21.3364, Review: Pragmatics: Verschueren & Östman (2009)

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Subject: 21.3364, Review: Pragmatics: Verschueren & Östman (2009)

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Date: 22-Aug-2010
From: Andrea L'episcopo < andrea.lepiscopo at gmail.com >
Subject: Key Notions for Pragmatics

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Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2010 07:16:28
From: Andrea L'episcopo [andrea.lepiscopo at gmail.com]
Subject: Key Notions for Pragmatics

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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/20/20-2494.html 

EDITORS: Verschueren, Jef and Östman, Jan-Ola
TITLE: Key Notions for Pragmatics 
SERIES TITLE: Handbook of Pragmatics Highlights 1
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2009

Andrea L'Episcopo, Philological and Linguistic Sciences Dept., University of Palermo


This volume is the first of a series of ten paperbacks, the ''Handbook of
Pragmatics Highlights'', deriving from the ''Handbook of Pragmatics'' and its
online version.  It is made up of thirteen articles, dealing with some of the
most basic concepts in the field of pragmatics.

The articles are almost all a presentation of the state of the art of the
concepts at hand, and they are complemented by a wide bibliography. The
interplay between the concept at hand and other disciplines is stressed in many

In ''Introduction: The pragmatic perspective'', Jef Verschueren deals with the
heterogeneity of pragmatics' objects and aims, deriving from the heterogeneity
of pragmatic formative traditions. Verschueren distinguishes some main views on
pragmatics: the narrow, focusing on bounded notions such as speech acts; the
componential, according to which pragmatics is a component of linguistic theory;
the broad, stressing its interdisciplinarity. The author's own view sees
pragmatics as a functional perspective on linguistic communication, aiming at
understanding how human beings make communicative choices. These choices are
constrained by: variability, the property of language delimiting the constantly
changing set of alternatives between which to choose; negotiability, a property
of the choice-making itself, by which choices, relying on flexible principles
and strategies, are indeterminate; language adaptability, by which human beings
can make negotiable choices in order to satisfy their communicative needs. This
latter notion is the starting point of pragmatic analysis, which must: a)
identify contextual objects of adaptability; b) situate the adaptability
processes within the appropriate structural layer; c) account for the dynamics
of adaptability; d) evaluate the salience of adaptation processes.  The article
is a very useful overview of the history of pragmatics and of its contemporary
developments; moreover, it proposes an interesting approach to the problem of
delimiting pragmatics. It is not a real introduction to the whole volume,
however, because its exclusive and principled focus on linguistic communication
rules out from the realm of pragmatics non-verbal communication (NVC), some
semiotic topics, and non-human communication.

''Adaptability'', by Verschueren and Frank Brisard, develops the functionalist
approach proposed in the introduction, specifying the evolutionary nature of the
functions of language. The only distinctive feature of human language is
symbolic representation, which is possible only by virtue of self-awareness and
of the projection of this latter onto others. For this reason, language can only
emerge in social interaction, like the conventions upon which the symbolic
nature of human language depends. Once language has emerged, it provides
selective advantages to the individual by consolidating his social relations and
by allowing learning from others. The representational function of language,
then, gives rise to cultural selection, where organisms adapt themselves to the
environment and, at the same time, adapt the environment to themselves:
cognition is then an active process and, as a consequence, adaptability is the
heuristic framework of pragmatics. 

''Channel'', by Stef Slembrouck, develops two arguments against the traditional
opposition between spoken and written language: the first argument stresses the
differences between handwritten and printed texts, claiming that what is seen as
spoken or as written language changes over time; the second argument hinges upon
the overlapping of spoken and written language in television broadcasting. If
the binary distinction between spoken and written language is not tenable, even
a possible scalar distinction between these two kinds of language cannot grasp
the complexity of the communication channel, which depends only on discursive,
situational, institutional and social realities.

''Communication'', by Peter Harder, is a summary of the most meaningful
communicative phenomena, together with a brief historical overview of the most
influential theses on communication. The primacy of philosophical, and so
propositional, knowledge in Western culture has led to the interpretation of
communication as linguistic communication. The same philosophy, however, has
broadened the perspectives on communication: the Wittgensteinian theory of
language games sees the source of the meaning in the interactive use of
language. If to communicate is to act, then to understand is to recognize what
the interlocutor is doing, but in order to perform this recognition we need a
theory of mind, which distinguishes communicative interactions from
non-communicative ones: communication only starts when it is possible to
distinguish a behavior from the message it conveys. This broad view on
communication has led conversation analysis to look at communicative interaction
as the most general and relevant topic, with the study of the linguistic
elements being only one approach among others. 

