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The pragmatics environment: trends and perspectives, (1) by Lluís Payrató


raised or outlined (see especially Arndt and Janney 1987) and is one of the new challenges that pragmatics (as well as discourse analysis and sociolinguistics in general) will now have to come to terms with, now, at the turn of the new century. That is, how to coordinate analysis of processes of communication and interaction where verbality, vocality and gesture form three channels of simultaneous, synchronised production (see Payrató 2002).

5. Three examples and a proposal

The following examples, adapted from Payrató (2003), can serve, despite the obvious simplification, as examples of the different connections and orientations discussed above:

(1) ((In a restaurant, the waiter asks what two people wish to order for lunch))
A: Have you chosen?
B: Beef.
C: Beef.
A: Beef, as well.

(2) ((At a bakery, a woman refers to the nougat she has at home, from the previous Christmas))
A: It's like…
(.) (gesture symbolising ‘smell’, in front of her nose)
(.) …rancid.

(3) ((Walking along the street in the same direction, a man addresses a woman, asking a question))
A: Do you still live round here?
B: No.
(..) now we're in El Remei [district].
A: (moves his head backwards, raises his eyebrows, opening his eyes very wide and sticking out his tongue)

Example (1) show connections, seldom observed, between politeness, grammar, the construction of conversation turns and text cohesion: the waiter (interlocutor A), in the fourth turn "repairs", by adding a polite as well, the apparent "impolite" turn from interlocutor C, who fails to use any marker of cohesion linking with B's utterance. Courtesy would require this linkage since the same dish is mentioned a second time (the unmarked form here would be something like me too, I'll have the same, etc.).

Examples (2) and (3) exhibit multiple connections between verbal and non-verbal elements: in (2) a gesture (with the basic meaning of "bad smell") precedes the verbal information on the state of the nougat; in (3), the complex gesture of the interlocutor A denotes surprise, astonishment, but it is not accompanied by any verbal elements; nonetheless, the exchange would be impossible to analyse without this fragment, forming the whole, with the multiple non-verbal markers also showing who is asked the question, or how the exchange ends (greetings are also exclusively non verbal).

To close, the following list or grid (see also Payrató 2003 and the VARCOM project, Payrató, Alturo and Juanhuix 2003) represents an attempt to group, tentatively, different traits or markers which might appear in any fragment of speech. These markers, along with non-verbal elements which belong to another grid, help to form the discourse style of an individual, both from the perspective of production and reception of the message:

(4) Verbal-style and discourse-style markers:

(A) Of dialect: (1) historical (contemporary / earlier), (2) geographical (local / standard), (3) social: social class, educational level, generational, genre-related, acquisitional, social or ethnic group

(B) Of functional variety: (4) field (specialised / non-specialised), (5) Of mode: channel (oral / written / mixed) and of degree of preparation (unplanned / planned / mixed), (6) tenor: functional (interactive / informative / mixed), personal (subjective - involved / objective - distant), (7) tone (informal / neutral / formal)

(C) Of text type: (8) orientation (narrative / descriptive / explicative / argumentative / instructive), (9) materialisation: composition or nature (extension, nominal / verbal), organisation or structure (explicit / implicit, bound / unbound), unified or cohesive / not cohesive), interpretability or coherence (coherent / incoherent)

(D) Of genre or discourse type: (10) ambit (private, public or institutional), (11) purpose (non literary, literary or aesthetic), (12) structure (dialoguing or multi- managed / monologue)

The intertwining of categories and subcategories, with the consequent difficulties in categorisation, reflects the difficulties, common to pragmatics, discourse analysis and sociolinguistics, experienced in characterising individuals' speech in objective and measurable terms, above and beyond the subjective, anecdotal or impressionistic views. Progress in pragmatics has to represent an improvement in our capacity to understand the phenomena in question –that is, to describe them in the terms habitual in any science, to measure them, classify them and explain them objectively, and above all in terms of an ethology of the communication.

6. Confluences and perspectives

All that we have discussed to this point, especially the connection between the pragmatic and communicative dimensions which we have just noted, clearly derives from the fact that pragmatics, while ideally reducible to one specific theory, is more normally seen these days as a field consisting of confluences and perspectives from a range of different research on language use. This is all the more so, given that pragmatic lines of investigation have been increasingly applied, in their turn, to intersections with other disciplines and to applied linguistics. New approaches and renewal of vision have benefited first and second language teaching, the analysis of language contact, translation and literary studies, automatic language processing, and many more.

In short, the field of pragmatics, both in general and in specific terms –tied to a language, culture or language community-- can be viewed as a programme of research in the development stage, with various different roots (see, especially with reference to Catalan, Salvador 1984), which could finally settle on one orientation in particular, whether social, grammatical and textual, stylistic or cognitive (cf. Viana 1997, Cuenca 2002 and Payrató 2002b, volume 29 of Caplletra and Cuenca and Hilferty 1999).

To a large extent, a return to its beginnings is inevitable: pragmatics continues to develop a role which in many ways is similar to pure philosophical reflection and inquiry. And if it is true that there is no philosophy other than that which reflects on language, we will have to conclude that the philosophy of language and pragmatics share the same ends and proceed in parallel or converging fashion. That the contributions made by J. L. Austin, J. R. Searle and H. P. Grice were of value to pragmatics was not just a matter of chance. Nor were they alone in this (consider L. Wittgenstein, J. Habermas…). Furthermore, sociolinguistics has profited, over the course of its history, from many contributions from without, and in any case the borrowing or transfer of concepts from one discipline to another constitutes a particularly interesting chapter in the history of the science.

Bearing in mind that pragmatics research has steadily come to acquire official standing (institutionalisation or officialisation), along with a critical mass of researchers clearly in evidence, we can say that the whole future of this discipline will depend now on being able to unify (that is coordinate, rather than render uniform) the different trends and directions within the discipline, involving the different confluences mentioned above. This, whether we like it or not, cannot disassociate itself, at least in a holistic sense, from the neighbouring viewpoints of sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and the philosophy of language. Of course, the same could be said of each of these other viewpoints… In any case it should be noted that the multiplicity of perspectives, not only will not trivialise the discipline, but should actually contribute to focussing the complexity and defining the multidisciplinary nature of those language sciences which concern themselves with language use.

7. Bibliography

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Lluís Payrató  
University of Barcelona

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