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Introduction

This guide is written for students who are following GCE Advanced level (AS and A2)
syllabuses in English Language. This resource may also be of general interest to language
students on university degree courses, trainee teachers and anyone with a general interest
in language science.

If you are unsure whether to spend time finding out about this subject, you might like to
jump straight to the brief section on pragmatics for exam students.

On this page I use red type for emphasis. Brown type is used where italics would appear
in print (in this screen font, italic looks like this, and is unkind on most readers).
Headings have their own hierarchical logic, too:

Main section headings look like this

Sub-section headings look like this

Minor headings within sub-sections look like this

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What is pragmatics?

“We human beings are odd compared with our nearest animal relatives. Unlike them, we
can say what we want, when we want. All normal humans can produce and understand any
number of new words and sentences. Humans use the multiple options of language often
without thinking. But blindly, they sometimes fall into its traps. They are like spiders who
exploit their webs, but themselves get caught in the sticky strands.”

Jean Aitchison

“Pragmatics studies the factors that govern our choice of language in social interaction and
the effects of our choice on others.”

David Crystal
“Pragmatics is all about the meanings between the lexis and the grammar and the
phonology...Meanings are implied and the rules being followed are unspoken, unwritten
ones.”

George Keith

“Pragmatics is a way of investigating how sense can be made of certain texts even when,
from a semantic viewpoint, the text seems to be either incomplete or to have a different
meaning to what is really intended. Consider a sign seen in a children's wear shop window:
“Baby Sale - lots of bargains”. We know without asking that there are no babies are for
sale - that what is for sale are items used for babies. Pragmatics allows us to investigate
how this “meaning beyond the words” can be understood without ambiguity. The extra
meaning is there, not because of the semantic aspects of the words themselves, but because
we share certain contextual knowledge with the writer or speaker of the text.

“Pragmatics is an important area of study for your course. A simplified way of thinking
about pragmatics is to recognise, for example, that language needs to be kept interesting - a
speaker or writer does not want to bore a listener or reader, for example, by being over-
long or tedious. So, humans strive to find linguistic means to make a text, perhaps, shorter,
more interesting, more relevant, more purposeful or more personal. Pragmatics allows this.

Steve Campsall

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Pragmatics is a systematic way of explaining language use in context. It seeks to explain


aspects of meaning which cannot be found in the plain sense of words or structures, as
explained by semantics. As a field of language study, pragmatics is fairly new. Its origins
lie in philosophy of language and the American philosophical school of pragmatism. As a
discipline within language science, its roots lie in the work of (Herbert) Paul Grice on
conversational implicature and the cooperative principle, and on the work of Stephen
Levinson, Penelope Brown and Geoff Leech on politeness.

We can illustrate how pragmatics works by an example from association football (and
other field sports). It sometimes happens that a team-mate will shout at me: “Man on!”
Semantic analysis can only go so far with this phrase.

• For example, it can elicit different lexical meanings of the noun “man” (mankind
or the human race, an individual person, a male person specifically) and the
preposition “on” (on top of, above, or other relationships as in “on fire”, “on
heat”, “on duty”, “on the fiddle” or “on the telly”).
• And it can also explain structural meaning, and account for the way this phrase
works in longer sequences such as the “first man on the moon”, “a man on the
run” or “the man on top of the Clapham omnibus”.

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None of this explains the meaning in the context of the football game. This is very
complex, but perhaps includes at least the following elements:

• My team-mate has seen another player's movement, and thinks that I have either
not seen it, or have not responded to it appropriately.
• My team-mate wants me to know that I am likely to be tackled or impeded in
some way.
• My team-mate wants me to respond appropriately, as by shielding the ball,
passing it to an unmarked player, laying it off for another team-mate and so on.
• My team-mate has an immediate concern for me, but this is really subordinated to
a more far-sighted desire for me, as a player on his team, to protect the ball or
retain possession, as this will make our team more likely to gain an advantage.
• My team-mate understands that my opponent will also hear the warning, but
thinks that his hearing it will not harm our team's chances as much as my not
being aware of the approaching player.
• My team-mate foresees that I may rebuke him (and the other players on our team
collectively) if no-one, from a better vantage point, alerts me to the danger.

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If this is right (or even part of it), it is clear that my team-mate could not, in the time
available, (that is, before the opponent tackles me) communicate this information in the
explicit manner above. But it also relies on my knowing the methods of language
interchange in football. “Man on” is an established form of warning. For all I know,
professional players may have their own covert forms, as when they signal a routine at a
free kick, corner or throw-in, by calling a number or other code word.

Also, though my team-mate is giving me information, in the context of the game, he is


chiefly concerned about my taking the right action. If response to the alert becomes like a
conditioned reflex (I hear the warning and at once lay the ball off or pass), then my
contribution to the team effort will be improved. (Reflection on how I play the game is
fine after the match, but not helpful at moments when I have to take action.) Note also,
that though I have assumed this to be in a game played by men, the phrase “Man on” is
used equally in mixed-gender and women's sports - I have heard it frequently in games of
field hockey, where the “Man” about to be “on” was a female player. “Woman on”
would be inefficient (extra syllable and a difficult intial “w” sound), and might even lead
the uncritical player to worry less about the approaching tackle - though probably not
more than once.

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We use language all the time to make things happen. We ask someone to pass the salt or
marry us - not, usually at the same time. We order a pizza or make a dental appointment.
Speech acts include asking for a glass of beer, promising to drink the beer, threatening to
drink more beer, ordering someone else to drink some beer, and so on. Some special
people can do extraordinary things with words, like baptizing a baby, declaring war,
awarding a penalty kick to Arsenal FC or sentencing a convict.

Linguists have called these things “speech acts” - and developed a theory (called,
unsurprisingly, “speech act theory”) to explain how they work. Some of this is rooted in
common sense and stating the obvious - as with felicity conditions. These explain that
merely saying the words does not accomplish the act. Judges (unless they are also
referees) cannot award penalty kicks to Arsenal, and football referees (unless they are
also heads of state) cannot declare war.

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Speech act theory is not the whole of pragmatics, but is perhaps currently the most
important established part of the subject. Contemporary debate in pragmatics often
focuses on its relations with semantics. Since semantics is the study of meaning in
language, why add a new field of study to look at meaning from a novel viewpoint?

This is an elementary confusion. Clearly linguists could develop a model of semantics


that included pragmatics. Or they could produce a model for each, which allows for some
exploration and explanation of the boundary between them - but distinguishes them as in
some way different kinds of activity. However, there is a consensus view that pragmatics
as a separate study is necessary because it explains meanings that semantics overlooks.

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What does pragmatics include?

The lack of a clear consensus appears in the way that no two published accounts list the
same categories of pragmatics in quite the same order. But among the things you should
know about are:

• Speech act theory


• Felicity conditions
• Conversational implicature
• The cooperative principle
• Conversational maxims
• Relevance
• Politeness
• Phatic tokens
• Deixis
This guide contains some explanation of all of these, as well as related or peripheral
subjects. Many of them break down further into their own sub-categories, as with the
different kinds of speech acts that linguists have usefully distinguished.

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Criticisms of pragmatics

Some of the criticisms directed at pragmatics include these:

• It does not have a clear-cut focus


• Its principles are vague and fuzzy
• It is redundant - semantics already covers the territory adequately

In defending pragmatics we can say that:

• The study of speech acts has illuminated social language interactions


• It covers things that semantics (hitherto) has overlooked
• It can help inform strategies for teaching language
• It has given new insights into understanding literature
• The theories of the cooperative principle and politeness principle have provided
insights into person-to-person interactions.

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Speech acts

Performatives | The “hereby” test | Felicity conditions

The philosopher J.L. Austin (1911-1960) claims that many utterances (things people say)
are equivalent to actions. When someone says: “I name this ship” or “I now pronounce
you man and wife”, the utterance creates a new social or psychological reality. We can
add many more examples:

• Sergeant Major: Squad, by the left… left turn!


• Referee: (Pointing to the centre circle) Goal!
• Groom: With this ring, I thee wed.

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Speech act theory broadly explains these utterances as having three parts or aspects:
locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts.

• Locutionary acts are simply the speech acts that have taken place.
• Illocutionary acts are the real actions which are performed by the utterance,
where saying equals doing, as in betting, plighting one's troth, welcoming and
warning.
• Perlocutionary acts are the effects of the utterance on the listener, who accepts
the bet or pledge of marriage, is welcomed or warned.

Some linguists have attempted to classify illocutionary acts into a number of categories
or types. David Crystal, quoting J.R. Searle, gives five such categories: representatives,
directives, commissives, expressives and declarations. (Perhaps he would have preferred
declaratives, but this term was already taken as a description of a kind of sentence that
expresses a statement.)

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• Representatives: here the speaker asserts a proposition to be true, using such verbs
as: affirm, believe, conclude, deny, report.
• Directives: here the speaker tries to make the hearer do something, with such
words as: ask, beg, challenge, command, dare, invite, insist, request.
• Commissives: here the speaker commits himself (or herself) to a (future) course
of action, with verbs such as: guarantee, pledge, promise, swear, vow, undertake,
warrant.
• Expressives: the speaker expresses an attitude to or about a state of affairs, using
such verbs as: apologize, appreciate, congratulate, deplore, detest, regret, thank,
welcome.
• Declarations the speaker alters the external status or condition of an object or
situation, solely by making the utterance: I now pronounce you man and wife, I
sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you be dead, I name this ship...

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Performatives

These are speech acts of a special kind where the utterance of the right words by the right
person in the right situation effectively is (or accomplishes) the social act. In some cases,
the speech must be accompanied by a ceremonial or ritual action. Whether the speaker in
fact has the social or legal (or other kind of) standing to accomplish the act depends on
some things beyond the mere speaking of the words. These are felicity conditions, which
we can also explain by the “hereby” test. But let's look, first, at some examples.

In the Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 19, verses 13-20) we read of some exorcists in
Ephesus who tried to copy St. Paul and cast out evil spirits in the name of Jesus: “I adjure
you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims”. On one occasion the possessed man (or the evil
spirit) attacked them, and said, “Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you?”
Evidently St. Paul not only knew the words, but also had the means to call on divine aid
for his exorcisms. In a slightly similar vein, Claudius, in Hamlet, sees that his prayer is
ineffectual because “Words without thoughts never to Heaven go”.

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Outside of miracle or magic, there are social realities that can be enacted by speech,
because we all accept the status of the speaker in the appropriate situation. This is an idea
expressed in the American Declaration of Independence where we read, “Governments
are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed”.

Here are some examples from different spheres of human activity, where performatives
are found at work. These are loose categories, and many performatives belong to more
than one of them:

• Universities and schools: conferring of degrees, rusticating or excluding students.


• The church: baptizing, confirming and marrying, exorcism, commination
(cursing) and excommunication.
• Governance and civic life: crowning of monarchs, dissolution of Parliament,
passing legislation, awarding honours, ennobling or decorating.
• The law: enacting or enforcing of various judgements, passing sentence, swearing
oaths and plighting one's troth.
• The armed services: signing on, giving an order to attack, retreat or open fire.
• Sport: cautioning or sending off players, giving players out, appealing for a
dismissal or declaring (closing an innings) in cricket.
• Business: hiring and firing, establishing a verbal contract, naming a ship.
• Gaming: placing a bet, raising the stakes in poker.

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The “hereby” test


It is crude, because it implies at least one felicity condition - whatever it is to which
“hereby” refers. In the first example, “hereby” may refer to a physical action (touching on
the head or shoulder with a ceremonial staff or mace, say). In the second example it may
refer to the speaker's situation - in sitting as chairman of the bench of magistrates. The
third example is my (plausible) invention - showing how all sorts of private groups
(Freemasons, Rotarians, even the school Parent Teacher Association) can have their own
agreements, which give to some speakers the power to enact performatives.