''Context and contextualization'', by Peter Auer, starts with the programmatic
claim that the relation between text and context is a figure/ground relation:
what counts as text and what as context is only an interpretive matter. The
so-called representational theories, instead, claim that the notion of context
can be replaced by proper paraphrases (semantization of pragmatics), given that
its features are prior to and independent of speaker's activity. Auer contrasts
representational theories by appealing to: a) variation, the choice of a variety
from an inventory of styles or registers, under the constraints represented by
the social categories of the interlocutors; b) subjectivity, the impact of the
speaking subject on all the constituents of the linguistic structure of
utterances, which is affected even by the point of view of the addressee and by
the knowledge shared by the interlocutors. The author distinguishes five
contextual dimensions: linguistic, physical, social, common background
knowledge, and channel of communication. All of these dimensions are present at
the same time in the same linguistic activity. The context is the locus of
occurrence of a focal event; interlocutors contextualize by means of
contextualization cues (indexicals), which underspecify the contexts they point
to, the relation between indexicals and indexed entities being itself
context-dependent. If indexicals ambiguously point to contextual entities, then
interlocutors have to constantly verify that they are dealing with the same
context (which is necessarily interactional) in order to succeed in
communicative interaction. Focal events can be detached from their original
context, as in indirect speech; this detachability is the precondition for the
emergence of literacy.

''Conversational logic'', by Robin Tolmach Lakoff, deals with one of the most
prominent developments of Gricean analysis of discourse. Grice (1975) assumed
that human beings are rational and cooperative; this assumption is summarized in
the Cooperative Principle, complemented by the well known maxims of
conversation. Given that human communicative practice never fully conforms to
these maxims, Grice developed the subsystem of conversational implicatures.
Lakoff sees the latter as subsumed by the Cooperative Principle: if the hearer
cannot make sense of an utterance by maxims alone, then s/he turns to
implicatures. Within this perspective, maxims have to do with the semantics of
utterances, while implicatures convey pragmatic signals. Both maxims and
implicatures are needed in order to perform fully cooperative utterances,
because implicatures are culturally expected by the hearer. It is possible to
distinguish between three kinds of implicatures: standard, arising from the
observation of the maxims; generalized, arising from deviations from maxims and
conveying generally assumed information; particularized, arising from deviations
as well and requiring particular contexts for their interpretation. Implicatures
are different from other deductive processes by virtue of the following
properties: cancellability, i.e. an implicature can be changed by adding
premises to a proposition; nondetachability, i.e. implicatures are linked only
to the meaning of utterances and not to the way it is expressed; calculability,
i.e. it is possible to express the maxims-observing equivalent of an utterance
with implicatures; non-conventionality, i.e. implicatures are not part of the
meaning of any of the word in the utterance; not full determinability, i.e. the
link between the form and the meaning of an implicature is not univocal. As
regard to whether the Cooperative Principle is universal or culture specific,
some cues coming from analyses of Japanese and Malagasy points in favor of a
culture specific reading. The Cooperative Principle seems to depend on the
discourse genre too: if this latter is intended to convey truth and information,
then it will adhere to maxims as strictly as possible, with a great limitation
in the use of implicatures.

