Journal of Pragmatics

Published by Elsevier
Print ISSN: 0378-2166
This paper investigates the variation between null and overt subject pronouns in Catalan, a null subject language. We account for this variation in game-theoretical terms: that is, we analyze the distribution of both overt and null pronouns as a result of the strategic interaction between participants in a communicative exchange.First, we examine the Position of Antecedent Hypothesis (PAH), as put forward by Carminati (2002). This hypothesis proposes that null and overt pronouns have different biases: null pronouns prefer antecedents in subject positions, while overt pronouns prefer antecedents in non-subject positions. Carminati (2002) tested the PAH for Italian in a variety of intrasentential contexts. In this paper, we show experimentally that the PAH also holds for Catalan even in across-sentence contexts. In the second place, we also show how the PAH can be naturally redefined as a game of partial information, in which speaker and hearer are trying to communicate. This redefinition does not just translate the PAH into a different notation, but it extends the PAH into a model that makes more accurate predictions, since it can account also for the cases in which the biases predicted by the PAH are not obeyed.
Speakers of English and Tamil differ widely in which relational roles they overtly express with a verb. This study provides new information about how speakers of these languages differ in their descriptions of the same scenes and how explicit mention of roles and other scene elements vary with the properties of the scenes themselves. Specifically, we find that English speakers, who in normal speech rely more on explicit mention of verb arguments, in fact appear to be more affected by the pragmatic manipulations used in this study than Tamil speakers. Additionally, although the mention of scene items increases with development in both languages, Tamil-speaking children mention fewer items than do English-speaking children, showing that the children know the structure of the language to which they are exposed.
Also in: Journal of Pragmatics 1 (1977) 105-120 Yehoshua Bar-Hillel was one of the pilgrim fathers of Pragmatics of Natural Languages.He sailed his own positivistic ship, whose Carnapian hull he had loaded up with an Ordinary Language freight, but instead of rebuilding his ship on the open sea, he ventured on aiming his masts towards new colonies,striving to join some established philosophical confederation,to unite with some intellectual super-powers, and to indulge in some fruitful inland navigation. During the early 1950’s, a couple of years after Strawson had launched his pragmatic blows against Russell’s semantics, and a few years before Austin came over to Cambridge,Mass.,to show how to do things with words,Bar-Hillel published in Mind his paper “Indexical Expressions”, thus adding to the pragmatic studies of presuppositions and speech-acts a third pillar, viz.“the investigation of indexical languages and the erection of indexica language-systems”. As a matter of fact, none of these pillars of pragmatics of natural languages is of a pure constitution, and telling the semantic parts — be they in the capital of any pillar or in its base — from the pragmatilc parts of the shaft is never obvious, if possible.
As part of the familiar three-turn sequence in pedagogical discourse, the third turn position in classroom talk is considered to play an important role in giving feedback on second turn answers produced by the students. The prior literature relies on functional categories to explain the relationship between teachers’ third turn moves and student learning and yet, their analyses often take for granted the local exigencies embedded in the three-turn sequence. In producing the third turn, classroom teachers come to terms with far more local and immediate contingencies than what is projected by blanket terms such as ‘evaluation,’ ‘feedback,’ or ‘follow-up.’ Following Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis, this paper examines and specifies the local contingencies that surround the teacher's third turn in order to bring into view the unforeseen range of the method of actions that teachers display. Based on 46 hours of ESL classroom interactions, several collections of talk exchanges are analyzed to demonstrate how the third turn carries out the contingent task of responding to and acting on the prior turns while moving interaction forward. It is in these procedural aspects of interaction that we find the practical enactment of the classroom teachers’ pedagogical work.
Back-channel feedback, responses such as uh-uh from a listener, is a pervasive feature of conversation. It has long been thought that the production of back-channel feedback depends to a large extent on the actions of the other conversation partner, not just on the volition of the one who produces them. In particular, prosodic cues from the speaker have long been thought to play a role, but have so far eluded identification. We have earlier suggested that an important prosodic cue involved, in both English and Japanese, is a region of low pitch late in an utterance (Ward, 1996). This paper discusses issues in the definition of back-channel feedback, presents evidence for our claim, surveys other factors which elicit or inhibit back-channel responses, and mentions a few related phenomena and theoretical issues.
In recent work, the fallacy of ad socordiam has often been omitted from the standard arsenal of informal fallacies, but this article draws attention to the salience of this fallacy in the study of persuasion and political rhetoric. A key debate on the Bill of Rights in the first United States House of Representatives is examined, and it is argued that there is reason to believe that one proposal made in that debate involved the fallacy of ad socordiam. The proposal, it is argued, represents an example of a covert speaker intention, and the article explores the question of how it may be possible to recognize a covert speaker intention in spite of the speaker's desire to hide it. More broadly, the article draws attention to the nature and potential role of covert intentions in communication, especially in political rhetoric meant to persuade an audience.
