What are you saying he implied? Inferring commitment from reported speech

  • 1,170 views
Uploaded on

Presentation meade at the conference on commitment in language, University of Antwerp, April 2007. By Patrick Morency, Steve Oswald and Louis de Saussure

Presentation meade at the conference on commitment in language, University of Antwerp, April 2007. By Patrick Morency, Steve Oswald and Louis de Saussure

More in: Technology
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Be the first to comment
    Be the first to like this
No Downloads

Views

Total Views
1,170
On Slideshare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
0

Actions

Shares
Downloads
54
Comments
0
Likes
0

Embeds 0

No embeds

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
    No notes for slide
  • -Our talk presents some of the work we have been carrying out lately in the semantics and pragmatics research group at the University of Neuchâtel. We are particularly interested in the effects of meaning that can arise in reported speech, and notably with respect to the distinction between explicit and implicit communication. This distinction has traditionally been relevant when it comes to dealing with speaker commitment. -There are traditionally 2 main ‘pragmatic’ traditions which address commitment: Speech act theory and cognitive pragmatics. -Speech act theory emphasises the role of speech act performance and recognition in order to assess commitment (see Dascal 2003 for a discussion), so for instance an assertion or a promise carry strong commitment/involvement to the content, while a question does not. So the notion of commitment has very much to do with the illocutionary force of a speech act. -Cognitive pragmatics focuses on mechanisms of interpretation, i.e. the cognitive operations that individuals go through when they make sense of communicative stimuli. These cognitive operations range from semantic or logical necessary entailments to the derivation of implicatures. In this tradition, the notion of commitment lies at the centre of the distinction between explicit and implicit content. -We wish to explore this track, positing that commitment is accessed inferentially by the hearer, in other words, that a representation about a speaker’s commitment to a proposition is the result of inferential processing. -So the outline of this talk is quite simple: we will first say a few more words on the way we conceive of commitment and then we will try to establish a few distinctions in order to assess commitment in reported speech
  • -We will talk of commitment as an assumption about the speaker’s endorsement, or non-endorsement, of a content. In the words of Dascal 2003, “commitment refers to what the speaker can be said to have ‘taken for granted’ in making his or her utterance”. -This means that commitment expresses that from which a speaker cannot retract her/himself. -This information is purported to be evident, obvious or at least manifest to the hearer. However, matters might be a bit more complex in reality, as the case of reported speech seems to show, since we do not always have a direct access to the original speaker’s commitment; indeed sometimes we infer commitment, but the grounds on which we do so can be rather risky. -Inferring commitment is therefore inferring that the speaker holds P to be true, and that the speaker gives evidence of this. -And we take inferences on commitment to be derived pragmatically on the basis of the linguistic stimulus. By pragmatically derived, we follow Carston (2002) and we assume that the derivation of explicit content is already a pragmatic process. -In this sense, inferring commitment also involves the attribution of intentions to the speaker
  • -A speaker can communicate a content P and her or his commitment to P at the same time. Such is typically the case of explicit contents. Once a speaker explicitly utters P , he or she cannot retract from it without producing some kind of inconsistency, such as something of the form “ P but not P ” -However, a speaker can also communicate contents about which he or she does not communicate his or her commitment. This is the case of implicit contents, since usually it is the hearer who is responsible for recovering the implicit meaning. Take example (11) of the handout: Father : There were a lot of people at your wedding party. Son : Don’t always complain about money, dad. Father : I’m not complaining. I’m just saying there were a lot of people. The father denies having committed to the implicature “It was too expensive”, by virtue of the fact that he did not explicitly said it, and therefore he cannot be held liable for it. An inference on commitment can thus be cancelled if it is the result of implicature processing. -This distinction is the heuristic basis for the traditional distinction between explicit an implicit content: -Implicatures are defeasible, and therefore they are the hearer’s responsibility -There should be no contradictory information in an utterance. -With regard to commitment, the idea is that a speaker cannot deny his or her commitment when he or she explicitly said P , because that would yield a contradiction ( P but not P ). However, if a speaker’s commitment was inferred via implicature processing, then the speaker can retract from a his or her potential commitment. -I can say to my roommate “The dustbin is full again”, which could lead her to infer the implicature “please put it away”, but I can always add “But don’t worry, I’ll do it”, and retract from what she inferred as my potential commitment to the fact that I wanted her to do it.