''Deixis'', by Jack Sidnell, is a typological study on spatial deixis. Semantic,
morphological and morphosyntactic constraints on deixis in various languages
lead to the identification of five closed functional categories of deixis:
person, space, time, discourse, and social. Spatial deixis can be divided into
absolute, where the relative position of an object is calculated on the basis of
fixed positions; and relative, where the relative position of an object is
calculated with regard to the position of the speaker, and so with regard to the
distance between the former and the latter. Relative spatial deixis implies that
spatial reckoning is not a direct consequence of physical experience, even if
distance is not universally encoded by the systems of spatial demonstratives.
The emphasis on distance comes from three assumptions: concreteness (given that
we all live in a body and in a phenomenal world, the pair ''here-now'' acquires
the appearance of raw experience); subjectivity (''here'' is the subject of the
spatial experience); isolability (the analysis of deixis does not take into
account actions and social aspects of the phenomenon). Typologically, spatial
deictic expressions share three universal components: figure, the focal object
of the expressions; indexical ground, the spatial context against which the
figure is identified; and the relationship between figure and ground. Various
languages express these components in various ways: the figure is often
characterized by the opposition between locative adverbs and demonstratives, the
former identifying it as a region, the latter as an enumerable thing; the
indexical ground is intended as speaker's location, as addressee's location, or
as a geographical reference point; the relationship between figure and ground is
expressed by oppositions such as proximate/distal, immediate/non-immediate,
visible/invisible, audible/non-audible. Cross-linguistic variation in deictic
systems leads to the hypothesis that some universal constraints hold: the
indexical ground can be relative to the speaker and not to the addressee, but
the opposite is not true; there can be a contrast relation along the horizontal
plane and not along the vertical one, but again the opposite is not true.
Linguistic interaction, then, highlights further features of deictic elements:
the possibility of suspending the grounding, as in indirect speech; their lack
of stable referent, which renders their acquisition a hard task; and the
incidence of social factors on the use of deictic verbs.

''Implicitness'', by Marcella Bertuccelli Papi, treats its topic as a scalar
notion, related both to the propositional content of utterances, and to the
aspectual features of meaning and of its effects. The relationship between
implicitness and human cognition is functional: implicitness is a way of
speeding information processing; when it requires extra effort, this is balanced
by the quantity and the quality of information it conveys.

Presupposition is one of the most studied of implicitness phenomena. The
semantic view sees it as a special kind of entailment. Frege (1892) was the
first to note the fundamental feature of presuppositions, i.e. the fact that
they survive the negation of the main clause, when attached to referential
entities and to time clauses. His account, however, cannot explain why
non-referential expressions are still meaningful. Strawson (1950) improves
Frege's intuitions, distinguishing between sentences and statements, and
defining presupposition as an inference relation between statements, a subtype
of entailment which still holds when the premise is negated. He individuates
some lexical and syntactic items as enabling presuppositional inferences, the
presupposition triggers: definite descriptions (existential presuppositions);
factive predicates (they presuppose the truth of the embedded clause); verbs of
judging and connotations (lexical presuppositions); clefting and pseudo-clefting
(different focuses - different presuppositions); temporal clauses (they
presuppose the truth of their content); non-restrictive relative clauses (they
survive the negation of the main clause); counterfactuals (they presuppose the
contrary of what is said). Strawson's theory, however, does not account for the
context-sensitivity of presuppositions, which can be cancelled, suspended or
blocked by the overall knowledge of the world, by certain predicates, and by

The pragmatic account of presuppositions sees them as the background beliefs of
the speaker: to assert something amounts to proposing the addition of the
propositional content of this something to the dynamic context interlocutors
build during a conversation. Pragmatic presuppositions, then, are neither the
results of logical inferences, in that they are functionally linked to the
background/foreground dialectic; nor are they generic implicit meanings conveyed
by sentences, in that they are not detachable from given words in a given sentence.

Implicitness also deals with Gricean implicatures, because these latter
presuppose the conventional meaning of an expression, not being part of it;
because they result by saying more than what is said; because they are
indeterminate, given that more than one explanation of them is always available.
Particularized implicatures, which result from the context of utterance and from
the overall background knowledge of particular interlocutors, are distinct from
generalized implicatures, which result from the conventional meaning of the
words in the utterance and from the maxims of the Cooperative Principle.
Implicatures can be generated even by the social functions of language.

