imposition on the hearer, shows respect for their right to act freely.
acknoweledges difference in power or status by showing deference

4) Off Record:
Avoiding responsibility for the FTA by using indirect speech acts.

5) Withhold: not performing the FTA

Speaker tries to get the listener to do something- to give information

'Where do you want to go for lunch?'
Speakers commit to future course of action
'I'll get that sorted this afternoon'
Where the speaker wishes to reveal their psychological state
Speaker brings about a new state of affairs
Indirect Speech
Direct speech acts
Intention of the speaker is revealed through the words

Indirect speech acts
require some work on behalf of the listener.
Meaning not immediately apparent
90% of requests in English are indirect (Gibbs, 1986b)

Two stage mechanism for computing the intended meaning (Searles, 1979).
- First the listener tries to make sense of the literal meaning to see if it makes sense in the context
- If not then they will do the additional work to derive the non-literal meaning

Indirect Speech
BUT these are not always followed
When Maxims are not followed
Flouting Maxims- when reader is assume not to take words literally

Violating maxims- assumption reader will only understand the surface meaning

Infringing- failure to observe maxims due to language limitations

Opting out- no co-operation with the listener

Cooperation leads a conversation to be meaningful & purposeful

Both participants must make a conversational contribution as and when required (Grice, 1975)

A Conversational Maxim is...
' a rule that helps us to make sense of a conversation' (Harley, 2010)
Deviation from Maxims can cause conversations to break down quickly

- the listener still tries to make sense of the covnersation

- listeners presume speaker is maintaining maxims by using conversation implicature

S1- ' Do you like my new pink tracksuit?'
S2- 'Wow, isn't it warm in here?'

Violating Maxim of Relevance
Conversational implicature is used in the violation of conversational implicature
- Tracksuit example = can tell he is implying he doesnt like the tracksuit

Face Management- a common reason for violation of relevance maxim (Goffman, 1967).
Other ways of cooperating in conversations
Lexical entrainment- Garrod & Anderson, (1987)
- adoption of the same forms of description among pairs

Conceptual Pacts- Brennan & Clark (1996)
- make in conversations about which terms to use
- these are dynamic, evolved over time and can be simplified
But what if you don't co-operate?
- Some people want to lie and others simple do wish to disclose information
- However....the harder you try to disclose something and keep it private the more likely you are to 'spill the beans'.

- Wardlaw Lane, Groisman & Ferriera, (2006) highlighted this through asking a speaker to describe a simple object that both people could see.
- A concealed object was only known to the speaker.
- If they were told to keep the concealed object a secret they were infact more likely to disclose it.
- by thinking about something we bring it into our awareness and are therefore more likely to disclose it.
Gemma Dickinson, Emma Ewen, Jessica Greener, Cathal Maher
Grice, H. P. (1975) 'Logic and conversation'. In P. Cole and J. Morgan (eds) Studies in Syntax and Semantics III: Speech Acts, New York: Academic Press, pp. 183-198
Hadi, A. (2012), 'A Critical Appraisal of Grice's Cooperative Principle' Open Journal of Modern Linguistics Vol.3 (1) pp.69-72
Positive politeness strategies can include:
Giving compliments
Using nicknames
Using discourse markers "like" "you know"
Indicating 'togetherness'

3 types of actions
–what is said

2.Illocutionary force–
the speaker's specific, intended function

3.Perlocutionary force
– the effect on the hearer (intended & unintended)

In disagreement with Searles, Keysar (1989) derived a one route model .
- A Large component of social interaction and conversations between groups of people.
- It is commonly used to demonstrate a sense of humour, but it can also be used in initial encounters with others as a form of "breaking the ice".

- McDonald (1999) defines sarcasm as a form of indirect speech with an intention of producing a humorous effect on the listener

- Many people relate sarcasm and irony, whereas some scholars such as John Haiman(2000) argues that an individual can unintentionally and unconsciously use irony. Sarcasm however, must be intentional and conscious.

Six forms of Sarcasm
Social control
Declaration of alliance
Establishing social solitary
Social distance
Venting Frustration
Humorous Aggression
Importance of Sarcasm/ indirect speech
- being upfront about what you want can lead to not getting what you want
- a person may be less inclined to like you or respond positively to requests or statements
- this may affect social relations with said person
- Sarcasm: able to vent frustrations without seeming overly rude
Inability to understand indirect speech
- The understanding of indirect speech can be lacking in individuals who have certain forms of brain damage, dementia and in some cases Autism (Channon,Pellijeff and Rule, 2005).

