Language Use

Language use is using language to do things.[4]

Contents

1   Study

Pragmatics is the study of how people use language, especially in discourse.[3]

Pragmatics comes from the Greek word "pragma" meaning 'deed'.

Pragmatics is the study of meaning in context.

Pragmatics is the study of how to do things with words.

Pragmatics studies how language users are able to overcome apparently ambiguity since meaning relies on the manner, place, time, etc. of an utterance.

Pragmatics, as a study of utterance meaning or meaning in context, is necessarily concerned with discourse, not with meaning in isolation, i.e. at word or sentence level

Pragmatics is the study of how the context of the utterance, prexisting knowledge, and the inferred intent of the speaker.

Pragmatics encompasses:

2   Function

The purposes of language use are fundamentally social.[1]

Speakers say things to get things done.[1]

People take actions for particular purposes.[1]

A purpose may be either public or private.

A purpose may be either precise or vague.

  • Asking for a telephone number (precise)
  • Gossip with friends (vague)

A purpose may be either planned or ad hoc.

  • Church ceremonies (planned)
  • Conversation (ad hoc)

A purpose may be conscious or unconscious.

  • Decide to ask a question
  • Maintain one's face and not look foolish

Language use embodies both individual and social processes.[4]

3   History

In 1955, J.L. Austin gave a series of lectures titled "How to do things with words" for the William James Lecture series at Harvard University.

In 1957, Grice published "Meaning" which distinguished sentence meaning from speaker meaning.

In 1962, Austin's lectures on "How to do things with words" were compiled and published.

In 1967, Grice published "Logic and Conversation", introducing conversational implicature.

In 1969, John Searle, published "Speech Acts".

In 1979, Searle, published "Indirect Speech Acts".

In 1996, Clark published "Using Language".

In 2010, Lee and Pinker, published "Rationales for Indirect Speech: The Theory of the Strategic Speaker".

4   Definitions

4.1   Adjacency Pair

An adjacency pair is a pair of utterances that...

Termed by Schegloff and Sacks (1973).[1]

Adjacency pairs are minimal joint projects.[1]

An adjacency pair consists of two utterances:[1]

  1. A first pair part
  2. A second pair part

Each part is spoken by a different speaker.[1]

Each part belongs to a specific type.[1]

  • question and answer
  • thanks and acknowledgment

The form and content of the second pair part depends on the type of the first pair part.[1]

Adjacency pairs come in many types:

  • (Betty: (rings) :: Summons, Cathy: Miss Pink's Office :: Response)
  • (Betty: hello :: Greeting, Cathy: hello :: Greeting)
  • Question/Answer
  • Assertion/Assent
  • Request/Promise
  • Promise/Acknowledgment
  • Thanks/Acknowledgment
  • Good-bye/Good-bye

### Conditional Relevance

Conditional relevance: Given a speaker has produced a first pair part, the second pair part is relevant and expectable as the next utterance.[1]

The first condition needs to be relaxed a bit to accommodate pairs of actions.[1]

  • If Paul asks Jean to sit down and she complies, the act of complying forms a pair.

Parts of adjacency pairs may be either linguistic or nonlinguistic.[1]

## Contribution

A contribution is ...

Contributing to a conversation takes more than an illocutionary act, an attempt to get a listener to understand.[2] The participants must reach the mutual belief that the act has succeeded; that the addressee has understood what the speaker meant.

One form of contribution is an illocutionary act plus its mutual acceptance.

Contributions require actions from both speakers and their addressees.[2]

---

5   Establishing understanding

Suppose:
Alice is speaking to Bob and refers to a dog.

In most theories, Alice intends the identity of the dog to become part of Alice's and Bob's mutual knowledge.

Establishing such mutual knowledge is a stringent belief.

To meet it, Alice must convince herself that the identify of the dog is truly going to become a part of the common ground. If Alice doesn't she think will, she should change or expand what she's done so far.

The same requirement applies to Bob. Bob needs to find ways of letting Alice know, as he lists, whether or not he is understand her.

For each reference, Alice and Bob should have procedures for establishing mutual belief, at some level of confidence, that Bob has identified Alice's reference.

These procedures are inherently collaborative.

6   Continuers

Continuers can establish the same mutual belief.

  • A: Now I wanna ask you something, I wrote a letter. (pause) B: Mh hm, A: T'the governor B: Mh hmm A: -telling 'im what I thought about ihm! B: Sh! A: Will I get an answer d'you think, B: Yes.

Continuers indicate to Alice that Bob is paying attention.

With the second "mh hmm", Bob indicates he understands the phrase "t'the governor" and the definite reference it contains.

7   Interruption

B may interrupt A as soon as he believes he has identified the referent.

  • A: I heard you were at the beach yesterday. What's her name, oh you know, the tall redhead that lives across the street from Larry? The one who drove him to work the day his car was- B: Oh Gina! A: Yeah Gina. She said she saw you at the beach yesterday.