The Gricean distinction between the meaning of an utterance and the implicatures
it conveys has been questioned by Sperber & Wilson (1986): they introduce the
notion of explicature, which combines linguistically encoded and contextually
inferred conceptual elements. The boundaries between explicatures and
implicatures are given by the principle of relevance, which blocks the
enrichment of explicatures in order to keep down the global cost of utterance
understanding. These boundaries are not neat, so the whole phenomenon of
implicitness turns out to be a matter of degrees, ruling out the binary
opposition between semantics and pragmatics.
''Non-verbal communication'', by Lluís Payrató, is a brief review, made up of
references for the great part, of the main topics of NVC. The author claims that
the label NVC means communication minus language, and that the theoretical roots
of this subtraction are very poor. The possibility of neatly distinguishing
between language and non-language has been questioned by many scholars: Lyons
(1972), for example, talks of ''linguisticness degrees'', so stressing how the
distinction is untenable. According to this claim, and to the fact that the main
human communicative modalities are represented by the triple ''language -
paralanguage - kinesics'', the author proposes to treat language, vocal
communication and kinesics as three facets of the human communicative
competence, and so to analyze them in a holistic way. The relationship between
NVC and language gives rise to broad and narrow NVC definitions: the former deal
with any kind of informative behaviour; the latter, with the so-called
paralinguistic phenomena.  The history of NVC begins at least with the classical
Latin rhetoric of the II/I century B.C. The first scientific work on the topic
is that of De Jorio (1832) on Neapolitan gestures. Ruesch & Kees (1956) first
introduced the term NVC. Important contributions have came from the
anthropological view of NVC, which has contrasted the supposed link between race
and NVC patterns; from the sociological view, which has treated NVC as a form of
social control; from the linguistic view, which has developed convincing
arguments about the origins of language from gestures. 

NVC allows for the presentation of self, makes the context of interaction
explicit to the interlocutors, and allows for a better accommodation to the
habitat. NVC has many important pragmatic functions, such as managing context,
regulating interactions, and conveying stylistic and emotional communicative
elements. Moreover, looking at deixis, the boundaries between language and
gestures are not neat: deictic elements are often called pointing words, and
gestural deictics are fully connected with the corresponding linguistic system.
An important psycholinguistic issue is the synchronization between speech and
gesture. McNeill (1985) claims that speech and gesture are elements of a single
process of utterance formation, which is a synthesis of synthetic and
instantaneous imagery with linear-segmented verbalization. Solid reasons for
this claim are that speech and gesture always occur together, that they have
parallel semantic and pragmatic functions, that they are both affected by
aphasia, being both controlled by the same cerebral area, and that they are
acquired together.

''Presupposition'', by Francesca Delogu, deals with the so-called projection
problem: presuppositions of compound sentences do not always correspond to the
sum of the presuppositions of their parts. The first clear account of
presupposition is that by Strawson (1950), but it faces two problems:
cancellability, i.e. presuppositions can be annulled by certain contexts (such
as beliefs contrary to the content of a presupposition) without any
contradictions; the projection problem, i.e. in conditional, conjoint and
disjoint sentences, when the first clause entails a presupposition triggered in
the second clause, the whole sentence does not presuppose it. The semantic
approach cannot solve these problems because of the monotonicity of the
entailment relation, which contrasts with non-monotonicity of presuppositions,
and with their dependence on linguistic and contextual factors. The pragmatic
approach to presupposition claims that the semantic and the pragmatic content of
sentences are distinct, so the truth value of presuppositions does not affect
that of sentences, and vice versa. On this basis, Stalnaker (2002) defines
presuppositions without any reference to the linguistic form: presuppositions
are background beliefs of the speaker, who takes them for granted, and who
presupposes them in a given context if he or she assumes that the addressee
believes their content too, and that he or she recognizes the speaker is
presupposing them. Within this conceptual framework, the projection problem is
restated in terms of context change: every asserted proposition becomes part of
the context; in the case of compound sentences, the context changes during the
utterance, and so the presupposition conveyed by the first clause becomes part
of the context before the second clause, which triggers it, is uttered.
Pragmatic approaches, however, face theoretical troubles in accounting for
presuppositions as new information. Stalnaker (1974) proposes the notion of
transparent pretence: the speaker asserts something by explicitly pretending
that the addressee already knows it, even if this is not so. This could explain
speaker's behaviour, but it does not explain why the addressee should accept the
presupposition. Stalnaker also proposes to solve the problem by means of the
notion of accommodation, which is the process of alignment of interlocutors'
presuppositions, given the acknowledgement of an assumed common ground,
including the belief that the speaker is competent and cooperative, but
accommodation cannot account for controversial information. Gauker (1998) claims
that presuppositions as new information are problematic insofar as one
identifies context with interlocutors' cognitive states; if one sees the context
as determined by the goals and by the circumstances of a conversation, and so as
objective, then, once a presupposition has became part of such a context, the
addressee must accept it or must consider the speaker as violating some norm of