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Felicity conditions

Preparatory conditions | conditions for execution | sincerity conditions

These are conditions necessary to the success of a speech act. They take their name from
a Latin root - “felix” or “happy”. They are conditions needed for success or achievement
of a performative. Only certain people are qualified to declare war, baptize people or
sentence convicted felons. In some cases, the speaker must be sincere (as in apologizing
or vowing). And external circumstances must be suitable: “Can you give me a lift?”
requires that the hearer has a motor vehicle, is able to drive it somewhere and that the
speaker has a reason for the request. It may be that the utterance is meant as a joke or
sarcasm, in which case a different interpretation is in order. Loosely speaking, felicity
conditions are of three kinds: preparatory conditions, conditions for execution and
sincerity conditions.

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Preparatory conditions

Preparatory conditions include the status or authority of the speaker to perform the
speech act, the situation of other parties and so on.

So, in order to confirm a candidate, the speaker must be a bishop; but a mere priest can
baptize people, while various ministers of religion and registrars may solemnize
marriages (in England). In the case of marrying, there are other conditions - that neither
of the couple is already married, that they make their own speech acts, and so on. We
sometimes speculate about the status of people (otherwise free to marry) who act out a
wedding scene in a play or film - are they somehow, really, married? In Romeo and
Juliet, Shakespeare has no worries, because the words of the ceremony are not spoken on
stage, and, anyway, Juliet's part is played by a boy. (Though this may make the wedding
scene seem blasphemous to some in the audience.)

In the UK only the monarch can dissolve parliament. A qualified referee can caution a
player, if he or she is officiating in a match. The referee's assistant (who, in the higher
leagues, is also a qualified referee) cannot do this.

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The situation of the utterance is important. If the US President jokingly “declares” war on
another country in a private conversation, then the USA is not really at war. This, in fact,
happened (on 11 August 1984), when Ronald Reagan made some remarks off-air, as he
thought, but which have been recorded for posterity:

“My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will
outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Click on the link below to listen to this speech as a sound file in wav format. You will
need a sound card, speakers or headphones and suitable software (such as Windows™
Media Player or RealPlayer™) to listen to the file.

• Listen to Ronald Reagan's 1984 off-air speech.

One hopes that this utterance also failed in terms of sincerity conditions.

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Conditions for execution

Conditions for execution can assume an exaggerated importance. We are so used to a


ritual or ceremonial action accompanying the speech act that we believe the act is
invalidated, if the action is lacking - but there are few real examples of this.

Take refereeing of association football. When a referee cautions a player, he (or she)
should take the player's name, number and note the team for which he plays. The referee
may also display a yellow card, but this is not necessary to the giving of the caution:

“The mandatory use of the cards is merely a simple aid for better communication.”

The Football Association (1998); Advice on the Application of the Laws of the Game, p. 9

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In knighting their subjects, English monarchs traditionally touch the recipient of the
honour on both shoulders with the flat side of a sword blade. But this, too, is not
necessary to the performance of the speech act.

A story is told in Oxford of a young man, taking his final exams, who demanded a pint of
beer from the invigilators. He pointed out that he was wearing his sword, as required by
the mediaeval statute that made provision for the drink. The invigilator (exam
supervisor), believing the young man's version of events, brought the beer, but checked
the statutes. Later the young man received a fine - he had not, as the statute also required,
been wearing his spurs. The story may well be an urban myth (the writer heard it several
times from different sources), but illustrates neatly a condition of execution.

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Sincerity conditions

At a simple level these show that the speaker must really intend what he or she says. In
the case of apologizing or promising, it may be impossible for others to know how
sincere the speaker is. Moreover sincerity, as a genuine intention (now) is no assurance
that the apologetic attitude will last, or that the promise will be kept. There are some
speech acts - such as plighting one's troth or taking an oath - where this sincerity is
determined by the presence of witnesses. The one making the promise will not be able
later to argue that he or she didn't really mean it.

A more complex example comes in the classroom where the teacher asks a question, but
the pupil supposes that the teacher knows the answer and is, therefore, not sincere in
asking it. In this case “Can you, please, tell me X?” may be more acceptable to the child
than “What is X?”

We can also use our understanding of sincerity conditions humorously, where we ask
others, or promise ourselves, to do things which we think the others know to be
impossible: “Please can you make it sunny tomorrow?”

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Conversational implicature

Conversational maxims | Relevance

In a series of lectures at Harvard University in 1967, the English language philosopher


H.P. (Paul) Grice outlined an approach to what he termed conversational implicature -
how hearers manage to work out the complete message when speakers mean more than
they say. An example of what Grice meant by conversational implicature is the utterance:

“Have you got any cash on you?”

where the speaker really wants the hearer to understand the meaning:

“Can you lend me some money? I don't have much on me.”

The conversational implicature is a message that is not found in the plain sense of the
sentence. The speaker implies it. The hearer is able to infer (work out, read between the
lines) this message in the utterance, by appealing to the rules governing successful
conversational interaction. Grice proposed that implicatures like the second sentence can
be calculated from the first, by understanding three things:

• The usual linguistic meaning of what is said.


• Contextual information (shared or general knowledge).
• The assumption that the speaker is obeying what Grice calls the cooperative
principle.

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Conversational maxims and the cooperative principle

The success of a conversation depends upon the various speakers' approach to the
interaction. The way in which people try to make conversations work is sometimes called
the cooperative principle. We can understand it partly by noting those people who are
exceptions to the rule, and are not capable of making the conversation work. We may
also, sometimes, find it useful deliberately to infringe or disregard it - as when we receive
an unwelcome call from a telephone salesperson, or where we are being interviewed by a
police officer on suspicion of some terrible crime.

Paul Grice proposes that in ordinary conversation, speakers and hearers share a
cooperative principle. Speakers shape their utterances to be understood by hearers. The
principle can be explained by four underlying rules or maxims. (David Crystal calls them
conversational maxims. They are also sometimes named Grice's or Gricean maxims.)

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They are the maxims of quality, quantity, relevance and manner.

• Quality: speakers should be truthful. They should not say what they think is false,
or make statements for which they have no evidence.
• Quantity: a contribution should be as informative as is required for the
conversation to proceed. It should be neither too little, nor too much. (It is not
clear how one can decide what quantity of information satisfies the maxim in a
given case.)
• Relevance: speakers' contributions should relate clearly to the purpose of the
exchange.
• Manner: speakers' contributions should be perspicuous: clear, orderly and brief,
avoiding obscurity and ambiguity.

Grice does not of course prescribe the use of such maxims. Nor does he (I hope) suggest
that we use them artificially to construct conversations. But they are useful for analysing
and interpreting conversation, and may reveal purposes of which (either as speaker or
listener) we were not previously aware. Very often, we communicate particular non-
literal meanings by appearing to “violate” or “flout” these maxims. If you were to hear
someone described as having “one good eye”, you might well assume the person's other
eye was defective, even though nothing had been said about it at all.

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Relevance
Some linguists (such as Howard Jackson and Peter Stockwell, who call it a
“Supermaxim”) single out relevance as of greater importance than Grice recognised
(Grice gives quality and manner as supermaxims). Assuming that the cooperative
principle is at work in most conversations, we can see how hearers will try to find
meaning in utterances that seem meaningless or irrelevant. We assume that there must be
a reason for these. Jackson and Stockwell cite a conversation between a shopkeeper and a
16-year old customer:

Customer: Just these, please.


Shopkeeper: Are you eighteen?
Customer: Oh, I'm from Middlesbrough.
Shopkeeper: (after a brief pause) OK (serves beer to him).

Jackson H., and Stockwell, P. (1996), An Introduction to the Nature and Functions of
Language, p. 142

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Jackson and Stockwell suggest that “there is no explanation for [the customer's] bizarre
reply”. Perhaps this should be qualified: we cannot be sure what the explanation is, but
we can find some plausible answer. Possible explanations might include these:

• The young man thought his being from Middlesbrough might explain whatever it
was about him that had made the shopkeeper suspicious about his youth.
• The young man thought the shopkeeper's question was provoked by his unfamiliar
manner of speaking, so he wanted to explain this.
• The young man was genuinely flustered and said the first thing he could think of,
while trying to think of a better reason for his looking under-age.
• The young man thought that the shopkeeper might treat someone from
Middlesbrough in a more indulgent manner than people from elsewhere.

Jackson and Stockwell suggest further that the shopkeeper “derived some inference or
other” from the teenager's reply, since she served him the beer. It might of course be that
she had raised the question (how old is this customer?) once, but when he appeared to
have misunderstood it, was not ready to ask it again or clarify it - perhaps because this
seemed too much like hard work, and as a stranger, the teenager would be unlikely to
attract attention (from the police or trading standards officers) as a regular under-age
purchaser of beer.

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In analysing utterances and searching for relevance we can use a hierarchy of


propositions - those that might be asserted, presupposed, entailed or inferred from any
utterance.

• Assertion: what is asserted is the obvious, plain or surface meaning of the


utterance (though many utterances are not assertions of anything).
• Presupposition: what is taken for granted in the utterance. “I saw the Mona Lisa in
the Louvre” presupposes that the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre.
• Entailments: logical or necessary corollaries of an utterance, thus, the above
example entails:
o I saw something in the Louvre.
o I saw something somewhere.
o Something was seen.
o There is a Louvre.
o There is a Mona Lisa, and so on.
• Inferences: these are interpretations that other people draw from the utterance, for
which we cannot always directly account. From this example, someone might
infer, rationally, that the Mona Lisa is, or was recently, on show to the public.
They might infer, less rationally, that the speaker has been to France recently -
because if the statement were about something from years ago, he or she would
have said so.

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The given/new distinction

In conveying a message, we should think about more than just “who did what to whom”.
We also have to keep in mind what our listeners know already, and how to present the
message in an intelligible and coherent manner.

We should not assume that our listeners have particular knowledge. Even if we are sure
they do have knowledge of something about which we wish to speak, we may need to
introduce it, or recall what they already know. Our listeners may do this for us, as when
one's parent, irked by a personal pronoun demands to know: “Who's she? The cat's
mother?”

Similarly, we should not introduce familiar things as if they were new. This may seem
patronizing, but can also be confusing, since our listeners may try to find a new
interpretation to match our implication of novelty.

One way in which we show that information is new is by using nouns. Once it is familiar
we refer (back) to it by using deictic pronouns - like “this” or “it”.

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Names and addresses


T and V pronouns | Titles and names

T and V pronouns

Some languages have different forms for “you” (French “tu/vous”, German “du/Sie”,
for example). These may originally have indicated number (“vous” and “Sie”) used for
plural forms, but now show different levels of formality, with “tu” and “du” being more
familiar, “vous” and “Sie” more polite. In English this was shown historically by the
contrast between “you” and “thou/thee”. The “thou” form survives in some dialects,
while other familiar pronoun forms are “youse” (Liverpool) and “you-all” (southern
USA). Where it is possible to make the distinction, this is known as a T/V system of
address.

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In this system the V form is a marker of politeness or deference. It may also be a marker
of status, with the V form used to superiors, the T form to equals or inferiors. T forms are
also used to express solidarity or intimacy. The T form is found in Shakespeare's plays,
where it almost always shows the speaker's attitude to status and situation. A king is
“your majesty” or “you” but a peasant is “thou”. It may be an insult, as when Tybalt
addresses Romeo as “thou” (“Romeo, thou art a villain”; Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene
3). It is also found in petrified or “frozen” language forms, such as the stylized speech of
the Society of Friends (“Quakers”) or other non-conformist groups, like Mennonites or
the Pennsylvania Amish, in orders of service and prayers. Oddly, many modern speakers
think that “thou” (being “old”) is more formal or courteous than “you” - when the
reverse is the case!