8   Mutual Acceptance

Taken together it is evident that A and B accept mutual responsibility for each definite reference.

A and B must accept that B has understood A's references before they let the conversation go on.

Conversations proceed in an orderly way only if the common ground of the participants accumulates in an orderly way.

A and B must therefore establish the mutual belief that B has understood, or appears to have understood, A's current utterance before they go on to the next contribution to the conversation.

They establish the belief through an acceptance process.

The two basic elements in this process are:

  1. Presentation
  2. An acceptance
  • Suppose A wants to refer to a mutually identifiable dog.

    To do so, he 'presents' the standard noun phrase "the dog that just barked"

    With this presentation, A presuppose a number of things.

    1. He believes B is now paying attention, is able to hear and identify the words, and understands English
    2. He believes B can view the referent as fitting the description "dog that just barked" (that referent r can be viewed under description d).
    3. He believes B will be able to pick out r uniquely with this description d along with the rest of their common ground.

    Once A had made this presentation, B must accept it, and A and B must mutually recognize that acceptance.

    B has two main methods of accepting it:

    1. Presuppose acceptance: Continuing on the next contribution or by allowing A to continue.
    2. Assert acceptance: As with continuers.

    Both are mutually recognized as acceptances of the last contribution.

    B may have reasons for not accepting A's presentation.

    • She may not have hard it fully ("What?" or "The dog that just what?")
    • She may not accept d as a description of r ("That's a toy, not a dog")
    • She may not accept d is sufficient to pick out r uniquely ("Which one..?")

    When B rejects the presentation, A must deal with B's implicit or explicit questions until B does accept it, which may take several exchanges.

    A's presentation can take more complicated forms. These examples, though suggestive, do not specify how the accept process works.

## References in an experimental task

Experiment details

## Collaborating on references

Goal: Process model of how speakers and addresses collaborate in the making of a definite reference.

Collaborative model must spell out how the process of mutual acceptance gets initiated, carried through, and completed.

The process usually begins with the speaker issuing a noun phrase, but these phrases come in many types and do more than initiate the process.

We must resist treating noun phrases as genuine and all others as aberrations.

9   Basic Exchange

The simplest pattern is a basic exchange.

  • A: Number 5's the guy leaning against the tree. B: Okay.

    A: Number 5's the guy leaning against the tree. B: Okay. I've got it.

    A: Number 5's the guy leaning against the tree. B: Dancer. Okay.

Our main interest in the director's use of the noun phrase for the figure as a whole.

By the collaborative view he present it as a means for the matcher to identify the intended figure and she's expected to accept it.

In the basic exchange, the matcher uses here kay to assert:

  1. That she believes she has identified the figure correctly
  2. That she has place the figure in the right location
  3. In doing so, she presupposes that she accepts the director's presentation, including his perspective on the referent

Sometimes the matcher handled these components separately.

  • "Okay, um. Wait just a sec... Okay, okay." A matcher signals her identification (1) and acceptance (3) but trouble with (2)

The basic exchange should only be possible when the matcher can accept the director's initial presentation without refashioning it. If so, basic exchanges should have occurred seldom on early trials, but often on later trials.

With the structure of the basic exchange, we can examine the three processes by which the two partners reached mutual acceptance of each reference:

  1. Initiating presentations
  2. Refashion presentations
  3. Evaluating presentations

### Initiating a reference

We call the first full noun phrase uttered at the point of referential process gets initiated the initial presentation.

  • "Number 4 is..."

These noun phrases fall into at least six distinct types:

  1. Elementary noun phrase
  2. Episodic noun phase
  3. Installment noun phrase
  4. Provisional noun phrase
  5. Dummy noun phrase
  6. Proxy noun phrase

#### Elementary

The director utters this phrase in one tone group.

  • "The guy leaning against the tree."

Presumably he believes the matcher can accept is canonically.

The is the type of noun phrase that usually occurred in basic exchanges.

Truly elementary noun phrases are identifiable by their lack of special features.

#### Episodic noun phrase

The director utters this type of noun phrase in two or more easily distinguished episodes or tone groups.

  • "Number 7's the goofy guy that's fall over with his leg kicked up"

'The first episode ends with over" and is immediately followed with more of the same noun phrase in a second episode.

#### Installment noun phrase

The director utters this type of noun phrase in episode too, but gets explicit acceptance of each installment before going on.

  • A: And the next one is the one with the triangle to the right... B: Okay. A: With the square connected to it.

The director doesn't end the first installment with a try marker, but does indicate by his intonation that he intends to go on.

He pause is effective in getting the matcher to respond.

#### Provisional noun phrase

Often, the director presents a noun phrase he comes to realize is inadequate and immediately expands on it without prompting.

  • "And the next one is also the one that doesn't look like anything. It's kind of like the tree?"

#### Dummy noun phrase

A speaker usually utter this type of noun phrase as a stand-in until he or his partner can produce a more complete noun phrase.