This paper examines the specific discursive realizations of ‘folk identities’ in a north Dalmatian ethnographic account from the end of the nineteenth century in the context of early Croatian institutional-ethnographic practice. By treating the text in question as a site for the dialogic-interactive mediation and production of ‘authentic’ collective identities between local/folk (dialectal) and centralized, academic-institutional (standard) discourses, it also aims at reassessing its value as a historical and philological source for the study of ethno-cultural identity formation in the region. Adopting a pragmatic/discourse-analytic perspective, and devoting particular attention to dialogic aspects of the entextualization and contextualization process, our investigation seeks to elucidate latent and overt ideologies, categories and ‘performances’ of identity in the ethnographic text-as-interdiscursive-construction. The analysis reveals the different levels/orders and strategies/processes of discursive identity formation that emerge from the text, as indexed e.g. by stereotypical predications and attributions. It concludes – and confirms – that systematic and methodic attention for dialogism and polyphony is indispensable to a reliable historical pragmatics of ‘ethnographic reality’, ‘identities’ included.
This obituary tries to represent the total vision of Jim McCawley's philosophy of practice, philosophy of language, linguistic theory, ‘syntactic’ theory, linguistic analyses and scientific practices, in all of which his individualism, relativism and critical rationalism were consistently manifested.
This paper reports on the results of a large-scale survey of the attitudes of students, teachers, and parents towards the use of English as a medium of instruction in Hong Kong secondary schools, where Chinese is the native language of the great majority of the students. The findings indicate that, while Hong Kong is to revert to Chinese rule in the middle of 1997, students and their parents consistently value English over Chinese as a teaching medium for pragmatic reasons, although they agree with the teachers that instruction in Chinese is educationally more effective. The findings of the study are interpreted in the light of an historical overview of the place of English in Hong Kong education since Britain's occupation of the territory in 1841, and a review of previous findings on the attitudes of students, teachers, and parents on this issue.
In this paper, we will deal with the handling — within the conversational interaction — of linguistic misunderstanding, on the basis of an Italian corpus. The following aspects of this process will be analyzed: the author of the repair, the phases of negotiation (i.e. “the negotiation cycle of misunderstanding”), the collocation of the repair (third and fourth turn repairs are the most common patterns), linguistic and non-linguistic misunderstanding.A general distinction will be drawn between coming to understanding, understanding and misunderstanding on the one hand, and non-understanding on the other. In conclusion, misunderstanding, as a ‘form of understanding’ internal to the process of comprehension, which has to be monitored and negotiated interactionally, should not be seen as a polar process (absence/presence of comprehension) but, rather, as a continuum.
This study attempts to show that pragmatic development in young children—in terms of speech acts—involves the gradual acquisition of the capacity to take several dimensions of the interaction situation into account simultaneously. Communicative behavior patterns (frequency of different types of speech acts) are studied in relation to two components of the interaction context: the characteristics of the child's conversational partner (father or mother) and the type of play. Three groups of ten French urban middle class toddlers whose mean ages were 1;5, 1;10, and 2;3 were observed as they interacted with each parent. Materials for object building or free play were provided. The results showed that by the age of 1;5, the parent's gender had a significant effect on the production of directives, and then later, on that of assertives. The type of play started to have an impact at 22 months, affecting action requests and expressives (more frequent in object building), as well as requests for information (more frequent in free play). At the age of 2;3, these two factors had a joint effect on the speech act distribution: action requests were the most prevalent when the child was building a pre-specified object with the father. These developmental processes are discussed in terms of interaction “formats”, as described by J. Bruner.
If differences among the rhetorics of academic articles from different cultures are due to essential cultural differences, analogous differences should be found in older articles. This paper aims to find out whether this is the case. It examines 91 articles from economics journals in Bulgarian, Danish, English, and German published between 1900 and 2000, looking at article type and length, title length, first-person pronoun usage, first-sentence orientation to research or policy, moves in the introduction, and orientation of the conclusion.Most aspects of the development are similar across languages: many early articles are accounts rather than problem-oriented analyses, but by 1973 all are cast in the latter form. Mere accounts died out between 1933 and 1953 in the British and Danish samples, possibly later in Germany and Bulgaria. Joint authorship predominates in 1993, but is hardly known before 1973. Division into sections was sporadic initially, but by 1993 titled sections are obligatory. Explicit statements of aim and of the occasion for writing have become common; thesis statements seem to have appeared at different times.There are, however, some differences in the date of developments and differences across languages/cultures/communities. Articles in most languages tend increasingly to avoid first-person pronouns, whereas the trend is the opposite in the British sample. The focus of introductions and conclusions has shifted more towards research in the British sample than it has in the others.These developments seem explicable in terms of professionalisation of the whole discipline, alongside internationalisation focused on English-language publication. There seems little evidence of essential differences at this level.
Human communication rests on a basic assumption of partner cooperativeness, including even requesting. In the current study, an adult made an ambiguous request for an object to 21-month-old infants, with one potential referent being right in front of her and the other being across the room. In a normal situation (Hands-Free), infants interpreted the request as referring to the distant object—the one the adult needed help fetching. In contrast, in a situation in which the adult was constrained so that fetching either object herself would be difficult (Hands-Occupied), infants selected the far object much less often. These results suggest that infants just beginning to acquire language already understand something of the cooperative logic of requests.
From the very beginning of language acquisition, young children are sensitive to what is given versus what is new in their discourse with others. Here we ask whether 24-month-olds use this skill to interpret prosodic highlighting as an invitation to focus their attention on what is new in the situation. Using an eye-tracking methodology, we compared children's visual fixation of referents that were given versus those that were new in the situation when the prosodic highlighting of their corresponding word varied. Results showed that 24-month-old children looked longer to the referents of prosodically stressed words when those referents were new to the context. Neither stress of the word alone nor newness of the referent alone was sufficient to induce children to focus their attention on the target referent. These results suggest that from an early age children understand at least one important communicative function of prosodic stress.