The anaphoric approach, developed within the framework of dynamic semantic
theories, sees presuppositions as cases of anaphora, bound to linguistic
antecedents in the discourse. Following this approach, Van der Sandt (1992)
claims that every time a presupposition triggered by the second clause has an
antecedent in the first clause, the sentence as a whole does not give rise to a
presuppositional reading, and so the projection problem dissolves. With regard
to presuppositions as new information, Van der Sandt proposes his own version of
the accommodation process: it is a pragmatically constrained process, guided by
the principles of contextual consistency and informativeness. Beaver (1999),
finally, proposes an alternative model of accommodation: the listener
reconstructs the context assumed by the speaker by means of a plausibility
ordering, based on commonsense knowledge; as the conversation proceeds, he
excludes the contexts not satisfying the presuppositions of the uttered sentences.

In ''Primate communication'', Micheal Tomasello defines pragmatics as the analysis
of how people flexibly use the conventionalized inventory of linguistic symbols.
A consequence of such a definition is that non-human communication does not show
pragmatic features, given that animals communicate by means of signals, and not
of conventional symbols. Nonetheless, the author claims that it is possible to
look for "pragmatic seeds" in primate communication, which is evolutionarily
closer to human. One of the most interesting cases of primate communication is
represented by the alarm calls of vervet monkeys, which are different depending
on the kind of predator they indicate. Tomasello argues that they have nothing
to do with symbols: vervet monkeys do not display any similar communicative
behaviour in any other domain; predator-specific alarm calls are typical of many
other species; no species of ape, evolutionarily closer to humans, has
predator-specific alarm calls; infants of vervet monkeys raised in isolation
still produce their typical alarm calls; and finally, vervet monkey alarm calls
do not display any appreciable audience effect, apart from the mere
presence-absence of others, which is common to many other non-primate species.

Gestural communication, connected to less evolutionarily urgent functions, could
be used more flexibly by individuals, as shown by the behaviour of some species
of apes. Gestures, however, are never referential or symbolic. Moreover,
individuals learn gestures by ontogenetic ritualization (a non-communicative
behaviour becomes communicative by virtue of its anticipation by the
interactants), whereas imitative learning is necessary for the presence of a
true communicative convention. Audience effects, finally, are pervasive in
primate gestural communication, but they always concern whether some other can
see the gesture and not other's knowledge states. The conclusion is that primate
communication does not display any pragmatic feature, being not built on a
theory of mind, and so being not based on any communicative common ground.
''Semiotics'', by Christiane Andersen, is a historical survey of this complex
field of study. The origins of semiotics are very old: examples of its use for
solving everyday problems are widespread in every historical period and field of
human activity. The basic component of the sign process or semiosis are the
sender, the medium, the code, the message, and the addressee. The sender
produces a sign which is a token of a signifier; the addressee receives the sign
through the medium, perceives it as a token of the signifier, is referred to the
signified on the basis of the code, and reconstructs the message with the help
of the given context. Different kinds of semiosis are defined on the basis of
the presence/absence of some of these components: communication requires the
presence of all the basic components of semiosis; signification requires the
presence of a code, while sender and addressee are not necessary; indication
takes place without a code and it only requires signs, messages, recipients,
media and context. These three kinds of sign processes can interact, forming
more complex processes such as verbal interaction. The relationships between the
components of semiosis define the three traditional branches of semiotics:
pragmatics, which studies the relations between signs and signs-users;
semantics, studying those between signifiers and signified; syntactics, studying
those between signifiers.