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Titles and names

In English, we also express status and attitude through titles, first names and last names.
Titles are such things as Professor, Dr, Sir, Dame, Fr. (Father), Mr, Mrs, Miss, Rabbi,
Sr. (Sister) and, in the USA, even such things as coach and chef. Note that we abbreviate
some of these in writing, but not in speaking - we write “Mr.” but say “mister”. First
names may be given names (Fred, Susan) but include epithets such as chief, guv, mate,
man, pal. Last names are usually family names. In general, use of these on their own
suggests lack of deference (“Oi, Smith...”) but in some contexts (public schools, the
armed forces) they are norms. If one speaker uses title and last name (TLN), and the other
first name (FN) only, we infer difference in status. The social superior (the FN speaker)
may invite the inferior to use FN in response:

A: Professor Cringeworthy? B: Do call me Cuthbert.


A: Lord Archer? B: Please, it's Jeffrey.

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In schools teachers use FN (or FNLN when reprimanding or being sarcastic) in speaking
to pupils and receive T (“Sir”) or TLN (“Miss Brodie”) in reply. “Miss” is addressed to
women teachers, even where the speaker knows or believes them to be married.

In English avoidance of address is often acceptable - thus where French speakers say
“Bonsoir, Monsieur”, English speakers may say merely, “Good evening” (Omitting the
address in France would seem impolite.)

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The politeness principle

Leech's maxims | Face and politeness strategies | Examples from Brown and Levinson |
Phatic tokens

The politeness principle is a series of maxims, which Geoff Leech has proposed as a way
of explaining how politeness operates in conversational exchanges. Leech defines
politeness as forms of behaviour that establish and maintain comity. That is the ability of
participants in a social interaction to engage in interaction in an atmosphere of relative
harmony. In stating his maxims Leech uses his own terms for two kinds of illocutionary
acts. He calls representatives “assertives”, and calls directives “impositives”.

• Each maxim is accompanied by a sub-maxim (between square brackets), which is


of less importance. These support the idea that negative politeness (avoidance of
discord) is more important than positive politeness (seeking concord).
• Not all of the maxims are equally important. For instance, tact influences what we
say more powerfully than does generosity, while approbation is more important
than modesty.
• Note also that speakers may adhere to more than one maxim of politeness at the
same time. Often one maxim is on the forefront of the utterance, with a second
maxim being invoked by implication.
• If politeness is not communicated, we can assume that the politeness attitude is
absent.

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Leech's maxims

• Tact maxim (in directives [impositives] and commissives): minimise cost to other;
[maximise benefit to other]
• Generosity maxim (in directives and commissives): minimise benefit to self;
[maximise cost to self]
• Approbation maxim (in expressives and representatives [assertives]): minimise
dispraise of other; [maximise praise of other]
• Modesty maxim (in expressives and representatives): minimise praise of self;
[maximise dispraise of self]
• Agreement maxim (in representatives): minimise disagreement between self and
other; [maximise agreement between self and other]
• Sympathy maxim (in representatives): minimise antipathy between self and other;
[maximise sympathy between self and other]

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Face and politeness strategies

“Face” (as in “lose face”) refers to a speaker's sense of linguistic and social identity.
Any speech act may impose on this sense, and is therefore face threatening. And speakers
have strategies for lessening the threat. Positive politeness means being complimentary
and gracious to the addressee (but if this is overdone, the speaker may alienate the other
party). Negative politeness is found in ways of mitigating the imposition:

• Hedging: Er, could you, er, perhaps, close the, um , window?


• Pessimism: I don't suppose you could close the window, could you?
• Indicating deference: Excuse me, sir, would you mind if I asked you to close the
window?
• Apologizing: I'm terribly sorry to put you out, but could you close the window?
• Impersonalizing: The management requires all windows to be closed.

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A good illustration of a breach of these strategies comes from Alan Bleasdale's 1982 TV
drama, The Boys from the Black Stuff, where the unemployed Yosser Hughes greets
potential employers with the curt demand: “Gizza job!”

Perhaps the most thorough treatment of the concept of politeness is that of Penelope
Brown and Stephen Levinson, which was first published in 1978 and then reissued, with
a long introduction, in 1987. In their model, politeness is defined as redressive action
taken to counter-balance the disruptive effect of face-threatening acts (FTAs).

In their theory, communication is seen as potentially dangerous and antagonistic. A


strength of their approach over that of Geoff Leech is that they explain politeness by
deriving it from more fundamental notions of what it is to be a human being. The basic
notion of their model is “face”. This is defined as “the public self-image that every
member (of society) wants to claim for himself”. In their framework, face consists of two
related aspects.

• One is negative face, or the rights to territories, freedom of action and freedom
from imposition - wanting your actions not to be constrained or inhibited by
others.
• The other is positive face, the positive consistent self-image that people have and
their desire to be appreciated and approved of by at least some other people.
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The rational actions people take to preserve both kinds of face, for themselves and the
people they interact with, add up to politeness. Brown and Levinson also argue that in
human communication, either spoken or written, people tend to maintain one another's
face continuously.

In everyday conversation, we adapt our conversation to different situations. Among


friends we take liberties or say things that would seem discourteous among strangers.
And we avoid over-formality with friends. In both situations we try to avoid making the
hearer embarrassed or uncomfortable. Face-threatening acts (FTAs) are acts that infringe
on the hearers' need to maintain his/her self-esteem, and be respected. Politeness
strategies are developed for the main purpose of dealing with these FTAs. Suppose I see a
crate of beer in my neighbour's house. Being thirsty, I might say:

• I want some beer.


• Is it OK for me to have a beer?
• I hope it's not too forward, but would it be possible for me to have a beer?
• It's so hot. It makes you really thirsty.

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Brown and Levinson sum up human politeness behaviour in four strategies, which
correspond to these examples: bald on record, negative politeness, positive politeness,
and off-record-indirect strategy.

• The bald on-record strategy does nothing to minimize threats to the hearer's
“face”
• The positive politeness strategy shows you recognize that your hearer has a desire
to be respected. It also confirms that the relationship is friendly and expresses
group reciprocity.
• The negative politeness strategy also recognizes the hearer's face. But it also
recognizes that you are in some way imposing on them. Some other examples
would be to say, “I don't want to bother you but...” or “I was wondering if...”
• Off-record indirect strategies take some of the pressure off of you. You are trying
to avoid the direct FTA of asking for a beer. Instead you would rather it be
offered to you once your hearer sees that you want one.

These strategies are not universal - they are used more or less frequently in other cultures.
For example, in some eastern societies the off-record-indirect strategy will place on your
hearer a social obligation to give you anything you admire. So speakers learn not to
express admiration for expensive and valuable things in homes that they visit.

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Examples from Brown and Levinson's politeness strategies


Bald on-record | positive politeness | negative politeness | off-record-indirect
Bald on-record

• An emergency: Help!
• Task oriented: Give me those!
• Request: Put your jacket away.
• Alerting: Turn your lights on! (while driving)

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Positive Politeness

• Attend to the hearer: You must be hungry, it's a long time since breakfast. How
about some lunch?
• Avoid disagreement: A: What is she, small? B: Yes, yes, she's small, smallish,
um, not really small but certainly not very big.
• Assume agreement: So when are you coming to see us?
• Hedge opinion: You really should sort of try harder.

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Negative Politeness

• Be indirect: I'm looking for a pen.


• Request forgiveness: You must forgive me but....
• Minimize imposition: I just want to ask you if I could use your computer?
• Pluralize the person responsible: We forgot to tell you that you needed to by your
plane ticket by yesterday.

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Off-record (indirect)

• Give hints: It's a bit cold in here.


• Be vague: Perhaps someone should have been more responsible.
• Be sarcastic, or joking: Yeah, he's a real Einstein (rocket scientist, Stephen
Hawking, genius and so on)!

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Phatic tokens

These are ways of showing status by orienting comments to oneself, to the other, or to the
general or prevailing situation (in England this is usually the weather).

• Self-oriented phatic tokens are personal to the speaker: “I'm not up to this” or
“My feet are killing me”.
• Other-oriented tokens are related to the hearer: “Do you work here?” or “You
seem to know what you're doing”.
• A neutral token refers to the context or general state of affairs: “Cold, isn't it?” or
“Lovely flowers”.

A superior shows consideration in an other-oriented token, as when the Queen says to the
factory worker: “It must be jolly hard to make one of those”. The inferior might respond
with a self-oriented token, like “Hard work, this”. On the surface, there is an exchange of
information. In reality there is a suggestion and acceptance of a hierarchy of status. The
factory worker would be unlikely to respond with, “Yes, but it's not half as hard as
travelling the world, trooping the colour, making a speech at Christmas and dissolving
Parliament.”

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Deixis

Personal deixis | Spatial deixis | Temporal deixis

Note: this section is seriously hard. You have been warned. But first, how do you
pronounce it? The term comes from the Greek deiktikos (=“able to show”). This is
related to Greek dèiknymi (dyke-nimmy) meaning “explain” or “prove”. The standard
pronunciation has two syllables (dyke-sis) while the adjective form is deictic (dyke-tik).

According to Stephen Levinson:

“Deixis concerns the ways in which languages encode...features of the context of


utterance ... and thus also concerns ways in which the interpretation of utterances depends
on the analysis of that context of utterance.”

Deixis is an important field of language study in its own right - and very important for
learners of second languages. But it has some relevance to analysis of conversation and
pragmatics. It is often and best described as “verbal pointing”, that is to say pointing by
means of language. The linguistic forms of this pointing are called deictic expressions,
deictic markers or deictic words; they are also sometimes called indexicals.

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Deictic expressions include such lexemes as:

• Personal or possessive pronouns (I/you/mine/yours),


• Demonstrative pronouns (this/that),
• (Spatial/temporal) adverbs (here/there/now),
• Other pro-forms (so/do),
• Personal or possessive adjectives (my/your),
• Demonstrative adjectives (this/that),
• Articles (the).

Deixis refers to the world outside a text. Reference to the context surrounding an
utterance is often referred to as primary deixis, exophoric deixis or simply deixis alone.
Primary deixis is used to point to a situation outside a text (situational deixis) or to the
speaker's and hearer's (shared) knowledge of the world (knowledge deixis).

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Contextual use of deictic expressions is known as secondary deixis, textual deixis or


endophoric deixis. Such expressions can refer either backwards or forwards to other
elements in a text:

• Anaphoric deixis is backward pointing, and is the norm in English texts.


Examples include demonstrative pronouns: such, said, similar, (the) same.
• Cataphoric deixis is forward pointing. Examples include: the following, certain,
some (“the speaker raised some objections...”), this (“Let me say this...”), these,
several.

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Deictic expressions fall into three categories:

• Personal deixis (you, us),


• Spatial deixis (here, there) and
• Temporal deixis (now, then).

Deixis is clearly tied to the speaker's context, the most basic distinction being between
near the speaker (proximal) and away from the speaker (distal).

• Proximal deictic expressions include this, here and now.


• Distal deictic expressions include that, there and then.

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Proximal expressions are generally interpreted in relation to the speaker's location or


deictic centre. For example now is taken to mean some point or period in time that
matches the time of the speaker's utterance. When we read, “Now Barabbas was a thief”
(John 18.40) we do not take the statement to mean the same as “Barabbas was now a
thief” (i.e. he had become a thief, having not been so before). Rather we read it as St.
John's writing, “I'm telling you now, that Barabbas was (not now but at the time in the
past when these events happened) a thief”.

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Personal deixis

English does not use personal deixis to indicate rela

Introduction The politeness principle


What is pragmatics? Deixis
What does pragmatics include? Pragmatics of written texts
Criticisms of pragmatics Pragmatics for exam students
Speech acts Further reading
Conversational implicature Books
The given/new distinction Download this guide
Names and addresses Maximize this page

Introduction

This guide is written for students who are following GCE Advanced level (AS and A2)
syllabuses in English Language. This resource may also be of general interest to language
students on university degree courses, trainee teachers and anyone with a general interest
in language science.

If you are unsure whether to spend time finding out about this subject, you might like to
jump straight to the brief section on pragmatics for exam students.