Occasionally we can find the following sort of thing happening: A recipient of an erroneous statement, who has the resources to see that an error has been made, ‘passes’ the statement with, e.g., an acknowledgement token, i.e., accepts the statement as is. The prior speaker then produces a self-correction, whereupon the recipient, now in response to the corrected statement, produces the same response as that with which he accepted the erroneous statement. By so doing, the recipient may be minimizing the import of the error in the first place, and thus, perhaps, the import of his having accepted the erroneous statement.
Charles Sanders Peirce's theory of signs is well known, but less well known is his notion of abduction, cited by Chomsky as a principle in first language acquisition. The paper sums up Peirce's three triads (firstness, secondness, thirdness; icon, index, symbol; abduction, induction, deduction), then goes on to link them with what Peirce calls the law of mind. The law of mind is then shown to have remarkable similarities with what Douglas Hofstadter, a researcher into artificial intelligence, calls subcognition, in that both involve abduction (iconfeelings attaching themselves to indices with a certain ‘arbitrary spontaneity’; patterns of neural firings triggering other patterns of neural firings, sometimes in ‘apparently random ways’). Abduction is seen as crucial to Jacques Derrida's principles of differance and dehiscence, and to the linguist Michael Halliday's view of language as particle, wave and field; and it may well prove to be a key concept in developing a linguistics of indeterminacy.
Average non-business episode duration.  
Average business episode duration.  
Occurrence and initiation of pre-close.  
Topic of pre-close.  
This paper reports on a study of cultural differences in conversational structure and the expression of apology in German and Australian workplace telephone discourse.While the overall episodic structure of German and Australian telephone conversations was similar, there were differences in content or social orientation. This impacted on both whether and how topics representing high threat to face were aired. Australians preferred to avoid face-threatening acts and, if an apology was required, minimise threat to face by telling half-truths. Germans were more likely to provide a truthful account of events, express disappointment and chastise their interlocutors.While such cultural styles were initially transferred from German into English, the longer German native-speakers interacted with Australian English-speaking colleagues, the more likely they were to hide negative opinions and tell half-truths. At the same time, Australians who interacted with Germans on a daily basis tended to accommodate towards German interactional style in English.This study indicates that further research should be conducted on Australian and German workplace discourse. Such research may further our understanding of stumbling blocks to successful inter-cultural workplace communication and provide insight for the teaching of socio-pragmatics in second language acquisition settings.
This paper reveals how intercultural communication can be examined from the perspective of cultural conceptualisations using the analytical tools of ‘cultural schemas’ and ‘cultural categories’. It focuses on an analysis of miscommunication between speakers of Aboriginal English and Australian English, miscommunication which has often disadvantaged Aboriginal speakers in educational, legal and other settings. This miscommunication largely occurs due to a discrepancy in the ways in which speakers of the two dialects conceptualise experience. Many Aboriginal people operate on the basis of conceptualisations that embody their spiritual worldview. It is observed that even everyday English words such as ‘sing’, ‘smoke’, and ‘medicine’ may be used by Aboriginal people to instantiate their spiritual schemas and categories. This paper provides examples of such usage through the analysis of excerpts from oral narratives produced by several Aboriginal speakers. The analyses presented in this paper clearly show the strength of the approach of cultural conceptualisations in studies of intercultural communication.
Aboriginal English is the label which is generally used to refer to a continuum of dialectal varieties which differ from Standard Australian English in structural features, especially features of phonology, morphology and syntax. Recent studies show that, even where speakers use an acrolectal variety of Aboriginal English, there are subtle but significant pragmatic features which distinguish their language from Standard English. This is particularly true of the ways in which questions are asked and answered.This paper reports on a sociolinguistic analysis of a police interview with Kelvin Condren, a speaker of Aboriginal English. The interview is a ‘confession’ of murder for which Condren received a life sentence. But he alleges that he is innocent and that the ‘confession’ is not in his words. The sociolinguistic study of the ‘confession’ reveals startling discrepancies of language use, which are not consistent either with Aboriginal English ways of asking and answering questions, or with other interviews with Condren. This case study highlights the importance of including pragmatic features in defining varieties of language.
This paper represents part of the output of an ongoing study of clusters of phonetic parameters in the management of talk-in-interaction. Here we report on the sequential organisation and phonetic form of abrupt-joins. By abrupt-join we mean to adumbrate a complex of recurrent phonetic events which attend a point of possible turn-completion, and the beginning of an immediately subsequent turn-constructional unit (TCU) produced by that same speaker. In doing an abrupt-join, the speaker can be seen to preempt the transition relevance and interactional implicativeness of the first unit. The phonetic features which constitute this practice include duration, rhythm, pitch, loudness and articulatory characteristics of both the end of the first unit and the beginning of the second. Abrupt-joins are a resource used in the building of a particular kind of multi-unit turn, where each unit performs a discrete action with the abrupt-join marking the juncture between them, with the subsequent talk changing the sequential trajectory projectable from the talk leading up to the abrupt-join. One clear distributional pattern emerges from the data: abrupt-joins occur regularly in closing-relevant and topic-transition sequences.