Modern semiotics comes from at least four traditions: semantics and philosophy
of language, modern logic, rhetoric, and hermeneutics. The synthesis of these
traditions has established semiotics as a meta-science, competing with other
sciences and disciplines in providing a system of universal terms, describing
all types of signs and semioses. The logical approaches to semiotics dates back
to Frege's work on formalized languages, to Carnap's goal to create a universal
and exact scientific language, and to Morris' idea of semiotics as the unified
science. The structuralist approaches rely heavily on Saussure's semiology,
Russian formalism, and the Prague Circle; they deal mainly with the notion of
text, defined as a coded artifact to which a culture assigns a conventional
function. Structuralism is the basis of Greimasian semiotics too, which develops
a semiotic grammar for the study of the semantics of texts based on narratology:
any manifestation of meaning can be analyzed as a story. Phenomenological
approaches obviously start from Husserl's thought and from his idea of an a
priori grammar which determines the grammar of all languages. Husserl influenced
the Prague Circle and Jacobson; moreover, Heidegger's hermeneutics is a sort of
dialectic development of his ideas. The pragmatic approaches come from the
founder of semiotics, Peirce, and from Morris' pragmatics as the study of
organic signs' origins, uses, and effects. Morris' pragmatics has inspired four
lines of linguistic research: situation-dependent inferential processes,
including speech act theory, Gricean maxims, and Sperber & Wilson's relevance
theory; pragmatic signs, like deictics; pragmatic information, dealing with
everything which is relevant in a given culture, especially social relationships
between interlocutors; pragmatic message, dealing with the relation between the
signified and the intended message. Another trend in semiotics is that of
cultural approaches, whose sources have been, in the seventies, the Moscow and
the Tartu schools. Central figures of these schools have been Uspenskij, who
developed a theory of historical processes, according to which the language of
history determines the mechanism of developing events; and Lotman, who defines
culture as the totality of its texts, with these latter belonging to various
semiotic text types. A cultural approach belonging to a different tradition is
the semiotics of culture, by Cassirer: if the symbolic forms (sign systems) of a
society build its culture, then semiotics has to investigate the different sign
systems in a culture, and cultures as sign systems.

''Speech act theory'', by Marina Sbisà, focuses mainly on the differences between
Austin's and Searle's approaches.  Austin (1962) defined performative utterances
as acts, characterized by the use of the first person of the present indicative
active of performative verbs. He distinguishes three kinds of acts one performs
during a locutionary (speech) act: a phonetic act; a phatic act, that of
uttering certain sounds according to certain rules; a rhetic act, that of
uttering certain words with a certain meaning. The locutionary act is then
linked to the aspect and to the meaning of the utterance; the illocutionary act,
instead, consists of the act performed by the speaker in saying what he said,
and it is described or reported by performative verbs such as ''order'',
''protest'', and so on. Performative verbs are labels for classes of illocutionary
acts. Given that illocutionary acts are conventional, they have to satisfy
conventional felicity conditions in order to produce the intended effects; these
conditions can be of three kinds: the securing of uptake; the production of a
conventional effect; the inviting of a response or of a sequel. To say something
also implies a perlocutionary act, which amounts to change in the feelings,
thoughts or actions of the interlocutors. Perlocutionary acts are not
conventional, so verbs designating them cannot be used perfomatively. The
distinctions posed by Austin face some problems with verbs that seem to
designate acts but that are not used performatively, and with other uses of
language that seem to eschew his categorization.

Searle (1969) sees the illocutionary point, i.e. the speaker's intention that
the utterance corresponds to a certain act, as the central feature of the
illocutionary force, which is in turn an aspect of meaning; illocutionary acts
cannot occur without expressing a proposition, and propositional acts cannot
occur without some illocutionary act. Accordingly, for the speaker to achieve
the intended illocutionary effect, illocutionary acts must satisfy essential
felicity conditions, indicating what illocutionary act an utterance is intended
for, and conditions on propositional content, apart from preparatory and
sincerity conditions. From these conditions, Searle extracts a set of semantic
rules for the use of illocutionary force indicating devices. The classification
of illocutionary acts stands on all of these dimensions of analysis, and so on
the essential conditions, on the propositional content, on the sincerity
condition, and on the deep structure of the sentence used to convey the
illocutionary act.

The most relevant issues raised by speech act theory are: a) whether
illocutionary force belongs to the realm of semantics or to that of pragmatics.
If linguistic illocutionary indicators can allow the assignment of illocutionary
force to speech acts, then illocutionary force is a semantic phenomenon; if,
instead, the performance of illocutionary acts hinges upon extra-linguistic
features, then illocutionary force is a pragmatic phenomenon. Each of these
situations occurs in different speech act types, direct and indirect,
respectively; b) the relation between truth and speech acts. Given that speech
act theory claims that the issue of truth or falsity can arise only when a
sentence conveys an affirmative speech act, it is difficult to distinguish
between felicity conditions and truth/falsity assessment, or between the
assertive speech act and its propositional content. Austin claims that
non-assertive speech acts correspond to facts, while Searle (1976), relying on 
his notion of different directions of fit (from world to words and from words to
world), claims that, for example, the equivalent of truth for an order is
obedience. Austin and Searle disagree even as regards the cultural specificity
or universality of speech acts: Austin sees speech acts as a cultural, social
and relational phenomenon; Searle defines them on the basis of the speaker's
intentions, being more interested in the content of the speech act than in its
active nature, and thus turning from the philosophy of language to the
philosophy of mind.