On this page I use red type for emphasis. Brown type is used where italics would appear
in print (in this screen font, italic looks like this, and is unkind on most readers).
Headings have their own hierarchical logic, too:

Main section headings look like this

Sub-section headings look like this

Minor headings within sub-sections look like this

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What is pragmatics?
“We human beings are odd compared with our nearest animal relatives. Unlike them, we
can say what we want, when we want. All normal humans can produce and understand any
number of new words and sentences. Humans use the multiple options of language often
without thinking. But blindly, they sometimes fall into its traps. They are like spiders who
exploit their webs, but themselves get caught in the sticky strands.”

Jean Aitchison

“Pragmatics studies the factors that govern our choice of language in social interaction and
the effects of our choice on others.”

David Crystal

“Pragmatics is all about the meanings between the lexis and the grammar and the
phonology...Meanings are implied and the rules being followed are unspoken, unwritten
ones.”

George Keith

“Pragmatics is a way of investigating how sense can be made of certain texts even when,
from a semantic viewpoint, the text seems to be either incomplete or to have a different
meaning to what is really intended. Consider a sign seen in a children's wear shop window:
“Baby Sale - lots of bargains”. We know without asking that there are no babies are for
sale - that what is for sale are items used for babies. Pragmatics allows us to investigate
how this “meaning beyond the words” can be understood without ambiguity. The extra
meaning is there, not because of the semantic aspects of the words themselves, but because
we share certain contextual knowledge with the writer or speaker of the text.

“Pragmatics is an important area of study for your course. A simplified way of thinking
about pragmatics is to recognise, for example, that language needs to be kept interesting - a
speaker or writer does not want to bore a listener or reader, for example, by being over-
long or tedious. So, humans strive to find linguistic means to make a text, perhaps, shorter,
more interesting, more relevant, more purposeful or more personal. Pragmatics allows this.

Steve Campsall

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Pragmatics is a systematic way of explaining language use in context. It seeks to explain


aspects of meaning which cannot be found in the plain sense of words or structures, as
explained by semantics. As a field of language study, pragmatics is fairly new. Its origins
lie in philosophy of language and the American philosophical school of pragmatism. As a
discipline within language science, its roots lie in the work of (Herbert) Paul Grice on
conversational implicature and the cooperative principle, and on the work of Stephen
Levinson, Penelope Brown and Geoff Leech on politeness.

We can illustrate how pragmatics works by an example from association football (and
other field sports). It sometimes happens that a team-mate will shout at me: “Man on!”
Semantic analysis can only go so far with this phrase.

• For example, it can elicit different lexical meanings of the noun “man” (mankind
or the human race, an individual person, a male person specifically) and the
preposition “on” (on top of, above, or other relationships as in “on fire”, “on
heat”, “on duty”, “on the fiddle” or “on the telly”).
• And it can also explain structural meaning, and account for the way this phrase
works in longer sequences such as the “first man on the moon”, “a man on the
run” or “the man on top of the Clapham omnibus”.

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None of this explains the meaning in the context of the football game. This is very
complex, but perhaps includes at least the following elements:

• My team-mate has seen another player's movement, and thinks that I have either
not seen it, or have not responded to it appropriately.
• My team-mate wants me to know that I am likely to be tackled or impeded in
some way.
• My team-mate wants me to respond appropriately, as by shielding the ball,
passing it to an unmarked player, laying it off for another team-mate and so on.
• My team-mate has an immediate concern for me, but this is really subordinated to
a more far-sighted desire for me, as a player on his team, to protect the ball or
retain possession, as this will make our team more likely to gain an advantage.
• My team-mate understands that my opponent will also hear the warning, but
thinks that his hearing it will not harm our team's chances as much as my not
being aware of the approaching player.
• My team-mate foresees that I may rebuke him (and the other players on our team
collectively) if no-one, from a better vantage point, alerts me to the danger.

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If this is right (or even part of it), it is clear that my team-mate could not, in the time
available, (that is, before the opponent tackles me) communicate this information in the
explicit manner above. But it also relies on my knowing the methods of language
interchange in football. “Man on” is an established form of warning. For all I know,
professional players may have their own covert forms, as when they signal a routine at a
free kick, corner or throw-in, by calling a number or other code word.
Also, though my team-mate is giving me information, in the context of the game, he is
chiefly concerned about my taking the right action. If response to the alert becomes like a
conditioned reflex (I hear the warning and at once lay the ball off or pass), then my
contribution to the team effort will be improved. (Reflection on how I play the game is
fine after the match, but not helpful at moments when I have to take action.) Note also,
that though I have assumed this to be in a game played by men, the phrase “Man on” is
used equally in mixed-gender and women's sports - I have heard it frequently in games of
field hockey, where the “Man” about to be “on” was a female player. “Woman on”
would be inefficient (extra syllable and a difficult intial “w” sound), and might even lead
the uncritical player to worry less about the approaching tackle - though probably not
more than once.

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We use language all the time to make things happen. We ask someone to pass the salt or
marry us - not, usually at the same time. We order a pizza or make a dental appointment.
Speech acts include asking for a glass of beer, promising to drink the beer, threatening to
drink more beer, ordering someone else to drink some beer, and so on. Some special
people can do extraordinary things with words, like baptizing a baby, declaring war,
awarding a penalty kick to Arsenal FC or sentencing a convict.

Linguists have called these things “speech acts” - and developed a theory (called,
unsurprisingly, “speech act theory”) to explain how they work. Some of this is rooted in
common sense and stating the obvious - as with felicity conditions. These explain that
merely saying the words does not accomplish the act. Judges (unless they are also
referees) cannot award penalty kicks to Arsenal, and football referees (unless they are
also heads of state) cannot declare war.

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Speech act theory is not the whole of pragmatics, but is perhaps currently the most
important established part of the subject. Contemporary debate in pragmatics often
focuses on its relations with semantics. Since semantics is the study of meaning in
language, why add a new field of study to look at meaning from a novel viewpoint?

This is an elementary confusion. Clearly linguists could develop a model of semantics


that included pragmatics. Or they could produce a model for each, which allows for some
exploration and explanation of the boundary between them - but distinguishes them as in
some way different kinds of activity. However, there is a consensus view that pragmatics
as a separate study is necessary because it explains meanings that semantics overlooks.

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What does pragmatics include?


The lack of a clear consensus appears in the way that no two published accounts list the
same categories of pragmatics in quite the same order. But among the things you should
know about are:

• Speech act theory


• Felicity conditions
• Conversational implicature
• The cooperative principle
• Conversational maxims
• Relevance
• Politeness
• Phatic tokens
• Deixis

This guide contains some explanation of all of these, as well as related or peripheral
subjects. Many of them break down further into their own sub-categories, as with the
different kinds of speech acts that linguists have usefully distinguished.

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Criticisms of pragmatics

Some of the criticisms directed at pragmatics include these:

• It does not have a clear-cut focus


• Its principles are vague and fuzzy
• It is redundant - semantics already covers the territory adequately

In defending pragmatics we can say that:

• The study of speech acts has illuminated social language interactions


• It covers things that semantics (hitherto) has overlooked
• It can help inform strategies for teaching language
• It has given new insights into understanding literature
• The theories of the cooperative principle and politeness principle have provided
insights into person-to-person interactions.

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Speech acts
Performatives | The “hereby” test | Felicity conditions

The philosopher J.L. Austin (1911-1960) claims that many utterances (things people say)
are equivalent to actions. When someone says: “I name this ship” or “I now pronounce
you man and wife”, the utterance creates a new social or psychological reality. We can
add many more examples:

• Sergeant Major: Squad, by the left… left turn!


• Referee: (Pointing to the centre circle) Goal!
• Groom: With this ring, I thee wed.

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Speech act theory broadly explains these utterances as having three parts or aspects:
locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts.

• Locutionary acts are simply the speech acts that have taken place.
• Illocutionary acts are the real actions which are performed by the utterance,
where saying equals doing, as in betting, plighting one's troth, welcoming and
warning.
• Perlocutionary acts are the effects of the utterance on the listener, who accepts
the bet or pledge of marriage, is welcomed or warned.

Some linguists have attempted to classify illocutionary acts into a number of categories
or types. David Crystal, quoting J.R. Searle, gives five such categories: representatives,
directives, commissives, expressives and declarations. (Perhaps he would have preferred
declaratives, but this term was already taken as a description of a kind of sentence that
expresses a statement.)

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• Representatives: here the speaker asserts a proposition to be true, using such verbs
as: affirm, believe, conclude, deny, report.
• Directives: here the speaker tries to make the hearer do something, with such
words as: ask, beg, challenge, command, dare, invite, insist, request.
• Commissives: here the speaker commits himself (or herself) to a (future) course
of action, with verbs such as: guarantee, pledge, promise, swear, vow, undertake,
warrant.
• Expressives: the speaker expresses an attitude to or about a state of affairs, using
such verbs as: apologize, appreciate, congratulate, deplore, detest, regret, thank,
welcome.
• Declarations the speaker alters the external status or condition of an object or
situation, solely by making the utterance: I now pronounce you man and wife, I
sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you be dead, I name this ship...

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Performatives

These are speech acts of a special kind where the utterance of the right words by the right
person in the right situation effectively is (or accomplishes) the social act. In some cases,
the speech must be accompanied by a ceremonial or ritual action. Whether the speaker in
fact has the social or legal (or other kind of) standing to accomplish the act depends on
some things beyond the mere speaking of the words. These are felicity conditions, which
we can also explain by the “hereby” test. But let's look, first, at some examples.

In the Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 19, verses 13-20) we read of some exorcists in
Ephesus who tried to copy St. Paul and cast out evil spirits in the name of Jesus: “I adjure
you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims”. On one occasion the possessed man (or the evil
spirit) attacked them, and said, “Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you?”
Evidently St. Paul not only knew the words, but also had the means to call on divine aid
for his exorcisms. In a slightly similar vein, Claudius, in Hamlet, sees that his prayer is
ineffectual because “Words without thoughts never to Heaven go”.

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Outside of miracle or magic, there are social realities that can be enacted by speech,
because we all accept the status of the speaker in the appropriate situation. This is an idea
expressed in the American Declaration of Independence where we read, “Governments
are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed”.

Here are some examples from different spheres of human activity, where performatives
are found at work. These are loose categories, and many performatives belong to more
than one of them:

• Universities and schools: conferring of degrees, rusticating or excluding students.


• The church: baptizing, confirming and marrying, exorcism, commination
(cursing) and excommunication.
• Governance and civic life: crowning of monarchs, dissolution of Parliament,
passing legislation, awarding honours, ennobling or decorating.
• The law: enacting or enforcing of various judgements, passing sentence, swearing
oaths and plighting one's troth.
• The armed services: signing on, giving an order to attack, retreat or open fire.
• Sport: cautioning or sending off players, giving players out, appealing for a
dismissal or declaring (closing an innings) in cricket.
• Business: hiring and firing, establishing a verbal contract, naming a ship.
• Gaming: placing a bet, raising the stakes in poker.

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The “hereby” test

One simple but crude way to decide whether a speech act is of such a kind that we can
aptly call it a performative is to insert the word “hereby” between subject and verb. If the
resulting utterance makes sense, then the speech act is probably a performative. For
example,

• “I hereby confer upon you the honourable degree of Bachelor of Arts…”


• “I hereby sentence you to three months' probation, suspended for a year…”
• “I hereby appoint you Grandmaster of the Ancient, Scandalous and Disreputable
Order of Friends of the Hellfire Club …”

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It is crude, because it implies at least one felicity condition - whatever it is to which


“hereby” refers. In the first example, “hereby” may refer to a physical action (touching on
the head or shoulder with a ceremonial staff or mace, say). In the second example it may
refer to the speaker's situation - in sitting as chairman of the bench of magistrates. The
third example is my (plausible) invention - showing how all sorts of private groups
(Freemasons, Rotarians, even the school Parent Teacher Association) can have their own
agreements, which give to some speakers the power to enact performatives.