This paper sets out to explore the distinctive features of publicity messages with respect to other kinds of texts. Since the aim of advertising is to point the consumers’ ideas in a certain direction, the communicative intention becomes generally constrained by persuasion strategies, such as are studied in pragmatics.Publicity discourse seems to have some specific features which distinguish it from other genres. As regards coherence strategies, previous studies have shown that scientific and technical texts make great use of connectives in order to predict and signal the type of discourse relations and the relation between adjacent elements or sentences. An examination of technical advertisements taken from specialized journals reveals a relatively low number of connectives. In contrast, coherence is maintained with the aid of lexical and semantic resources. Additionally, what we refer to as ‘micromarkers’ help pinpoint relations. Although these micromarkers have little lexical or semantic content, they are a necessary tool for tying together the concepts they refer to. It turns out that the absence of auxiliary vocabulary, such as connectives, may be an advantage when storing information in the mental reservoir.
One focus in Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) has been the detection of absences from texts which mystify the social agents being described. This is the focus of this article, the text-data coming from a UK newspaper website campaign to allow parents access to information about child sex offenders. CDA is explicit about being politically committed in its text analysis. But this commitment becomes problematic when CD analysts are analysing texts to assess how texts are likely to mystify readers generally. To make such assessments valid, I argue that analysts need to try to reduce the intrusion of their own subjectivity especially if they are not members of the target readership. CDA is theoretically eclectic, but absent from its theoretical sources is biologically-based explanation.This article contributes to mystification analysis in CDA. Using the text-data mentioned above as illustration, I show the following: how evolutionary psychology, a biologically-grounded paradigm, can be used as a lens over potentially any text-data relating to child sex offenders to highlight social agent absences which are mystifying for readers generally, while simultaneously reducing analyst subjectivity. The article also contributes more generally to CDA methodology for the detection of mystifying absences from texts.
We report an empirical investigation of the perceived effects of poetry. The relationship between rhyme pattern and Gestalt qualities was investigated by manipulating the rhyme scheme of a four-line stanza. We assumed that the perceived effects of poetry are a function of the degree of perceptual organization that is inherent in, or can be realized in, the poetic text. Furthermore, to be receptive to such effects demands an experiential set on the part of the reader, which may be predicted from the reader's rating on the Absorption Scale. Our results indicate that high-absorption and low-absorption readers differ in their perception and evaluation of the texts. In particular, what the low-absorption readers judge to be good closure, the high-absorption readers judge to be ‘open’. The implications of this and the other results are discussed.
Although there has been considerable research on the comprehension of figurative language, investigation of its production has been much less common. A particularly neglected aspect has been the study of the attributions by the language receiver of the language producer's intentions in using various types of figurative language. Experiment 1 presented young-adult participants with 16 sentences containing metaphors (The submarine was a whale) and similes (The submarine was like a whale). They were asked to check as many of twelve discourse goals, reasons why they thought the author might have chosen that figure of speech, as they thought it to be relevant to that particular sentence. Materials were presented (1) orally, in written form, or both, (2) with or without a prior meaningful discourse context, and (3) with a concrete or abstract topic. The most frequently chosen goal was to Compare Similarities, the only goal on which similes (more often chosen) and metaphors differed. The pattern of nine discourse goals differed between the Abstract and Concrete sentences. The factor of discourse context affected the discourse goal attributions on Be Humorous and Compare Similarities, while the factor of modality affected only Add Emphasis. Experiments 2 and 3 examined stylistic preference and perceived aptness of the comparisons expressed in the sentences used in Experiment 1 as possible explanations for the results obtained. Findings were interpreted in terms of different discourse goals tapping into either the situation level model of representation or only the propositional textbase level.
This study is concerned with expressions of the type the thing is that … or the problem was that …, which are seen as constructions in the Construction Grammar sense of the term and referred to as ‘N-be-that-constructions’. The material discussed is derived from the 225-million word British section of COBUILD's Bank of English corpus. It is shown that depending on the types of nouns that they use, speakers can exploit the N-be-that-construction in the service of an array of presuppositions, among them existential and factive semantic ones as well as pragmatic ones. Special attention is devoted to two pragmatic presuppositions: first, the expectation that more specific information about the unspecific discourse entity introduced by the abstract nouns is to come in the that-clause; and second, the impression, created by the information distribution of the N-be-that-construction and its focusing function, that the initial noun phrase represents given information which is known to all discourse participants. It is argued that the latter type of pragmatic presupposition can be exploited for bluffs insofar as it allows speakers to purport information as given which is in fact new. Bluffs of this type are often combined with evidential downtoning (my feeling is that …) or upgrading (the truth is that …), and with the objectivization of the proposition expressed in the that-clause by backgrounding the speaker role (the hope is that … rather than my hope is that).
This paper is an emic, interview-based study of computer scientists’ and sociologists’ accounts of the functions of citations in their writing. Twelve informants took part in the research, commenting upon their citations in one of their own articles. Informants were not provided with functional checklists, and were free to ascribe as many functions to each citation as they wished. Eleven citation functions are identified and described, and evidence of inter- and intra-disciplinary similarities and differences is provided. While the computer scientists used citations to direct their audience to further reading more often, the sociologists’ texts featured more cases of critical citations. The type of paper informants were writing (e.g. theoretical/empirical), the anticipated audience, and the publication outlet resulted in intra-disciplinary differences. Over half of the citations in both fields were said to have more than one function. The insights and implications of the study are discussed.