The volume as a whole is a good introductory tool for those who want to know
what the many facets of pragmatics are. The choice of these facets, however, may
be questioned: while there is no article on discourse analysis, there is one on
primate communication, which deals with a topic the author himself claims to
fall outside the realm of pragmatics, and which does so without any reference to
biology, and with very few and only generic hints at evolutionary theory.

The various papers which constitute the volume are not all of the same level,
and the bibliographical references, which are essential in an introductory book,
are not always satisfying, as in the works by Lakoff, Slembrouck, and Andersen.

Moreover, many articles lack a linear argumentative structure, and this forces
the reader to a great and avoidable cognitive effort in order to follow authors'
argumentation, as in the work by Sbisà, which contains many digressions and

With respect to the correctness of these arguments, some of them are clearly
circular, such as that about the origins of language in the article by
Verschueren and Brisard; others put together contradictory claims, e.g. Harder,
who claims at the same time that the alarm calls of vervet monkeys go beyond the
mere display, and so are a sort of communication, and that all non-human
interactions are mediated by natural meaning, which is incompatible with genuine
communication. We can find contradictory claims in different articles too: again
with regard to the alarm calls of vervet monkeys, Tomasello gives an
interpretation which is exactly the opposite of that by Harder.

Maybe the main limitation of this volume is the alternation between good
introductory papers, articles which are specialist-oriented, and mere reviews of
literature. This limitation, in turn, renders the volume as a whole not suitable
as a manual for students, even if some of the articles could be very useful in
introductory courses: Auer's work, which is well structured, with a great
internal coherence and a successful effort at clarity, and with a huge
bibliography on the notion of context; the article by Sidnell, which enriches
the volume with a typological approach that no other paper shares, offering
interesting hypotheses and data on spatial deixis; that by Bertuccelli Papi, a
complete and up-to-date review of the main developments in the studies on
implicitness, which succeeds even in treating very complex topics in a
straightforward way; that by Delogu, which leads the reader to the core of the
debate on presupposition, combining historical and up-to-date theories, and
showing the paths linking the latter to the former.


Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford University Press.

Beaver, D. (1999). Presupposition. In van Benthem, J. & ter Meulen, A. (eds.).
Handbook of logic and language. Elsevier: 939-1008.

De Jorio, A. (1832). La mimica degli antichi investigata nel gestire napoletano.
Associazione napoletana per i monumenti e il paesaggio.

Frege, G. (1892). Über Sinn und Bedetung. Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und
philosophische Kritik C: 25-50.

Gauker, C. (1998). What is a Context of Utterance? Philosophical Studies 91:

Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and Conversation. William James Lectures.

Lyons, J. (1972). Human Language. In Hinde R. A. (ed.). Non-verbal
communication. Cambridge University Press: 49-85.

McNeill, D. (1985). So do you think gestures are nonverbal? Psychological Review
92: 350-371.

Ruesch, J. & Kees, W. (1956). Non-Verbal Communication. University of California

Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts. Cambridge University Press.

Searle, J. R. (1976). A classification of illocutionary acts. Language in
Society 5(1): 1-23. 

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D. (1986). Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Blackwell.

Stalnaker, R. (1974). Pragmatic presuppositions. In Munitz M. & Unger P. (eds.).
Semantics and philosophy. New York University Press: 197-214.

Stalnaker, R. (2002). Common ground. Linguistic and philosophy 25: 701-721.

Strawson, P. F. (1950). On referring. Mind LIX: 320-344.

Van der Sandt, R. (1992). Presupposition Projection as Anaphora Resolution.
Journal of Semantics 9: 333-377.


Andrea L'Episcopo cooperates with the Philological and Linguistic Sciences
Dept. of the University of Palermo. He took his PhD in Philosophy of
Science at the University of Catania in 2006, with a dissertation about the
probabilistic and causal bases of Bayesian Networks. His research interests
include NLP, probabilistic grammars, pragmatics, semantics, ontologies,
commonsense reasoning and its formalization, context and causal reasoning,
probability theory. His most recent co-authored publication is "ChatBot e
interazione uomo-macchina", La Moderna Edizioni, Enna. 

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