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Felicity conditions

Preparatory conditions | conditions for execution | sincerity conditions

These are conditions necessary to the success of a speech act. They take their name from
a Latin root - “felix” or “happy”. They are conditions needed for success or achievement
of a performative. Only certain people are qualified to declare war, baptize people or
sentence convicted felons. In some cases, the speaker must be sincere (as in apologizing
or vowing). And external circumstances must be suitable: “Can you give me a lift?”
requires that the hearer has a motor vehicle, is able to drive it somewhere and that the
speaker has a reason for the request. It may be that the utterance is meant as a joke or
sarcasm, in which case a different interpretation is in order. Loosely speaking, felicity
conditions are of three kinds: preparatory conditions, conditions for execution and
sincerity conditions.

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Preparatory conditions

Preparatory conditions include the status or authority of the speaker to perform the
speech act, the situation of other parties and so on.

So, in order to confirm a candidate, the speaker must be a bishop; but a mere priest can
baptize people, while various ministers of religion and registrars may solemnize
marriages (in England). In the case of marrying, there are other conditions - that neither
of the couple is already married, that they make their own speech acts, and so on. We
sometimes speculate about the status of people (otherwise free to marry) who act out a
wedding scene in a play or film - are they somehow, really, married? In Romeo and
Juliet, Shakespeare has no worries, because the words of the ceremony are not spoken on
stage, and, anyway, Juliet's part is played by a boy. (Though this may make the wedding
scene seem blasphemous to some in the audience.)

In the UK only the monarch can dissolve parliament. A qualified referee can caution a
player, if he or she is officiating in a match. The referee's assistant (who, in the higher
leagues, is also a qualified referee) cannot do this.

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The situation of the utterance is important. If the US President jokingly “declares” war on
another country in a private conversation, then the USA is not really at war. This, in fact,
happened (on 11 August 1984), when Ronald Reagan made some remarks off-air, as he
thought, but which have been recorded for posterity:

“My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will
outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Click on the link below to listen to this speech as a sound file in wav format. You will
need a sound card, speakers or headphones and suitable software (such as Windows™
Media Player or RealPlayer™) to listen to the file.

• Listen to Ronald Reagan's 1984 off-air speech.

One hopes that this utterance also failed in terms of sincerity conditions.

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Conditions for execution

Conditions for execution can assume an exaggerated importance. We are so used to a


ritual or ceremonial action accompanying the speech act that we believe the act is
invalidated, if the action is lacking - but there are few real examples of this.

Take refereeing of association football. When a referee cautions a player, he (or she)
should take the player's name, number and note the team for which he plays. The referee
may also display a yellow card, but this is not necessary to the giving of the caution:

“The mandatory use of the cards is merely a simple aid for better communication.”

The Football Association (1998); Advice on the Application of the Laws of the Game, p. 9

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In knighting their subjects, English monarchs traditionally touch the recipient of the
honour on both shoulders with the flat side of a sword blade. But this, too, is not
necessary to the performance of the speech act.

A story is told in Oxford of a young man, taking his final exams, who demanded a pint of
beer from the invigilators. He pointed out that he was wearing his sword, as required by
the mediaeval statute that made provision for the drink. The invigilator (exam
supervisor), believing the young man's version of events, brought the beer, but checked
the statutes. Later the young man received a fine - he had not, as the statute also required,
been wearing his spurs. The story may well be an urban myth (the writer heard it several
times from different sources), but illustrates neatly a condition of execution.

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Sincerity conditions

At a simple level these show that the speaker must really intend what he or she says. In
the case of apologizing or promising, it may be impossible for others to know how
sincere the speaker is. Moreover sincerity, as a genuine intention (now) is no assurance
that the apologetic attitude will last, or that the promise will be kept. There are some
speech acts - such as plighting one's troth or taking an oath - where this sincerity is
determined by the presence of witnesses. The one making the promise will not be able
later to argue that he or she didn't really mean it.

A more complex example comes in the classroom where the teacher asks a question, but
the pupil supposes that the teacher knows the answer and is, therefore, not sincere in
asking it. In this case “Can you, please, tell me X?” may be more acceptable to the child
than “What is X?”

We can also use our understanding of sincerity conditions humorously, where we ask
others, or promise ourselves, to do things which we think the others know to be
impossible: “Please can you make it sunny tomorrow?”

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Conversational implicature

Conversational maxims | Relevance

In a series of lectures at Harvard University in 1967, the English language philosopher


H.P. (Paul) Grice outlined an approach to what he termed conversational implicature -
how hearers manage to work out the complete message when speakers mean more than
they say. An example of what Grice meant by conversational implicature is the utterance:
“Have you got any cash on you?”

where the speaker really wants the hearer to understand the meaning:

“Can you lend me some money? I don't have much on me.”

The conversational implicature is a message that is not found in the plain sense of the
sentence. The speaker implies it. The hearer is able to infer (work out, read between the
lines) this message in the utterance, by appealing to the rules governing successful
conversational interaction. Grice proposed that implicatures like the second sentence can
be calculated from the first, by understanding three things:

• The usual linguistic meaning of what is said.


• Contextual information (shared or general knowledge).
• The assumption that the speaker is obeying what Grice calls the cooperative
principle.

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Conversational maxims and the cooperative principle

The success of a conversation depends upon the various speakers' approach to the
interaction. The way in which people try to make conversations work is sometimes called
the cooperative principle. We can understand it partly by noting those people who are
exceptions to the rule, and are not capable of making the conversation work. We may
also, sometimes, find it useful deliberately to infringe or disregard it - as when we receive
an unwelcome call from a telephone salesperson, or where we are being interviewed by a
police officer on suspicion of some terrible crime.

Paul Grice proposes that in ordinary conversation, speakers and hearers share a
cooperative principle. Speakers shape their utterances to be understood by hearers. The
principle can be explained by four underlying rules or maxims. (David Crystal calls them
conversational maxims. They are also sometimes named Grice's or Gricean maxims.)

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They are the maxims of quality, quantity, relevance and manner.

• Quality: speakers should be truthful. They should not say what they think is false,
or make statements for which they have no evidence.
• Quantity: a contribution should be as informative as is required for the
conversation to proceed. It should be neither too little, nor too much. (It is not
clear how one can decide what quantity of information satisfies the maxim in a
given case.)
• Relevance: speakers' contributions should relate clearly to the purpose of the
exchange.
• Manner: speakers' contributions should be perspicuous: clear, orderly and brief,
avoiding obscurity and ambiguity.

Grice does not of course prescribe the use of such maxims. Nor does he (I hope) suggest
that we use them artificially to construct conversations. But they are useful for analysing
and interpreting conversation, and may reveal purposes of which (either as speaker or
listener) we were not previously aware. Very often, we communicate particular non-
literal meanings by appearing to “violate” or “flout” these maxims. If you were to hear
someone described as having “one good eye”, you might well assume the person's other
eye was defective, even though nothing had been said about it at all.

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Relevance

Some linguists (such as Howard Jackson and Peter Stockwell, who call it a
“Supermaxim”) single out relevance as of greater importance than Grice recognised
(Grice gives quality and manner as supermaxims). Assuming that the cooperative
principle is at work in most conversations, we can see how hearers will try to find
meaning in utterances that seem meaningless or irrelevant. We assume that there must be
a reason for these. Jackson and Stockwell cite a conversation between a shopkeeper and a
16-year old customer:

Customer: Just these, please.


Shopkeeper: Are you eighteen?
Customer: Oh, I'm from Middlesbrough.
Shopkeeper: (after a brief pause) OK (serves beer to him).

Jackson H., and Stockwell, P. (1996), An Introduction to the Nature and Functions of
Language, p. 142

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Jackson and Stockwell suggest that “there is no explanation for [the customer's] bizarre
reply”. Perhaps this should be qualified: we cannot be sure what the explanation is, but
we can find some plausible answer. Possible explanations might include these:

• The young man thought his being from Middlesbrough might explain whatever it
was about him that had made the shopkeeper suspicious about his youth.
• The young man thought the shopkeeper's question was provoked by his unfamiliar
manner of speaking, so he wanted to explain this.
• The young man was genuinely flustered and said the first thing he could think of,
while trying to think of a better reason for his looking under-age.
• The young man thought that the shopkeeper might treat someone from
Middlesbrough in a more indulgent manner than people from elsewhere.
Jackson and Stockwell suggest further that the shopkeeper “derived some inference or
other” from the teenager's reply, since she served him the beer. It might of course be that
she had raised the question (how old is this customer?) once, but when he appeared to
have misunderstood it, was not ready to ask it again or clarify it - perhaps because this
seemed too much like hard work, and as a stranger, the teenager would be unlikely to
attract attention (from the police or trading standards officers) as a regular under-age
purchaser of beer.

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In analysing utterances and searching for relevance we can use a hierarchy of


propositions - those that might be asserted, presupposed, entailed or inferred from any
utterance.

• Assertion: what is asserted is the obvious, plain or surface meaning of the


utterance (though many utterances are not assertions of anything).
• Presupposition: what is taken for granted in the utterance. “I saw the Mona Lisa in
the Louvre” presupposes that the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre.
• Entailments: logical or necessary corollaries of an utterance, thus, the above
example entails:
o I saw something in the Louvre.
o I saw something somewhere.
o Something was seen.
o There is a Louvre.
o There is a Mona Lisa, and so on.
• Inferences: these are interpretations that other people draw from the utterance, for
which we cannot always directly account. From this example, someone might
infer, rationally, that the Mona Lisa is, or was recently, on show to the public.
They might infer, less rationally, that the speaker has been to France recently -
because if the statement were about something from years ago, he or she would
have said so.

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The given/new distinction

In conveying a message, we should think about more than just “who did what to whom”.
We also have to keep in mind what our listeners know already, and how to present the
message in an intelligible and coherent manner.

We should not assume that our listeners have particular knowledge. Even if we are sure
they do have knowledge of something about which we wish to speak, we may need to
introduce it, or recall what they already know. Our listeners may do this for us, as when
one's parent, irked by a personal pronoun demands to know: “Who's she? The cat's
mother?”

Similarly, we should not introduce familiar things as if they were new. This may seem
patronizing, but can also be confusing, since our listeners may try to find a new
interpretation to match our implication of novelty.

One way in which we show that information is new is by using nouns. Once it is familiar
we refer (back) to it by using deictic pronouns - like “this” or “it”.

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Names and addresses

T and V pronouns | Titles and names

T and V pronouns

Some languages have different forms for “you” (French “tu/vous”, German “du/Sie”,
for example). These may originally have indicated number (“vous” and “Sie”) used for
plural forms, but now show different levels of formality, with “tu” and “du” being more
familiar, “vous” and “Sie” more polite. In English this was shown historically by the
contrast between “you” and “thou/thee”. The “thou” form survives in some dialects,
while other familiar pronoun forms are “youse” (Liverpool) and “you-all” (southern
USA). Where it is possible to make the distinction, this is known as a T/V system of
address.

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In this system the V form is a marker of politeness or deference. It may also be a marker
of status, with the V form used to superiors, the T form to equals or inferiors. T forms are
also used to express solidarity or intimacy. The T form is found in Shakespeare's plays,
where it almost always shows the speaker's attitude to status and situation. A king is
“your majesty” or “you” but a peasant is “thou”. It may be an insult, as when Tybalt
addresses Romeo as “thou” (“Romeo, thou art a villain”; Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene
3). It is also found in petrified or “frozen” language forms, such as the stylized speech of
the Society of Friends (“Quakers”) or other non-conformist groups, like Mennonites or
the Pennsylvania Amish, in orders of service and prayers. Oddly, many modern speakers
think that “thou” (being “old”) is more formal or courteous than “you” - when the
reverse is the case!