The study adopts a genre analysis approach in order to investigate rhetorical variation in introductions of Arabic research articles from the fields of law and humanities. Fifty introductions from each discipline are analyzed in terms of the kinds of research justification and reader orientation they provide. The results show that law introductions exhibit more exponents of both functions; but neither discipline has utilized challenges to previous scholarship as a means of justifying the research proposed. These findings are accounted for through cultural, sociolinguistic, and educational factors that characterize the context of production of the texts considered.
This paper discusses some cultural differences in the organization of linguistic and sociological texts written by English and German speakers. Linearity, symmetry, hierarchy and continuity are examined in 52 texts as are the position of definitions and advance organizers and the integration of data. It is suggested that the differences between the English and German texts may be promoted by the education systems and by varying intellectual styles and attitudes to knowledge and content.
This corpus-based study explores the way pragmatic force modifiers (Nikula, 1996) are employed to achieve multiple functions (ideational, interpersonal and textual) in the British Academic Spoken English (BASE) lecture corpus. The term pragmatic force modifier (PFM) refers to linguistic devices such as actually, sort of, or you know that can be used to strengthen or weaken the force with which propositions are expressed while at the same time realising manifold social pragmatic purposes. Despite their high frequency of occurrences, discussion about these modifiers in the lecture setting appears to be rare in the literature. This study accounts for the functions of PFMs with reference to relevant contextual features and pinpoints functional variations associated with this particular genre. Attention is focused on the way in which one PFM could perform multiple functions, and multiple PFMs with an emphatic or softening effect could contribute to the same functions. Additionally, examining the interplay among various PFMs in a broader co-text improves our understanding of properties that have been overlooked in earlier treatment of modifiers separately. The study finds genre-defined functions and multifunctionality of PFMs in lectures, so there is no definite correlation between forms and functions; for instance, both intensifiers and softeners are associated with positive politeness and the formation of effective argumentation patterns. This approach may benefit the practical analysis of PFMs in other genres.
This paper is a qualitative corpus-based study of how academic writers can use the personal pronouns I and we to help to create a self-promotional tenor in their prose. Using a corpus comprising journal research articles (RAs) from the fields of Business & Management, Computing Science, Economics, and Physics, I present data extracts which reveal how I and we can publicize the writer and their work even though the pronouns are ostensibly helping to perform other functions, such as creating a research space, organizing the discourse, outlining procedure and/or methodology, explaining the researcher's previous work, reporting or summarizing findings, disputing other researchers’ findings, or indicating potential future directions for research. The study shows that even supposedly ‘author-evacuated’ articles in the hard sciences can be seen to carry a self-promotional flavour with the help of personal pronouns.
The paper borrows inspiration from three main sources: discourse organization and processing, genre analysis, and ethnography of communication. It explores cross-cultural variation in academic discourse on the basis of some English and Polish data from the field of language studies. Strategies of paper introduction are examined and compared with the help of an extended version of Swales' (1990) Move Analysis. It is argued that there exist potential areas of (in)compatibility between the two writing styles. These involve first of all the scope of information that is normally revealed in initiating a paper, and the rhetorical work that is done to handle academic face-phenomena.
Questions have always been an important interactional tool used by teachers to activate and facilitate the learning process. This study investigates variation in the use of questions in instructional settings that differ according to communicative mode. Using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, a contrastive analysis was carried out on questions in spoken lectures versus written text materials (both print and online). The results showed that the frequency of questions was strikingly similar in both, despite the ‘virtual’ interactional dimension of the written texts. Moreover, the written materials contained numerous features typically associated with face-to-face interaction (e.g., dialogic yes/no, elliptical and ‘aggressive’ questions). Speech-like questions were especially prominent in the online texts, suggesting that this new medium has a hybrid and highly interactive nature. There was marked variation in question form and function across the two corpora, apparently influenced by the interactional efforts and pedagogic aims of the lecturers and materials writers. The findings provide new insights into the role of questions in both traditional and innovative instructional channels.
Metadiscourse refers to aspects of a text which explicitly organise the discourse, engage the audience and signal the writer's attitude. Its use by writers to guide readers and display an appropriate professional persona is an important aspect of persuasive writing. Its role in establishing and maintaining contact between the writer and the reader and between the writer and the message also makes it a central pragmatic concept. Based on a textual analysis of 28 research articles in four academic disciplines, this paper seeks to show how the appropriate use of metadiscourse crucially depends on rhetorical context. The study identifies a taxonomy of metadiscourse functions and suggests that metadiscourse reflects one way in which context and linguistic meaning are integrated to allow readers to derive intended interpretations. It is argued that metadiscourse provides writers with a means of constructing appropriate contexts and alluding to shared disciplinary assumptions. The study of academic metadiscourse can therefore offer insights into our understanding of this concept and illuminate an important dimension of rhetorical variation among disciplinary communities.
