Investigating pragmatic variation

Anne Barron, Klaus P. Schneider

University of Bonn, Germany

TP143: Pragmatic variation: the interplay of micro-social and macro-social factors

Variational pragmatics (VP) has emerged in recent years as a field of linguistic inquiry at the interface of pragmatics and dialectology (cf., e.g., Barron 2005, 2006; Schneider 2005; Schneider and Barron forthcoming). It is concerned with the systematic investigation of intra-lingual macro-social pragmatic variation and thus deals with the influence of macro-social factors, such as region, gender, age, social class and ethnic identity, on the conventions of language use. As such, variational pragmatics addresses a research gap in the study of varieties previously identified, but not systematically attended to (cf., e.g., Schlieben-Lange and Weydt 1978; Kasper 1995; Wolfram and Schilling-Estes 2006: 93-101).

Variational pragmatics has to date concentrated predominantly on macro-social variation, i.e. on determining the influence of each macro-social factor on language use individually. However, it would seem that macro-social factors may also interact in their impact on language use. Hence, variational pragmatics must also address possible hierarchical relationships between these factors and identify patterns of factor interaction. In addition, the interplay of micro-social factors, such as power and social distance, with these macro-social factors is an area ripe for research (cf. Schneider 2007, Schneider and Barron forthcoming).

The purpose of this paper is to further establish the field of variational pragmatics and to develop the concepts presented in Barron (2005, 2006), Schneider (2005) and Schneider and Barron (forthcoming). The paper serves to launch the workshop "Pragmatic variation: the interplay of micro-social and macro-social factors".

Session: Themed Panel (part 1)
Pragmatic variation: The interplay of micro-social and macro-social factors
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 15