Ball State University, USA
TP143: Pragmatic variation: the interplay of micro-social and macro-social factors
Much research on pragmatic variation has focused on differences in speech acts across cultures (Tannen 1981, Blum-Kulka and Olshtain 1984, Holtgraves 1997) and learners’ understanding and performance of L2 speech acts (Kasper and Rose 2003). Within languages, variability over time has also received a little attention (Sweetser 1995; Traugott & Dasher 2002). However, with the exception of gender (Tannen 1994; Holmes 1995), there has been little focus on intralinguistic variation involving macro-social variables (Barron 2005, Clyne 2006).
We offer a review of research impinging on macro-factors in variation, propose specific issues needing study, and discuss problems in research design, drawing from the fields of cognitive and social psychology, second language acquisition, sociology, and anthropology, in addition to linguistic pragmatics. For example, cognitively-based research including the variable of age in child language acquisition (Bates 1976), the role of memory in metaphor interpretation (Chiappe & Chiappe 2007), and the pragmatics skills of disabled populations (e.g. Autism Spectrum: Barrett et al. 2004; Asperger Syndrome: Bartlett et al. 2005) also bear on the study of pragmatic variability.
Finally, we report on our own preliminary research of variability in the understanding and production of literal vs. implied meaning in native American English speakers. We propose that there is a greater range of pragmatic variation than can be explained in the light of social macro-variables alone, and conclude that cognitive macro-variables must also be considered for the general population.
Barrett, Suzanne et al. 2004. Children on the borderlands of autism: Differential characteristics in social, imaginative, communicative and repetitive behaviour domains. Autism, 8.1:61-87
Bartlett, Sarah et al. 2005. Linguistic resources of individuals with Asperger Syndrome. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 19.3:203-213.
Bates, Elizabeth. 1976. Language and context: The acquisition of pragmatics. NY: Academic Press.
Blum-Kulka, Shoshona and Elite Olshtain. 1984. Requests and apologies: A cross-cultural study of speech act realization patterns (CCSARP). Applied Linguistics, Vol. 5, No. 3.
Chiappe, Dan L. and Penny Chiappe. 2007. The role of working memory in metaphor production and comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 56.2:172-188.
Clyne, Michael. 2006. Some thoughts on pragmatics, sociolinguistic variation, and intercultural communication. Intercultural Pragmatics, 3.1:95-105.
Holmes, Janet. 1995. Women, men and politeness. London: Longman.
Holtgraves, T. 1997. Styles of language use: Individual and cultural variability in conversational indirectness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73:624-637.
House, Juliane and Gabriele Kasper. 1981. Politeness markers in English and German. Conversational routine: Explorations in standardized communication situations and prepatterned speech. Florian Coulmas, ed. Mouton: The Hague.
Kasper, Gabriele and Kenneth R. Rose. 2003. Pragmatic development in a second language. Oxford: Blackwell.
Sweetser, Eve. 1995. Metaphor, mythology, and everyday language. Journal of Pragmatics 24.6:585-593.
Tannen, D. 1981. Indirectness in discourses: Ethnicity as conversation style. Discourse Processes 4:221-38.
Tannen, Deborah. 1994. Gender and discourse. New York: Oxford University Press.
Traugott, Elizabeth Closs and Richard B. Dasher. 2002. Regularity in semantic change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Session: Themed Panel (part 1)
Pragmatic variation: The interplay of micro-social and macro-social factors
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30