Indirectness strategies and markers have been identified in written discourse in many languages, including English. However, in Anglo-American academic writing, explicit points and direct support are expected. In the view of specialists and ESL instructors alike, indirectness seems to characterize the writing of students raised in Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist societies. The reasons that non-native speaker (NNS) second language writing appears vague and indirect may lie in the specific and contextual uses of indirectness devices in English writing rather than in the fact that they are used. This study, based on corpus analysis, compares specific indirectness devices employed in native speaker (NS) and NNS student essays and focuses on NS and NNS uses of twenty-one rhetorical, lexical, referential (deictic), and syntactic indirectness devices. The results of the study indicate that speakers of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Indonesian utilized rhetorical questions and tags, disclaimers and denials, vagueness and ambiguity, repetition, several types of hedges, ambiguous pronouns, and the passive voice in greater frequencies than NSs did. However, NSs and NNSs did not differ significantly in their use of other types of indirectness devices and markers, such as point of view distancing, downtoners, diminutives, discourse particles, and understatements, as well as nominalization and conditional tenses.
Academic writers leave traces of themselves in their writing which may be linked to national as well as disciplinary culture. This paper takes a doubly contrastive approach and investigates writer manifestation in three languages, English, French and Norwegian, and three disciplines, economics, linguistics and medicine, in order to see whether language or discipline is the most important variable governing the pattern of metatext in academic discourse. My corpus consists of 180 refereed research articles within these languages and disciplines. My findings suggest that the language variable is the most important one within economics and linguistics, where English and Norwegian show very similar patterns, using much more metatext than French; within medicine, all three languages display a uniform pattern of little metatext. I conclude that English and Norwegian are both representatives of writer responsible cultures, while French represents a reader responsible culture. As regards discipline, I suggest that since economics and linguistics have a less formalised research article text structure and to some extent create their findings through argumentation in the text, national culture will be more important than it is in medicine, where the IMRD (Introduction-Method Results-Discussion) structure is globally implemented and the research data to a greater extent are -iven outside the text.
Proposal for a categorisation of frame markers
Recapitulative: descriptive analysis of sequencers
Results of the analysis within the three text genres
Frequency analysis
This paper presents the results of a descriptive analysis of discourse structuring devices in written texts. It discusses typologies of metadiscourse (Hyland, 1998; Hyland and Tse, 2004) and establishes a categorisation of organisational metadiscourse markers, i.e. linguistic items that signpost the discourse organisation on the metadiscourse level. One particular group of these markers, sequencers, will be defined more precisely and described by means of a qualitative analysis of their structural parameters. A manual corpus analysis (Degand and Bestgen, 2004), allying quantitative and qualitative analyses, gives a detailed picture of their actual use in written discourse and of their distribution among the three text genres of academic writing, journalese and fiction.
This study analyzes modal verb use in a small corpus of L1 and L2 writing (718 essays/201,601 words) on five topics written by speakers of English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. The results demonstrate that median frequency rates of modal verbs in L2 essays are significantly affected by the writing topic, depending on the writers’ L1s and the contextual meanings and functions of obligation and necessity modals. On the whole, the frequency rates of possibility and ability modals appear to be less topic-dependent than obligation and necessity modals in the L2 writing of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean speakers. In many cases, writing prompts/topics are generally designed to be accessible to young adults of any cultural and linguistic background. However, broad-based topic accessibility also implies reliance on writers’ personal experiences and socio-cultural background knowledge that can lead to a greater topic-effect on L2 writing and overuse of such language features as obligation and necessity modals. The study concludes that more personally distant topics elicit fewer disparities between L1 and L2 prose than topics in which the student writers are expected to draw on their personal experiences.
The pervasiveness of agonism, that is, ritualized adversativeness, in contemporary western academic discourse is the source of both obfuscation of knowledge and personal suffering in academia. Framing academic discourse as a metaphorical battle leads to a variety of negative consequences, many of which have ethical as well as personal dimensions. Among these consequences is a widespread assumption that critical dialogue is synonymous with negative critique, at the expense of other types of ‘critical thinking’. Another is the requirement that scholars search for weaknesses in others' work at the expense of seeking strengths, understanding the roots of theoretical differences, or integrating disparate but related ideas. Agonism also encourages the conceptualization of complex and subtle work as falling into two simplified warring camps. Finally, it leads to the exclusion or marginalization of those who lack a taste for agonistic interchange. Alternative approaches to intellectual interchange need not entirely replace agonistic ones but should be accommodated alongside them.
Academic writing is not just about conveying an ideational ‘content’, it is also about the representation of self. Recent research has suggested that academic prose is not completely impersonal, but that writers gain credibility by projecting an identity invested with individual authority, displaying confidence in their evaluations and commitment to their ideas. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of such an authorial identity is the use of first person pronouns and their corresponding determiners. But while the use of these forms are a powerful rhetorical strategy for emphasising a contribution, many second language writers feel uncomfortable using them because of their connotations of authority. In this paper I explore the notion of identity in L2 writing by examining the use of personal pronouns in 64 Hong Kong undergraduate theses, comparisons with a large corpus of research articles, and interviews with students and their supervisors. The study shows significant underuse of authorial reference by students and clear preferences for avoiding these forms in contexts which involved making arguments or claims. I conclude that the individualistic identity implied in the use of I may be problematic for many L2 writers.
