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Context and the role of context in the interpretation of dis

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Li-e Pham

on 4 June 2014

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Transcript of Context and the role of context in the interpretation of dis

Context and the role of context in the interpretation of discourse
the words/sentences surrounding any piece of written (or spoken) text - Malinowski
the whole situation in which an utterance is made
extra-linguistic context
linguistic context
Match two following sentences with the suitable paragraph in which each of them would appear natural.

A. The Prime Minister congratulated the troops.
B. The troops were congratulated by the Prime Minister.
C. It was the Prime Minister who congratulated the troops.
D. What happened to the troops was that the Prime Minister congratulated them.

1. Tony Blair arrived at the front line early in the morning. He paid a visit to the headquarters to hear the news about the enemy's defeat and insisted on visiting entrenchments where soldiers still held positions. Then ___________________________________ .

2. After heavy fights on the western front, more and more soldiers are coming home. Yesterday, the second regiment of light tanks, whose heroic attacks had proved to be decisive, disembarked. _____________________________________

The role of context
in the interpretation
of discourse
1. Eliminating Ambiguity
2. Indicating Referents
3. Detecting Conversational Implicature
2 kinds of ambiguities:
Lexical ambiguity:
mostly caused by homonymy and polysemy
Eg: She can’t bear childern

Structural ambiguity:
from the grammatical analysis of a sentence or a phrase.
Eg; I like Bill more than Mary.

The following dialogue is written by the well-known linguist, Firth:
-- Do you think he will?
-- I don’t know. He might.
-- I suppose he ought to, but perhaps he feels he can’t.
-- Well, his brothers have. They perhaps think he needn’t.
-- Perhaps eventually he will. I think he should, and I very much hope he will.

Eg1: (The husband has just finished supper and wanted to watch TV, leaving his wife alone to clear the table and wash dishes.)
Wife: Shouldn’t you help me do some housework?
Husband: I have worked for nine hours.

Eg2: (The boss of a restaurant gives two pennies to a
temporary worker who does washing for him.)
Boss: Here is your pay, boy!
Worker: I have worked for nine hours.

local interpretation
instructs the hearer not to construct a context any larger than he needs
to arrive an interpretation
A group of children were sharing a box of candies.
A boy came join the group. He asked:
“Is there anything left in the box?”

interpret discourse based on one's past experience and background knowledge.
“If too many expectations are flouted, the writer may be suspected of being mentally unbalanced, of being incapable of seeing the world in a normal way” (Brown and Yule, 1983:62)
Two students were talking in the canteen:
Student 1: “Woah, woah, look at that sexy girl. Take a guess how old is she?”
Student 2: “Mmh. She’s quite the Lolita, if you ask me.”
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