- Research has found that individuals who have damage to the prefrontal cortex have difficulty in aspects such as picking up tones of voices in sarcasm, and other forms of indirect speech (Channon et al, 2005).
Being polite means making use of linguistic expressions that give people space and maintain a friendly attitude.

Example strategies:
Minimise imposition
Show awareness of status
Be apologetic

flouting of the maxim of quantity (Grice, 1975) can be seen in certain politeness techniques, as by not being open or clear about your need means that you are not being as informative as possible.
(Turnbull ----)
It’s cold in here (open a window)
I can’t find my pen (I’d like to borrow a pen)
I wish I could remember where that lecture is (where is the lecture)

Brown and Levinson describe politeness as universal
However there are variabilities

This is due to cultural differences in values for social distance, power and imposition variables between interlocutors

Certain cultures will prefer to use positive politeness strategies over negative politeness strategies and vice versa.

Criticisms of the Politeness Theory
Assumes individualistic, capitalist cultures are the ‘natural’ model for understanding others (Fukushima, 2000; Sifianou, 1992). 

Watts (2003) argues that this theory doesn’t address the hearer enough, other than for their face needs

Brown and Levinson (1987) admit that their framework relies on speech act theory, which “forces a sentence-based, speaker-oriented mode of analysis” (p. 10)

Gender should be taken into account in social interactions (Baxter, 1984)

Why is politeness important?
Establish, maintain or modify social relationships with others
Have a request satisfied
Enhance social relationship with the addressee
Avoid possible confrontations by maintaining the 'face' of both the hearer and the speaker
Achieves social coordination and sustains communication (Watts et al, 2005)
Why is cooperation in conversation important?
- cooperation in conversation is crucial as otherwise even forming the simplist of conversations would be very difficult.
- Grices maxims provide important norms for discourses. - even when we argue, cooperation is crucial in order for the argument to flow.
- conversational aims to be met without difficulty especially when the maxims are followed.
Ladegaard, H. J. (2008). Pragmatic cooperation revisited: Resistance and non-cooperation as a discursive strategy in asymmetrical dis- courses. Journal of Pragmatics, in Press.

Brown, P. and Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fukushima, S. (2000) Requests and Culture: Politeness in British English and Japanese, Bern: Peter Lang Publishing
Garcia Pastor, M. (2001). Pragmatics and the 2000 U.S. Elections: Issues of Politeness and Power in Political Campaign Debates. Valencia: Universitat de Valencia. 21-28.
Holtgraves, T and Yang, J.N.. (1990). Politeness as Universal: Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Request Strategies and Inferences Based in Their Use. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 59 (4), 719-729.
Locher, M. (2004). Power and Politeness in Action: Disagreements in Oral Communication. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co.. 64-65.
Scollon, R., Scollon, S. and Jones, R. (1995). Intercultural Communication: A Discourse Approach. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing ltd.
Sifianou, M. (1992) Politeness Phenomena in England and Greece: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Oxford: Clarendon.
Watts, R., Ide, S. and Ehlich, K. (2005). Politeness in Language. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co.. 2-3.
Watts, R. 2003. Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Assumed to be a basic principle of pragmatics
Cooperative Principle Critique

- Grice’s technical term of cooperation is often confused with the general term (Thomas, 1998).
- Thomas again criticizes Grices theory as he states three misinterpretations
- he views human nature optimistically,
-proposing a series of riles for effective conversation
- wrong to believe these maxims would always be taken into consideration.
- Taillard (2004), believes Grices claim that people normally follow their maxims and cooperate is wrong
-Ladegaard (2008) argues that Grice only considers the semantic aspect of an utterance.

Social pragmatics shows how language is used within communication
it refers to a person's intended meanings, their assumptions, their purposes or goals, and the kinds of actions that they are performing when they speak
People make inferences, perform speech acts, maintain 'face' and cooperate together in order to ensure that what is needed to be communicated is heard in a socially appropriate manner.

Cultural differences in Social Pragmatics
Use of language

Inhibition of Social Pragmatics
Autism Spectrum Disorder

Bellini, 2006
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