  • "Whatchamacallit"

#### Proxy noun phrase

If the director pauses long enough, and if the matcher has some confidence she know what he is about say, she can present all of the final part of a noun phrase by proxy.

  • A: And number 12 is, uh, ... B: Chair A: With the chair, right. B: Got it.

In some cases, the speaker actively solicits proxy noun phrases.

    • "What's the word?"
    • "You know"

## Notes on Noun Phrases

#### Try Markers

Any of these six types of noun phrases can end with a try marker.

  • "Um, the next one's the person ice skating that has two arms?"

With it, one partner asks the other for an explicit verdict on the noun phrase, or installment, before they go on.

Note: The try markers don't turn assertions into questions. The noun phrase is the only element within the scope of the try marker. With it the speaker queries whether the noun phrase is acceptable as it stands.

Try markers should be used for noun phrases the director is less certain will be accepted.

The speaker can modify a noun phrase with a try marker to imply there is some possibility of a negative verdict.

#### Status

Each type of noun phrase is generally marked by the speaker for its status, which reflects the speaker's confidence in the noun phrase being produced.

Status markings are used by speakers to project the next move in the acceptance process.

The process is similar to asking questions and getting answers, where an answer is expected, but of course not forced. Status marking are used to test acceptance.

#### Selecting a noun phrase

In selecting a noun phrase, a speaker aims at several ideals.

Elementary noun phrases should therefore be most preferred and proxy noun phrases the least.

### Refashioning a noun phrase

An initial noun phrase that isn't acceptable must be refashioned.

This is accomplished in three main ways:

  1. Repair
  2. Expansion
  3. Replacement

#### Repair

In planning and uttering each noun phrase, speakers monitor what they are doing.

On detecting a problem, a speaker sets about repairing it.

  • "Um, next one is the guy, the person with his head to the right but his legs are, his one leg is kicked up to the left."

There are also covert repairs.

  • Okay, number, uh, 4 is the, is the kind of fat one with the left to the left--er, I mean to the right." In repeating "the", the director might have been repairing something he was to say even if we had no way of determining what.

Repairs could also be initiated by the addressee.

#### Expansion

Once the director has completed a noun phrase, he or the matcher may judge it to be inadequate for the purposes at hand and in need of a phrase, clause, or sentence of expansion.

If the initial noun phrase is provisional, the director will expand on it without prompting.

  • Okay, number 1 is the just kind of block-like figure with the jagged right-hand side. (The left side looks like a square.)
  • Okay, number 6 is the guy, uh, sitting down with his lefts to the left, (and he's kind of leaning his head over).

The director and matcher end up mutually accepting the compound description.

Self expansions are less important the more clearly the director can formulate his initial noun phrases.

When the matcher didn't find the director's initial noun phrase x clear enough, she could signal the need for an expansion y.

  • A: Okay, the next one is the rabbit. B: Uh-- A: That's asleep, you know, it looks like it's got ears and a head pointing down? B: Okay.

In the side sequence, the matcher used "Uh--" with an extended intonation to signal that she need more description, and the director complied.

Requests for expansions take many forms.

(pg 22)

Matchers should have have less need to request expansion if they had previously found a mutually accept description for a figure.

The matcher often expanded on the director's noun phrase.

  • A: Um, third one is the guy reading with, holding his book to the left. B: Okay, kind of standing up? A: Yeah. B: Okay.

The matcher initiated a side sequence by accepting what the director had said so far with "Okay" (a postponement) but by asking him to confirm her expansion "kind of standing up". Once he accepted it, the side sequence was complete, and with her next "Okay" the matcher presupposed accept of the amended noun phrase.

Requests for confirmation also decline with trials.

...

#### Replacement

### Evaluating presentations

A presentation, expansion, or replacement that is put forward needs to be judged acceptable or unacceptable.

Evaluation can be done in three ways:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Rejection
  3. Postponement

### The acceptance process

### Minimizing collaborative effort

  1. Time pressure
  2. Complexity
  3. Ignorance

## Perspective and change in perspective

### Establishing a common perspective

### Literal and analogical perspectives

### Changes in perspective

## Speaking generally

### The criterion problem

### Modes of language

10   References

[5]: Grice, 1957, "Meaning" [6]: John Austin, 1962, "How to do things with words" [10]: Grice, 1967, "Logic and Conversation" [8]: John Searle, 1969 "Speech Acts" [2]: John Searle, 1975, "Indirect Speech Acts" [1]: Clark, Bly, 1995, "Pragmatics and Discourse" [4]: Clark, 1996, "Using Language" [7]: Pinker, Nowak, Lee, 2007, "The logic of indirect speech" [3]: Lee Pinker, 2010, "Rationales for Indirect Speech: The Theory of the Strategic Speaker" [9]: Introduction To Communication Studies


The meaning of a term changes if a more specific one could be used. For instance, a rectangle though more abstract than a square, usually does not refer to squares.


Louis XV once asked Voltaire what he thought of his poetry, and Voltaire replied: "Your Majesty is a marvellous statesman."