The analysis in this paper examines how mentors ‘do mentoring’ in the workplace, by considering the use of non-work-related talk within the context of formal mentoring meetings. Using a data set consisting of 12 recorded meetings between mentors and their mentees in four different workplaces, the analysis focused on the extent to which mentors from different types of mentoring programmes included non-work-related talk in their mentoring meetings.The results of the analysis showed that the most goal-focused mentoring programme was the only programme whose mentoring participants were almost entirely focussed on core business talk in both of the recorded mentoring meetings. The second most goal-focused mentoring programme (in terms of to whom mentoring is available, and the purpose of the mentoring) was less focused on core business topics, and in each of the two recorded meetings from this workplace there was at least one topic that was less narrowly focused, but still identifiably work-related. Of the two organisations whose mentoring programmes had organisationally defined goals, neither of the recorded meetings included social or phatic talk. The results are discussed with reference to the construction of different types of mentoring identities.
The morphology of English long ago established a split between the indefinite article (a, an) and the numeral (one) from which it was derived by loss of accent. But accent continues to be lost under some conditions and strictly maintained under others. One as a nominalizer seems to be edging away from one as an individualizing pronoun, with accent playing the same role as before. On the other hand, a distinction that was thought to be quite clear - pronoun versus numeral - turns out to be rather blurry. In answer to How many have you got? the difference between One (quantity) and Just this one (identity) is mainly the point of view.
The accenting of prepositions in contexts other than that of direct contrast has not previously been adequately explained or even described. Various explanations for various types of preposition accentuation are explored. Although the contribution of semantic role is paramount, other reasons play an important supporting role in such accentuation.
This paper reports on a study of gift offering and acceptance (G.O.A.) in the Chinese cultural context. We adopt the ‘explore and discover’ approach and its two associated principles — the principle of ‘holism’ which requires that issues concerning communication patterns of a specific group of people are not divorced from the historical development, social experience, cultural beliefs and values of that group generally; and the principle of ‘emergence’ which requires that we discover structures from empirical evidence rather than pre-assigning or imposing structures. 71 instances of G.O.A. have been recorded, using a specially designed observation sheet. The sequential structure of G.O.A. is analysed, and subsequently interpreted with reference to the Chinese notion of li. It is argued that the Chinese li differs significantly from the western concept of ‘politeness’ in both content and structure, which manifests itself in the act of G.O.A., and has far-reaching implications for intercultural communication.
This paper contributes to the study of the discursive back-region mechanisms underlying business news production by focusing on a novel type of online press conference, i.e. one which allows for both live attendance and participation through the Internet. Drawing on a single case study of a press conference of a Dutch government agency in the field of telecommunication hosted by the Dutch news agency ANP, this article sets out to demonstrate how, at the meso level of newsworker routines, the use of technology is meant to enhance both journalistic and industry analyst access. On closer scrutiny at the micro-level of verbal interaction, however, the hybrid participation framework combining online and live involvement is shown to seriously weaken the journalists’ interactional position. It is argued that, at the macro-level of dominance and asymmetry within and between institutions, this leads to a shift in the balance of power in favour of the news source, most prominently the government agency's PR officer ‘gatekeeping’ the press conference. Hence, the use of technology leads to less rather than more journalistic access. In contrast with orthodox critical work on the topic, my data suggest pragmatic reasons, rather than manipulative ones.
Hebrew accessibility markers
A breakdown of the references in the three newspapers, by sections
Breakdown of accessibility marker types in the three newspapers
Breakdown of accessibility marker types in the different newspapers sections
In any spoken or written, visual or auditory discourse the speaker must enable the addressee to identify the entities mentioned in the text by using appropriate referring expressions. A speaker who uses a definite referring expression, presupposes that a mental representation of the entity being referred to exists in the addressee's mind (Prince, 1978). In this research we examined patterns of referring in various Israeli daily newspaper headlines according to accessibility theory (Ariel, 1988, 1990). We focused on headlines, relying on Jucker (1996) in assuming that the headline is a unit, separate from the news item itself. The research examined two kinds of daily newspapers: one is sold out in kiosks on the street, and the other is a subscription paper. In addition we distinguished between various sections within the newspapers. These types form different sub-genres within the journalist genre (Fox, 1987). The genre hypothesis would have been confirmed by findings showing consistent genre-related referential patterns (Bell, 1991). The results of this study clearly showed that the Accessibility scale is not influenced by genre differences in newspapers. However, the results also showed that accessibility considerations do not exclusively determine referential form. As argued by Ariel (1990: Part III), other, possibly conflicting factors, intervene, so that the resulting referential pattern may deviate from the expected accessibility pattern in predicable ways. In headlines, we suggest, brevity and curiosity-arousal encourage the preference for accessibility markers, which mark a higher degree of accessibility than accessibility theory would have predicted.