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Titles and names


In English, we also express status and attitude through titles, first names and last names.
Titles are such things as Professor, Dr, Sir, Dame, Fr. (Father), Mr, Mrs, Miss, Rabbi,
Sr. (Sister) and, in the USA, even such things as coach and chef. Note that we abbreviate
some of these in writing, but not in speaking - we write “Mr.” but say “mister”. First
names may be given names (Fred, Susan) but include epithets such as chief, guv, mate,
man, pal. Last names are usually family names. In general, use of these on their own
suggests lack of deference (“Oi, Smith...”) but in some contexts (public schools, the
armed forces) they are norms. If one speaker uses title and last name (TLN), and the other
first name (FN) only, we infer difference in status. The social superior (the FN speaker)
may invite the inferior to use FN in response:

A: Professor Cringeworthy? B: Do call me Cuthbert.


A: Lord Archer? B: Please, it's Jeffrey.

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In schools teachers use FN (or FNLN when reprimanding or being sarcastic) in speaking
to pupils and receive T (“Sir”) or TLN (“Miss Brodie”) in reply. “Miss” is addressed to
women teachers, even where the speaker knows or believes them to be married.

In English avoidance of address is often acceptable - thus where French speakers say
“Bonsoir, Monsieur”, English speakers may say merely, “Good evening” (Omitting the
address in France would seem impolite.)

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The politeness principle

Leech's maxims | Face and politeness strategies | Examples from Brown and Levinson |
Phatic tokens

The politeness principle is a series of maxims, which Geoff Leech has proposed as a way
of explaining how politeness operates in conversational exchanges. Leech defines
politeness as forms of behaviour that establish and maintain comity. That is the ability of
participants in a social interaction to engage in interaction in an atmosphere of relative
harmony. In stating his maxims Leech uses his own terms for two kinds of illocutionary
acts. He calls representatives “assertives”, and calls directives “impositives”.

• Each maxim is accompanied by a sub-maxim (between square brackets), which is


of less importance. These support the idea that negative politeness (avoidance of
discord) is more important than positive politeness (seeking concord).
• Not all of the maxims are equally important. For instance, tact influences what we
say more powerfully than does generosity, while approbation is more important
than modesty.
• Note also that speakers may adhere to more than one maxim of politeness at the
same time. Often one maxim is on the forefront of the utterance, with a second
maxim being invoked by implication.
• If politeness is not communicated, we can assume that the politeness attitude is
absent.

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Leech's maxims

• Tact maxim (in directives [impositives] and commissives): minimise cost to other;
[maximise benefit to other]
• Generosity maxim (in directives and commissives): minimise benefit to self;
[maximise cost to self]
• Approbation maxim (in expressives and representatives [assertives]): minimise
dispraise of other; [maximise praise of other]
• Modesty maxim (in expressives and representatives): minimise praise of self;
[maximise dispraise of self]
• Agreement maxim (in representatives): minimise disagreement between self and
other; [maximise agreement between self and other]
• Sympathy maxim (in representatives): minimise antipathy between self and other;
[maximise sympathy between self and other]

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Face and politeness strategies

“Face” (as in “lose face”) refers to a speaker's sense of linguistic and social identity.
Any speech act may impose on this sense, and is therefore face threatening. And speakers
have strategies for lessening the threat. Positive politeness means being complimentary
and gracious to the addressee (but if this is overdone, the speaker may alienate the other
party). Negative politeness is found in ways of mitigating the imposition:

• Hedging: Er, could you, er, perhaps, close the, um , window?


• Pessimism: I don't suppose you could close the window, could you?
• Indicating deference: Excuse me, sir, would you mind if I asked you to close the
window?
• Apologizing: I'm terribly sorry to put you out, but could you close the window?
• Impersonalizing: The management requires all windows to be closed.

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A good illustration of a breach of these strategies comes from Alan Bleasdale's 1982 TV
drama, The Boys from the Black Stuff, where the unemployed Yosser Hughes greets
potential employers with the curt demand: “Gizza job!”
Perhaps the most thorough treatment of the concept of politeness is that of Penelope
Brown and Stephen Levinson, which was first published in 1978 and then reissued, with
a long introduction, in 1987. In their model, politeness is defined as redressive action
taken to counter-balance the disruptive effect of face-threatening acts (FTAs).

In their theory, communication is seen as potentially dangerous and antagonistic. A


strength of their approach over that of Geoff Leech is that they explain politeness by
deriving it from more fundamental notions of what it is to be a human being. The basic
notion of their model is “face”. This is defined as “the public self-image that every
member (of society) wants to claim for himself”. In their framework, face consists of two
related aspects.

• One is negative face, or the rights to territories, freedom of action and freedom
from imposition - wanting your actions not to be constrained or inhibited by
others.
• The other is positive face, the positive consistent self-image that people have and
their desire to be appreciated and approved of by at least some other people.

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The rational actions people take to preserve both kinds of face, for themselves and the
people they interact with, add up to politeness. Brown and Levinson also argue that in
human communication, either spoken or written, people tend to maintain one another's
face continuously.

In everyday conversation, we adapt our conversation to different situations. Among


friends we take liberties or say things that would seem discourteous among strangers.
And we avoid over-formality with friends. In both situations we try to avoid making the
hearer embarrassed or uncomfortable. Face-threatening acts (FTAs) are acts that infringe
on the hearers' need to maintain his/her self-esteem, and be respected. Politeness
strategies are developed for the main purpose of dealing with these FTAs. Suppose I see a
crate of beer in my neighbour's house. Being thirsty, I might say:

• I want some beer.


• Is it OK for me to have a beer?
• I hope it's not too forward, but would it be possible for me to have a beer?
• It's so hot. It makes you really thirsty.

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Brown and Levinson sum up human politeness behaviour in four strategies, which
correspond to these examples: bald on record, negative politeness, positive politeness,
and off-record-indirect strategy.

• The bald on-record strategy does nothing to minimize threats to the hearer's
“face”
• The positive politeness strategy shows you recognize that your hearer has a desire
to be respected. It also confirms that the relationship is friendly and expresses
group reciprocity.
• The negative politeness strategy also recognizes the hearer's face. But it also
recognizes that you are in some way imposing on them. Some other examples
would be to say, “I don't want to bother you but...” or “I was wondering if...”
• Off-record indirect strategies take some of the pressure off of you. You are trying
to avoid the direct FTA of asking for a beer. Instead you would rather it be
offered to you once your hearer sees that you want one.

These strategies are not universal - they are used more or less frequently in other cultures.
For example, in some eastern societies the off-record-indirect strategy will place on your
hearer a social obligation to give you anything you admire. So speakers learn not to
express admiration for expensive and valuable things in homes that they visit.

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Examples from Brown and Levinson's politeness strategies

Bald on-record | positive politeness | negative politeness | off-record-indirect


Bald on-record

• An emergency: Help!
• Task oriented: Give me those!
• Request: Put your jacket away.
• Alerting: Turn your lights on! (while driving)

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Positive Politeness

• Attend to the hearer: You must be hungry, it's a long time since breakfast. How
about some lunch?
• Avoid disagreement: A: What is she, small? B: Yes, yes, she's small, smallish,
um, not really small but certainly not very big.
• Assume agreement: So when are you coming to see us?
• Hedge opinion: You really should sort of try harder.

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Negative Politeness

• Be indirect: I'm looking for a pen.


• Request forgiveness: You must forgive me but....
• Minimize imposition: I just want to ask you if I could use your computer?
• Pluralize the person responsible: We forgot to tell you that you needed to by your
plane ticket by yesterday.
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Off-record (indirect)

• Give hints: It's a bit cold in here.


• Be vague: Perhaps someone should have been more responsible.
• Be sarcastic, or joking: Yeah, he's a real Einstein (rocket scientist, Stephen
Hawking, genius and so on)!

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Phatic tokens

These are ways of showing status by orienting comments to oneself, to the other, or to the
general or prevailing situation (in England this is usually the weather).

• Self-oriented phatic tokens are personal to the speaker: “I'm not up to this” or
“My feet are killing me”.
• Other-oriented tokens are related to the hearer: “Do you work here?” or “You
seem to know what you're doing”.
• A neutral token refers to the context or general state of affairs: “Cold, isn't it?” or
“Lovely flowers”.

A superior shows consideration in an other-oriented token, as when the Queen says to the
factory worker: “It must be jolly hard to make one of those”. The inferior might respond
with a self-oriented token, like “Hard work, this”. On the surface, there is an exchange of
information. In reality there is a suggestion and acceptance of a hierarchy of status. The
factory worker would be unlikely to respond with, “Yes, but it's not half as hard as
travelling the world, trooping the colour, making a speech at Christmas and dissolving
Parliament.”

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Deixis

Personal deixis | Spatial deixis | Temporal deixis

Note: this section is seriously hard. You have been warned. But first, how do you
pronounce it? The term comes from the Greek deiktikos (=“able to show”). This is
related to Greek dèiknymi (dyke-nimmy) meaning “explain” or “prove”. The standard
pronunciation has two syllables (dyke-sis) while the adjective form is deictic (dyke-tik).

According to Stephen Levinson:


“Deixis concerns the ways in which languages encode...features of the context of
utterance ... and thus also concerns ways in which the interpretation of utterances depends
on the analysis of that context of utterance.”

Deixis is an important field of language study in its own right - and very important for
learners of second languages. But it has some relevance to analysis of conversation and
pragmatics. It is often and best described as “verbal pointing”, that is to say pointing by
means of language. The linguistic forms of this pointing are called deictic expressions,
deictic markers or deictic words; they are also sometimes called indexicals.

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Deictic expressions include such lexemes as:

• Personal or possessive pronouns (I/you/mine/yours),


• Demonstrative pronouns (this/that),
• (Spatial/temporal) adverbs (here/there/now),
• Other pro-forms (so/do),
• Personal or possessive adjectives (my/your),
• Demonstrative adjectives (this/that),
• Articles (the).

Deixis refers to the world outside a text. Reference to the context surrounding an
utterance is often referred to as primary deixis, exophoric deixis or simply deixis alone.
Primary deixis is used to point to a situation outside a text (situational deixis) or to the
speaker's and hearer's (shared) knowledge of the world (knowledge deixis).

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Contextual use of deictic expressions is known as secondary deixis, textual deixis or


endophoric deixis. Such expressions can refer either backwards or forwards to other
elements in a text:

• Anaphoric deixis is backward pointing, and is the norm in English texts.


Examples include demonstrative pronouns: such, said, similar, (the) same.
• Cataphoric deixis is forward pointing. Examples include: the following, certain,
some (“the speaker raised some objections...”), this (“Let me say this...”), these,
several.

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Deictic expressions fall into three categories:

• Personal deixis (you, us),


• Spatial deixis (here, there) and
• Temporal deixis (now, then).
Deixis is clearly tied to the speaker's context, the most basic distinction being between
near the speaker (proximal) and away from the speaker (distal).

• Proximal deictic expressions include this, here and now.


• Distal deictic expressions include that, there and then.

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Proximal expressions are generally interpreted in relation to the speaker's location or


deictic centre. For example now is taken to mean some point or period in time that
matches the time of the speaker's utterance. When we read, “Now Barabbas was a thief”
(John 18.40) we do not take the statement to mean the same as “Barabbas was now a
thief” (i.e. he had become a thief, having not been so before). Rather we read it as St.
John's writing, “I'm telling you now, that Barabbas was (not now but at the time in the
past when these events happened) a thief”.

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Personal deixis

English does not use personal deixis to indicate relative social status in the same way that
other languages do (such as those with TV pronoun systems). But the pronoun we has a
potential for ambiguity, i.e. between exclusive we (excludes the hearer) and the hearer-
including (inclusive) we.

