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Comparing Neo-Gricean Theory and RelevenceTheory

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Eline Amjad

on 2 April 2015

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Transcript of Comparing Neo-Gricean Theory and RelevenceTheory

- Relevance theory also expects such a calculation and in fact one fallout of the workings of the relevance principle is that virtually all (if not all) implicature becomes particularized, hence in need of working out .

- But unlike Grice and Neo Griceans who followed him, Relevance theorists argue that purposeful calculation and purposeful application of the Relevance Principle play no role in human communication :Humans have no choice but to pursue relevance, to assume the optimal relevance of a communicated message, and to draw whatever inferences follow from that assumption.

- There is no flouting of relevance, no decision as to whether to violate it or to opt out altogether.

-The language user cannot consciously consider the cost/beneit ratio and decide on a given occasion to minimize processing cost and accepting a lessened cognitive benefit .
Implications for the semantics/pragmatics boundary.
The Neo-Gricean taxonomy of non-natural meaning
Comparing Neo-Gricean Theory and Relevance Theory
Neo-Gricean Theory
Relevance Theory
-Neo-Griceans modify Grice's original set of maxims (in terms of their number and their orginazation) as principiles interlocutors follow in discourse.

-Neo-Griceans emphasize a tension between speaker's economy and hearer's economy.

- Neo Griceans have an interpersonal emphasis.

-For Neo-Gricens, there are two levels of meaning:semantic meaning(including any necessary enrichment derived from pragmatic meaning to be truth-evaluable) and pragmatic meaning (i.e.,what is implicated).

-For Relevance theorists, there is only one principle (Relevance)which interlocutors can't help but follow because its basic for human cognition.

-Relevance theorists emphasize the unity of their single principle of relevance,but this principle too is defined in terms od a tension between two opposing forces - the cost/benefit ratio of processing cost vs. cognitive effects.

-Relevance theorists have an intrapersonal emphasis.

-For Relevance theorists, there are three levels of maening:semantic meaning (not yet truth-evaluable), explicature (truth-evaluable), and implicature (non-truth-conditional).

- With respect to the first point it's important to notice Relevance theory's emphasis on the automatic nature of relevance-based inferences.

- For Grice, it was important that conversational implicatures be calculable- capable of being "worked out" whether they actually were or not.

-The suggestion is that for many inferences, especially the particularized conversational emplicatures, this calculation does in fact happen at some(presumably usually subconscious) level.

Some cases which show how the two theories vary and differ from each others in the way they treat two aspects of language:

Implications for the semantics/pragmatics boundary.

Scalar Implicature.

Natural meaning
Nonnatural meaning
what is said
what is implicated
Non-natural meaning
(i.e.all other implicatures)
what is said
what is conventionally implicated
This diagram suggests a different semantics/pragmatics boundary,distinguishing between what is conventionally (semantically) encoded in language and what is nonconventionally conveyed, e.g.,via conversational implicature.
-newer proposals allow specific type of pragmatic reasoning to affect "what is said" in the sense that context-based inferences must figure into for example, resolving ambiguities,deixis and pronoun references.

- In both of this Neo-Gricean views,the "explicature" of Relevance theaory is rejected:To the extent that reasoning based on contextual inference is required to establish an element of meaning and that meaning is not explicit in any sense ,moreover it draws on the same inferential resources as implicatures;Neo-Griceans therefore included in the category of implicated meaning.

A theoritician might choose to include such an element of meaning in the category of what semantically encoded in the sentence and might choose to consider it pragmatic and thus allow pragmatics to figure into the calculation of semantic meaning,

A case in point:Scalar Implicature
a. The earth spins on its axis once every 24 hours.
+> the earth spins on its axis no more than once every 24 hours.

b. It is very difficult.
+> it is not impossible

c. Most of us are not aware of this consciously.
+> some of us are aware of this consciously

d.Some people can train themselves to hear this.
+> not all people can train themselves to hear this.

Comparing Neo-Gricean Theory and Relevence Theory

- Scalar implicatures are considered to be generalized conversational implicatures.

- There is no ambiguity in utterences which contain some and most, thus they are treated as Generalized implicatures.

- Implicature=Non-truth-condintional meaning.

- There are no generalized conversational implicatures attending large classes of linguistic phenomena; there is only the Principle of Relevence operating on sentential semantics to return optimal cognitive effects.

- Utterences containing words like some and most are essentially ambiguous between two readings.

- Explicature =Truth-Conditional meaning.

a. Some people can train themselves to hear this.
b. You may have some of the cookies.
c. I got some of the exam questions wrong.
d. Most of us are unaware of this.
e. You may have most of the cookies.
f. I got most of the exam questions wrong.

a. I hope to see some of the Supreme Court justice while I’m visiting Washington.
b. You need to wash some of your clothes.
c. I’ve seen some wonderful sculptures by Robin.
d. Most of my friends agree with me.
e. You should try to take most of your available vacation days
f. Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Nonnatural meaning
what is encoded
what must be infered
what is explicated
what is implicated
a. A: Did most of them brownies get eaten?
B: No.

b. A: Do you have three children?
B: No.

-But for Neo-Griceans, considering such meanings to constitute inferentially determined, explicit meaning is a contradiction in terms: if it's inferentially determined,it's not explicit.
-The Neo-Gricean perspective retains the two-stage, largely linear process in which what is said combines with context and the maxims to give rise to what is implicated.

Truth-conditional meaning=explicature
non-truth conditional meaning=implicature
-For Relevance theorists on the other hand, pragmatic and semantic meaning jointly contribute to an intermediate stage of what is explicated.

-In Relevance theory, the semantic meaning is purely the output of linguistic decoding-working out the basic lexical meanings and morphological and syntactic relationships in the sentence as indicated by what is specifically encoded.

- Pragmatics, therefore,contributes to the explicature(the full truth-conditional proposition) and also to the implicature(the intended non-truth conditional meaning.

- For Relevance theory ,then, the crucial distinction is not so much between semantics and pragmatics but rather between explicature(which has both semantic and pragmatic components) and implicature(which is purely pragmatic).

- Thus, Relevance theory begins with a distinction between encoded and inferred meaning,and adds a distinction between explicit truth-conditional meaning and implicit non truth-conditional meaning.

- In this view, there is an important distinction between explicit and implicit meaning, but it does not lead to the distinction between semantics and pragmatics. It does however lead to the distinction between truth-conditional and non-truth-conditional meaning.

- One result of this way of placing the deviding line between semantics and pragmatics is that pragmatic inference no longer has to be seen as contributing to the semantics of an utterance.
Thank you
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