Antecedents to plural subjects: San Juan First~third person plural combined (N=567) (X2=5.96)
Paradigm of relative frequencies for specific and nonspecific reference: Singular subjects only
One prediction and one extension derived from Accessibility Theory are explored in response to questions concerning the variable alternation of personal pronominal and null subjects in dialects of Spanish. First, are split antecedents to personal plural subjects informationally inferior to antecedents which are not split? Second, why do the categories of specific and nonspecific second person singular subjects show differing frequencies of null subject expression? With respect to the first question, the answer is no. This contradicts a prediction of Accessibility Theory and calls for a reappraisal of the issue of inferior antecedents. With respect to the second question, the criterion of informativity is extended from its initial scope of specific reference to that of nonspecific reference in order to account for the statistical favoring of pronominal subject expression by nonspecific tú, usted, and uno. However, where Accessibility Theory is unable to account for a favoring of null subjects by nonspecific second person singular tú in Iberian dialects, research from generative treatments of proarb, provides a basis for, if not explaining, then strongly expecting this particular pattern. Also included, is an analysis of nonspecific second person reference in Latin American dialects which reveals paradigm leveling of the nonspecific tú constraint on subject pronoun expression in the Latin American dialects by analogy to that of nonspecific uno or usted, a direction of change which Accessibility Theory would predict.
The fundamental determinacy of linguistically encoded meaning has remained as a tacit assumption underlying much work in the study of interlingual interpreting and interpreter behaviour. When confronted with the real-time, on-line nature of interpreter-mediated crosscultural encounters, however, such a view rapidly becomes untenable and an alternative model of the retrieval and representation of meanings becomes necessary. Adopting a relevance theoretic account of interpreter-mediated communication but also drawing on some insights from conversation analysis, this article examines evidence of participant moves – and particularly interpreter moves – to show inferencing at work and the evolving, intra-interactional nature of context. Indeed, a central contention is that interpreters’ performance can provide explicit evidence of take-up, of the sense they make of others’ talk and how they respond to it, in a process of joint negotiation of contextual assumptions. However, whereas mutual accessibility of such assumptions would seem to be a precondition for establishing relevance, the evidence presented here suggests that divergent contexts may emerge among participants, even though the ‘speech-exchange system’ (Schegloff, 1999) of interpreter mediation appears to proceed in an unproblematic way.
The aim of this article is to discover the determining factors for the use of exophoric, nominal demonstratives in Spoken Jordanian Arabic (SJA). The focus is on demonstratives that are used to encode perceptible referents. Contrary to traditional view, it has been found here that physical distance between a speaker and a referent is not the decisive factor for the selection of ‘proximal’ or ‘distal’ demonstratives.Demonstrative practice in SJA is a multifunctional process that is governed by the degree of perceived ‘accessibility’ which the addressee, in particular, has in relation to referents. Within the perceptibility domain, ‘accessibility’ is determined on basis of the addressee's ability, as perceived by the speaker, to identify referents in relation to one of two possible modes of access: high or low perceptibility of the intended referent. Degree of perceptibility is calculated based on the availability of prominent sensory features related to the referent. ‘Proximals’ are used when referents have high perceptibility while ‘distals’ are used when referents have low perceptibility in context. Since demonstrative practice in SJA is context-dependent, exophoric nominal demonstratives do not have a permanent ‘distance’ feature fixedly correlated with the two specific degrees of proximity or distance as part of their semantic repertoire.
Ariel (1985, 1988) has argued that discourse anaphora is determined by reference to the notion of accessibility in memory storage. Under the assumption that mental representations (specifically those of NPs) are accessible to addressees in varying degrees, the claim is that speakers choose between referring expressions so as to mark such accessibility differences for the addressee's convenience.Thus, different referring expressions (e.g., definite descriptions, demonstrative pronouns, pronouns) mark different degrees of accessibility. Definite descriptions mark relatively low accessibility, demonstrative pronouns and pronouns mark relatively higher degrees of accessibility. The linguistic coding of degrees of accessibility is claimed to derive from three universal principles: Informativity, Rigidity and Attenuation, such that more informative, less ambiguous and more highly pronounced, longer forms retrieve less accessible referents.This article argues that precisely the same mechanism is responsible for the distribution of sentential anaphoric expressions. I focus on Hebrew zero/pronoun choices, which are realised in a variety of forms and inflectional morphemes. The conclusion is that both intuitive grammaticality judgments and distributional patterns in texts corroborate the accessibility claim. Thus, the richly informative, rigid and fully articulated 1st and 2nd person pronouns mark relatively low accessibility. The present tense inflection, which is uninformative, ambiguous and attenuated, marks an extremely high degree of accessibility. Other markers are used for a variety of intermediate degrees of accessibility.
A perception experiment investigated the appropriateness of a number of accent patterns in contexts in which a referring expression can be regarded as neither completely given (already active in the listener's consciousness at the time of utterance) nor completely new (inactive), but rather in between the two, i.e. accessible (semi-active). Results clearly show that, for the purposes of intonation, accessible information cannot be treated as a uniform category. In a number of cases, one particular type of pitch accent, H+L* (early peak accent), is significantly preferred over another accent type, H* (medial peak accent), as well as over deaccentuation. These cases comprise whole-part relations, where the referent constituted a part of an already mentioned whole, and the scenario condition, where the referent was predictable from the contextually given schema, or frame. The remaining types of accessible information were shown to be preferentially deaccented, with a second choice for H+L* rather than H*. These cases comprised relations such as converseness, part-whole (in that order only), synonymy, and hypernym–hyponym (in either order). These findings point to the intermediate status of H+L* for the signaling of information states.
Top-cited authors
Adele E. Goldberg
  • Princeton University
Bruce Fraser
  • Boston University
Charles Goodwin
  • University of California, Los Angeles
Janet Holmes
  • Victoria University of Wellington
Jonathan Culpeper
  • Lancaster University