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Spatial deixis

The use of proximal and distal expressions in spatial deixis is confused by deictic
projection. This is the speaker's ability to project himself or herself into a location at
which he or she is not yet present. A familiar example is the use of here on telephone
answering machines (“I'm not here at the moment...”). While writing e-mails, I often edit
out the use of here, when I see that the reader will not necessarily understand the
intended meaning. (My here is this room in East Yorkshire, England, while yours may be
this school in Maryland, this flat in Moscow or this university in Melbourne.)

It is likely that the basis of spatial deixis is psychological distance (rather than physical
distance). Usually physical and (metaphorical) psychological distance will appear the
same. But a speaker may wish to mark something physically close as psychologically
distant, as when you indicate an item of food on your plate with “I don't like that”.
Perhaps a better (real example) was Graham Taylor's famous remark on his England
soccer team's conceding a goal: “Do I not like that!” This moment, from the qualifying
competition for the 1994 World Cup, was recorded for, and broadcast on a documentary
film for, Channel 4.

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Temporal deixis

Psychological distance can apply to temporal deixis as well. We can treat temporal events
as things that move towards us (into view) or away from us (out of view). For instance,
we speak of the coming year or the approaching year. This may stem from our
perception of things (like weather storms) which we see approaching both spatially and in
time. We treat the near or immediate future as being close to utterance time by using the
proximal deictic expression this alone, as in “this (that is the next) weekend” or “this
evening” (said earlier in the day).

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Pragmatics of written texts

In an article for e-magazine (April 2000, page 48), George Keith notes that:

“The vast majority of pragmatics studies have been devoted to conversation, where the
silent influence of context and the undercurrents are most fascinating...”

But he goes on to show how written texts of various kinds can be illuminated by
pragmatics, and he cites particular examples from literature. Pragmatics gives us ways
into any written text. Take the following example, which is a headline from the Guardian
newspaper of May 10, 2002. This read:

Health crisis looms as life expectancy soars

If we study the semantics of the headline, we may be puzzled. The metaphor (“soars”)
indicates an increase in the average life-expectancy of the UK population. Most of us are
living longer. So why is this a crisis for health?

Pragmatics supplies the answer. The headline writer assumes that we share his or her
understanding that the crisis is not in the health or longevity of the nation, but in the
financial cost to our society of providing health care for these long-living people. The UK
needs to pay more and employ more people to provide this care. Reading the article will
show this.

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Or take any item of unsolicited mail more or less at random - such as a letter sent to me
by Mr. David Moyes, the manager of Everton Football Club. Mr. Moyes opens with an
invitation: “SUPPORT YOUR TEAM”, followed by the question:

“How would you like to support Everton and receive some excellent benefits at the same
time?”
After this come details of a Platinum Plus credit card and some associated offers of free
gifts. The letter closes with a copy of Mr. Moyes' signature, with his name and position
(“Team Manager”) in print below.

We can conjecture that the immediate writer of this letter is not Mr. Moyes, but someone
with knowledge of financial products, employed by the club to help raise money from
fans. I can be more confident that this is so, since it is only a few months since I received
a near-identical letter, bearing the signature of the previous manager, Mr. Walter Smith.
The writer assumes that he or she is addressing people who have at some point described
themselves as supporters of Everton FC - the mail shot will have gone only to names on a
database of such potential cardholders. Closer inspection suggests that the letter does not
necessarily come from the club, as “Everton” appears in a typeface different from the
surrounding text - prompting the thought that the card issuer (MBNA Europe bank
Limited) is the real source of the letter, and has signed up various sporting clubs to
endorse its product. The card issuer understands that recipients of such offers will rarely
wish to apply for a new credit card, and therefore attempts to exploit my affection for
Everton FC as a novel or sentimental reason to do so. The second half of the opening
sentence may reflect a sense that most supporters do not receive “excellent benefits at the
same time” - though perhaps the humour here is unintended.

This kind of practical analysis is a good exercise. Sometimes a teacher will need to ask
students to write it, but this will limit how much you can do. It would be better for
members of a teaching group to spend five or ten minutes at least once a week, producing
an unprepared spoken pragmatic reading of texts chosen at random by the teacher or
student.

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Pragmatics for exam students

Pragmatics as an explicit field of study is not compulsory for students taking Advanced
level courses in English Language. But it is one of the five “descriptions of language”
commended by the AQA syllabus B (the others are: lexis, grammar, phonology and
semantics). In some kinds of study it will be odd if some consideration of pragamatics
does not appear in your analysis or interpretation of data.

In commenting on texts you are seeing for the first time, you may need to make use of
some pragmatic concepts, as in this example, from Adrian Attwood:

“We know from the question that Text F is a sales script. The pragmatic consideration of
this text makes us look for features, which are designed to reassure the potential customer
rather than to inform them. Particularly, in this case, where the script is for a telephone
conversation and one of the objects from the sales-person's viewpoint is to keep the other
person talking. This means that the text will try to close off as many potential exits as
possible and therefore be similar to some of the normal co-operative principles of spoken
language.”

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In language investigations or research into language, you can choose whether to


undertake a task in which pragmatic analysis is appropriate. So if you really don't like it
(or fear it), then you should avoid a task where its absence will look suspicious, and draw
attention to your dislike.

One area of language study where pragmatics is more or less unavoidable is any kind of

Pengantar
Panduan ini ditulis untuk mahasiswa yang mengikuti tingkat Advanced GCE (AS dan
A2) silabus dalam Bahasa Inggris. sumberdaya ini mungkin juga kepentingan umum
untuk siswa bahasa pada program sarjana, guru peserta pelatihan dan siapa saja dengan
kepentingan umum dalam ilmu bahasa.
Jika Anda tidak yakin apakah menghabiskan waktu mencari tahu tentang subjek ini,
Anda mungkin ingin langsung melompat ke bagian singkat mengenai pragmatik bagi
siswa ujian.
Pada halaman ini saya menggunakan tipe merah untuk penekanan. Brown tipe digunakan
di mana miring akan muncul di cetak (dalam hal ini font layar, tampak miring seperti ini,
dan tidak baik pada sebagian besar pembaca). Pos memiliki logika sendiri hirarkis
mereka juga:
Judul bagian utama terlihat seperti ini
Sub-bagian pos terlihat seperti ini
pos kecil di dalam sub-bagian terlihat seperti ini
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________________________________________
Apa itu pragmatik?
"Kita manusia yang aneh dibandingkan dengan kerabat terdekat kita hewan. Tidak seperti
mereka, kita dapat mengatakan apa yang kita inginkan, ketika kita inginkan. Semua
manusia normal dapat menghasilkan dan memahami sejumlah kata-kata baru dan
kalimat. Manusia menggunakan beberapa pilihan bahasa sering tanpa berpikir. Tapi
membabi buta, mereka kadang-kadang jatuh ke dalam perangkap tersebut. Mereka adalah
seperti laba-laba yang mengeksploitasi web mereka, tetapi mereka terjebak di untaian
lengket. "

Jean Aitchison
"Pragmatik mempelajari faktor-faktor yang mengatur pilihan kita bahasa dalam interaksi
sosial dan dampak dari pilihan kita pada orang lain."

David Crystal
"Pragmatik adalah semua tentang makna antara lexis dan tata bahasa dan fonologi
yang ... Makna yang tersirat dan aturan-aturan yang diikuti adalah tak terucapkan, yang
tidak tertulis."

George Keith
"Pragmatik adalah cara menyelidiki bagaimana akal dapat dibuat dari teks-teks tertentu
bahkan ketika, dari sudut pandang semantik, teks tampaknya tidak lengkap atau memiliki
arti yang berbeda untuk apa yang sebenarnya dimaksudkan. Pertimbangkan tanda yang
terlihat di jendela toko pakaian anak-anak: "Baby Dijual - banyak tawar-menawar". Kita
tahu tanpa meminta bahwa tidak ada bayi akan dijual - bahwa apa yang untuk dijual item
yang digunakan untuk bayi. Pragmatik memungkinkan kita untuk menyelidiki bagaimana
"yang berarti melampaui kata-kata" dapat dipahami tanpa ambiguitas. Arti ekstra di sana,
bukan karena aspek semantik dari kata-kata sendiri, tetapi karena kita berbagi
pengetahuan kontekstual tertentu dengan penulis atau pembicara dari teks.

"Pragmatik merupakan area yang penting studi untuk program studi Anda. Sebuah cara
sederhana berpikir tentang pragmatik adalah untuk mengenali, misalnya, bahasa yang
perlu disimpan menarik - seorang pembicara atau penulis tidak ingin melahirkan seorang
pendengar atau pembaca, misalnya, dengan menjadi lebih-lama atau membosankan. Jadi,
manusia berusaha untuk mencari cara untuk membuat teks linguistik, mungkin, lebih
pendek, lebih menarik, lebih relevan, lebih terarah atau lebih pribadi. Pragmatik
memungkinkan ini. "

Steve Campsall
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Pragmatik adalah cara sistematis menjelaskan penggunaan bahasa dalam konteks. Itu
berusaha untuk menjelaskan aspek-aspek makna yang tidak dapat ditemukan dalam arti
biasa kata-kata atau struktur, seperti yang dijelaskan oleh semantik. Sebagai bidang studi
bahasa, pragmatik cukup baru. Its asal terletak pada filsafat bahasa dan sekolah filsafat
pragmatisme Amerika. Sebagai disiplin dalam ilmu bahasa, akarnya terletak dalam
pekerjaan (Herbert) Paul Grice tentang implikatur percakapan dan prinsip koperasi, dan
pada karya Stephen Levinson, Penelope Brown dan Geoff Leech pada kesantunan.
Kita bisa menggambarkan bagaimana pragmatik bekerja dengan contoh dari asosiasi
sepak bola (dan olahraga lapangan lainnya). Kadang-kadang terjadi bahwa tim-mate akan
berteriak pada saya: analisis Semantic hanya bisa pergi sejauh ini dengan kalimat ini
"Man on!".
• Sebagai contoh, dapat menimbulkan makna leksikal yang berbeda dari "manusia" kata
benda (manusia atau umat manusia, seorang individu, orang laki-laki khususnya) dan
preposisi "pada" (di atas, di atas, atau hubungan lainnya yang ada di "terbakar", "pada
panas", "bertugas", "pada biola" atau "di TV").
• Dan itu juga bisa menjelaskan makna struktural, dan account untuk cara frase ini
bekerja dalam urutan lagi seperti "manusia pertama di bulan", "seorang pria di jalankan"
atau "pria itu di atas Clapham omnibus".
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Semua ini menjelaskan makna dalam konteks dari permainan sepak bola. Hal ini sangat
kompleks, tapi mungkin termasuk setidaknya unsur-unsur sebagai berikut:
• Tim saya-mate telah melihat gerakan pemain lain, dan berpikir bahwa saya telah baik
tidak melihatnya, atau belum menanggapi secara wajar.
• Tim saya-mate ingin aku tahu bahwa saya mungkin ditangani atau terhalang dalam
beberapa cara.
• Tim saya-mate ingin aku untuk merespon dengan tepat, seperti dengan perisai bola,
melewati ke pemain bertanda, meletakkannya off untuk lain-mate tim dan sebagainya.
• Tim saya-mate memiliki perhatian segera untuk saya, tetapi ini benar-benar tunduk
kepada keinginan yang lebih jauh ke depan bagi saya, sebagai pemain di timnya, untuk
melindungi bola atau mempertahankan kepemilikan, karena hal ini akan membuat tim
kami lebih mungkin untuk mendapatkan keuntungan.
• Tim saya-mate memahami bahwa lawan saya juga akan mendengar peringatan itu,
tetapi berpikir bahwa pendengarannya tidak akan membahayakan peluang tim kita
sebanyak saya tidak menyadari pemain mendekat.
• Tim saya-mate meramalkan bahwa saya dapat tegorlah dia (dan pemain lain di tim kami
secara kolektif) jika tidak ada orang, dari sudut pandang yang lebih baik, peringatan saya
untuk bahaya.
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Jika ini benar (atau bahkan bagian dari itu), jelas bahwa saya tim-mate bisa tidak, dalam
waktu yang tersedia, (yaitu, sebelum lawan menangani saya) mengkomunikasikan
informasi ini dengan cara eksplisit di atas. Tapi juga bergantung pada saya mengetahui
metode pertukaran bahasa di sepak bola. "Man on" adalah bentuk mapan peringatan.
Untuk semua aku tahu, pemain profesional mungkin memiliki bentuk sendiri rahasia,
seperti ketika mereka sinyal rutin di sebuah sudut, tendangan bebas atau lemparan ke
dalam, dengan menghubungi nomor atau kata kode lainnya.
Juga, meskipun tim saya-mate memberikan saya informasi, dalam konteks permainan, ia
terutama prihatin saya mengambil tindakan yang tepat. Jika jawaban untuk mengingatkan
menjadi seperti AC refleks (aku mendengar peringatan dan sekaligus berbaring bola mati
atau lulus), kemudian kontribusi saya terhadap upaya tim akan ditingkatkan. (Refleksi
tentang bagaimana saya bermain permainan baik-baik saja setelah pertandingan, tapi
tidak membantu pada saat-saat ketika aku harus mengambil tindakan.) Perhatikan juga,
bahwa walaupun saya mengasumsikan ini berada dalam permainan yang dimainkan oleh
pria, frase "Manusia pada "digunakan sama dalam campuran gender dan olahraga
perempuan - Aku telah mendengar itu sering dalam permainan hoki lapangan, di mana"
Man "akan menjadi" pada "adalah pemain perempuan. "Woman on" akan menjadi tidak
efisien (suku kata tambahan dan awal sulit "w" suara), dan bahkan bisa memimpin
pemain tidak kritis perlu khawatir kurang tentang mendekati mengatasi - walaupun
mungkin tidak lebih dari sekali.
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Kami menggunakan bahasa sepanjang waktu untuk membuat sesuatu terjadi. Kami
meminta seseorang untuk lulus garam atau menikah kami - tidak, biasanya pada waktu
yang sama. Kami memesan pizza atau membuat janji gigi. Pidato tindakan termasuk
meminta segelas bir, menjanjikan untuk minum bir, mengancam untuk minum bir lebih,
memerintahkan orang lain untuk minum bir, dan sebagainya. Beberapa orang khusus
dapat melakukan hal-hal yang luar biasa dengan kata-kata, seperti membaptis bayi,
menyatakan perang, pemberian tendangan penalti untuk Arsenal FC atau hukuman
seorang narapidana.
Ahli bahasa telah disebut ini "tindak tutur" hal-hal - dan mengembangkan teori (disebut,
tidak mengejutkan, "teori tindak tutur") untuk menjelaskan bagaimana mereka bekerja.
Beberapa hal ini berakar pada akal sehat dan menyatakan yang sudah jelas - seperti
dengan kondisi kebahagiaan. Ini menjelaskan bahwa hanya mengatakan kata-kata tidak
mencapai perbuatan. Hakim (kecuali mereka juga wasit) tidak dapat penghargaan
tendangan penalti Arsenal, dan wasit sepakbola (kecuali mereka juga kepala negara) tidak
dapat mendeklarasikan perang.
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teori tindakan Pidato bukan seluruh pragmatik, tapi mungkin saat ini bagian ditetapkan
paling penting dari subjek. perdebatan kontemporer di pragmatik sering berfokus pada
hubungan dengan semantik. Karena semantik adalah studi tentang makna dalam bahasa,
mengapa menambahkan bidang studi baru untuk melihat makna dari sudut pandang
novel?
Ini adalah kebingungan dasar. Jelas ahli bahasa bisa mengembangkan model semantik
yang mencakup pragmatik. Atau mereka bisa menghasilkan model untuk masing-masing,
yang memungkinkan untuk beberapa eksplorasi dan penjelasan tentang batas antara
mereka - tetapi membedakan mereka sebagai dalam beberapa cara berbagai jenis
kegiatan. Namun, ada pandangan konsensus yang pragmatik sebagai studi terpisah
diperlukan karena menjelaskan makna yang semantik menghadap.
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Apa pragmatik termasuk?
Tidak adanya konsensus yang jelas muncul dalam cara yang tidak ada dua account
diterbitkan daftar kategori yang sama cukup pragmatik dalam urutan yang sama. Tetapi
di antara hal-hal yang perlu anda ketahui tentang adalah:
• Berbicara bertindak Teori
• Felicity Kondisi
• Percakapan implikatur
• Prinsip koperasi
• Percakapan maksim
• Relevansi
• Kesantunan
• Phatic token
• Deixis
Panduan ini berisi beberapa penjelasan tentang semua ini, dan juga sebagai subyek terkait
atau perifer. Banyak dari mereka memecah mereka sendiri lebih lanjut ke sub-kategori,
seperti dengan berbagai jenis tindak tutur yang ahli bahasa telah berguna dibedakan.
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Kritik pragmatik
Beberapa kritik yang ditujukan pragmatik menyertakan:
• Tidak memiliki fokus yang jelas
Prinsip-prinsip • tidak jelas dan fuzzy
• Hal ini berlebihan - semantik telah meliputi wilayah secara memadai
Dalam mempertahankan pragmatik kita dapat mengatakan bahwa:
• Studi tentang tindak tutur telah diterangi interaksi sosial bahasa
• Hal ini mencakup hal-hal yang semantik (sampai sekarang) telah diabaikan
• Hal ini dapat membantu menginformasikan strategi untuk pengajaran bahasa
• Hal ini telah memberikan wawasan baru ke dalam pemahaman literatur
• Teori-teori prinsip koperasi dan prinsip kesantunan telah memberikan wawasan ke
dalam interaksi orang-ke-orang.
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Pidato bertindak
Performatives | The "ini" test | kondisi Felicity
Filsuf JL Austin (1911-1960) mengklaim bahwa banyak ucapan-ucapan (hal-hal yang
orang bilang) yang setara dengan tindakan. Ketika seseorang mengatakan: "Saya nama
kapal ini" atau "Aku sekarang mengucapkan Anda pria dan istri", ucapan yang
menciptakan realitas sosial atau psikologis baru. Kita bisa menambahkan banyak contoh
lagi:
• Sersan Mayor: Squad, dengan berbelok ke kiri ... kiri!
• Wasit: (Menunjuk ke lingkaran tengah) Goal!
• Groom: Dengan cincin ini, aku engkau menikah.
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teori bertindak Pidato luas menjelaskan ucapan-ucapan ini memiliki tiga bagian atau
aspek: locutionary, ilokusi dan bertindak perlocutionary.
• Locutionary tindakan hanya tindak tutur yang telah terjadi.
• ilokusi tindakan adalah tindakan nyata yang dilakukan oleh ucapan, di mana
mengatakan sama lakukan, seperti di taruhan, plighting seseorang kesetiaan, ramah dan
peringatan.
• Perlocutionary tindakan adalah dampak dari ucapan pada pendengar, yang menerima
taruhan atau penjaminan perkawinan, disambut atau diperingatkan.
Beberapa ahli bahasa telah berusaha untuk mengklasifikasikan tindakan ilokusi menjadi
beberapa kategori atau jenis. David Crystal, mengutip JR Searle, memberikan lima
kategori seperti: perwakilan, petunjuk, commissives, expressives dan deklarasi. (Mungkin
ia akan deklaratif disukai, namun istilah ini telah diambil sebagai deskripsi dari jenis
kalimat yang mengekspresikan pernyataan.)
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• Wakil: di sini pembicara menegaskan proposisi benar, menggunakan kata kerja seperti:
laporan menegaskan, percaya, menyimpulkan, menyangkal,.
• Petunjuk: di sini pembicara mencoba untuk membuat si pendengar melakukan sesuatu,
dengan kata-kata seperti: meminta, mengemis, tantangan, perintah, berani, mengundang,
bersikeras, permintaan.
• Commissives: di sini pembicara melakukan sendiri (atau dirinya) ke program (masa
depan) dari tindakan, dengan kata kerja seperti: jaminan, janji, janji, sumpah, sumpah,
melakukan, waran.
• Expressives: pembicara menyatakan sikap ke atau tentang keadaan, dengan
menggunakan verba seperti: minta maaf, menghargai, mengucapkan selamat,
menyayangkan, membenci, menyesal, terima kasih, selamat datang.
• Deklarasi speaker mengubah status eksternal atau kondisi dari suatu obyek atau situasi,
semata-mata dengan membuat ucapan: sekarang saya mengucapkan Anda pria dan istri,
saya kalimat yang Anda akan digantung dengan leher sampai Anda sudah mati, aku nama
kapal ini .. .
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Performatives
Ini adalah pidato tindakan dari jenis yang khusus di mana ucapan kata yang tepat oleh
orang yang tepat dalam situasi yang tepat secara efektif adalah (atau menyelesaikan)
tindakan sosial. Dalam beberapa kasus, pidato harus disertai dengan tindakan upacara
atau ritual. Apakah pembicara dalam kenyataannya memiliki (jenis atau lainnya) sosial
atau hukum berdiri untuk menyelesaikan tindakan tergantung pada beberapa hal di luar
berbicara sekedar dari kata-kata. Ini adalah kebahagiaan kondisi, yang kita juga bisa
menjelaskan dengan uji "ini". Tapi mari kita lihat, pertama, beberapa contoh.
Dalam Kisah Para Rasul (Bab 19, ayat 13-20) kita membaca tentang beberapa pengusir
setan di Efesus yang mencoba untuk menyalin St Paul dan mengusir roh-roh jahat dalam
nama Yesus: "Aku mendesakmu Anda oleh Yesus yang Paulus memproklamasikan ".
Pada suatu kesempatan orang yang dimiliki (atau roh jahat) menyerang mereka, dan
berkata, "Yesus aku tahu dan Paulus aku tahu;? Tetapi siapa kamu" Jelas Paulus tidak
hanya tahu kata-kata, tetapi juga memiliki sarana untuk panggilan pada bantuan ilahi
untuk eksorsisme nya. Dalam nada yang agak serupa, Claudius, di Dukuh, melihat bahwa
shalatnya tidak efektif karena "Kata-kata tanpa pikiran tidak pernah pergi ke Surga".
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Di luar keajaiban atau sihir, ada realitas sosial yang dapat ditetapkan oleh pidato, karena
kita semua menerima status pembicara dalam situasi yang sesuai. Ini adalah ide yang
dinyatakan dalam Deklarasi Kemerdekaan Amerika di mana kita membaca, "Pemerintah
adalah lembaga antara Pria, berasal hanya mereka Powers dari Persetujuan Diatur".
Berikut adalah beberapa contoh dari bidang yang berbeda dari aktivitas manusia, di mana
performatives ditemukan di tempat kerja. Ini adalah kategori longgar, dan banyak
performatives milik lebih dari satu dari mereka:
• Universitas dan sekolah: berunding derajat, rusticating atau tidak termasuk mahasiswa.
eksorsisme membaptis, konfirmasi dan menikah,, commination (mengutuk) dan
pengucilan: • Gereja.
• Pemerintahan dan kehidupan sipil: pembubaran penobatan raja-raja, Parlemen, melalui
undang-undang, pemberian penghargaan, memuliakan atau dekorasi.
• Hukum: memberlakukan atau menegakkan berbagai pertimbangan, melalui kalimat,
sumpah dan plighting kesetiaan seseorang.
• Pelayanan bersenjata: penandatanganan pada, memberikan perintah untuk menyerang,
mundur atau api terbuka.
• Sport: memperingatkan atau mengirim off pemain, memberikan pemain keluar, menarik
untuk pemecatan atau menyatakan (menutup sebuah babak) dalam kriket.
• Bisnis: pengangkatan dan pemberhentian, membangun kontrak lisan, penamaan kapal.
• Gaming: menempatkan taruhan, menaikkan saham di poker.
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The "ini" test