  • -Now, we are well aware that there is an ongoing debate around the explicit or implicit, at the same time that the semantic or pragmatic nature of constituents of meaning. The status of unarticulated constituents, as discussed by Perry (1986), is a hot topic today, dealt with in many framworks, such as Carston’s model of explicatures, Bach’s idea of implicitures or Recanati’s truth-conditional pragmatics. The debate is illustrated by the following examples: Yes (I will come) Paracetamol is better [than x] Mary gave John a pen and he wrote down the address, with ‘and’ meaning ‘and then’ -are these constituents semantic or pragmatic? They seem to be explicit, though they are not articulated -It is quite difficult to assess the arguments each side puts forward, but this is not our purpose today -This is just to have in mind that such complications will probably arise when we deal with reported speech, as we shall see in a few moments.
  • -We turn now to the issue of reported speech. -This particular configuration in communication involves a high degree of complexity, if only because a hearer has to deal with two speech instances, the original speaker, and the reporting speaker. -So with respect to issues of commitment, the hearer is faced to the question of knowing who commits to which content, which multiplies the possible options and supposes different combinations. -Our intention is to analyse what the hearer can infer in reported speech, starting with the nature of the original communication, between the reporting speaker and the original speaker. -For this, we will assume that, as the reporting speaker’s metarepresentation of the original speaker’s utterance, the embedded clause P can be anything ranging from a faithful report to a risky interpretation. -The preface (in its broad meaning, that it, including verbs and preface modifiers) is determinant in the sense that the chosen preface will inform the hearer if he is dealing with a report or an interpretation of the original speaker’s utterance. -We will consequently argue that the preface the reporting speaker chooses will be determinant in the hearer’s assessment of commitment
  • -there are verbs and locutions that give evidence of the fact that P is the result of the reporting speaker’s processing of explicatures, and therefore of the fact that he is somehow faithfully reporting the original speaker’s utterance. -among those are verbs such as: say, acknowledge, affirm, maintain, declare, add, announce, answer, assert, deny, divulge… that and prefaces such as: the speaker made it clear that… -on the other hand, there are verbs and locutions that give evidence of the fact that P is the result of the reporting speaker’s processing of explicatures. In other words, prefaces that give evidence of the fact that the reporting speaker is supplying his or her own interpretation of the original speaker’s utterance -among those we find: imply, hint, mean, insinuate, intimate… that P -there are also unmarked verbs, such as ‘admit’ and ‘recognise’, that do not favour the fact that we are dealing with a report, nor that we are dealing with an interpretation of the reporting speaker -finally, there are verbs of thought, or psychological prefaces, such as think, believe, consider… which seem to convey that the reporting speaker is delivering an interpretation of the original speaker’s communication -it is interesting to note that this classification covers two different distinctions: the distinction between explicit and implicit content, but also the distinction between reported speech and reported thought. -today we will focus on the first to classes
  • -Let’s start out with the simplest of all cases, the case of explicitness of a faithful report (or direct reported speech). -When uttering (1) or (2), the hearer infers that the original speaker actually said P , so H infers that the reporting speaker is faithfully reporting or relaying the information. -With respect to commitment, the hearer infers that the original speaker is strongly committed to P , and, as a repercussion, that the reporting speaker is strongly committed to the fact that the reporting speaker is strongly committed to the fact that the original speaker is strongly committed to P . -In other words, this means that the reporting speaker is not supplying an interpretation, but a report. -this should come as no surprise, considering the oddness of an utterance such as “In my opinion, Laszlo said he would come”. This utterance would make sense only in a constrained context where we are trying to establish what exactly Laszlo said. But in any other context, this seems rather odd, since ‘in my opinion’ conveys the idea of a speaker’s interpretation. -This would tend to show that ‘say that P ’ semantically encodes that we are dealing with a report, or, in relevance parlance, that this information is part of the explicatures of ‘say that P ’ -so in the case of direct reported speech, OS’s commitment to P is overtly manifest
  • -Now, there are cases where we infer that P is the result of the reporting speaker’s processing of explicatures, even when there is no direct quote, or no explicit evidence of a 100% faithful report. -Take example (3): Laszlo said he would come -The hearer infers that the original speaker said P or something very close to P , i.e. that the explicatures derivable from P (embedded in the reporting speaker’s utterance), resemble the explicatures that were derivable from the original speaker’s actual utterance of P . We use this notion of resemblance following Wilson (2000). -Compare the explicatures we can derive from examples (4), (5) and (6) with the explicatures we can derive: RS: Laszlo said he would come H infers that OS said P (or something very close to P ), i.e. that the explicatures derivable from P (embedded in RS’s utterance) resemble the explicatures that were derivable from OS’s actual utterance of P . Why? Because if Laszlo originally explicitly said “I’ll be there”, we still can use the “Laszlo said he would come” form, since the explicatures of “I’ll be there” and “I’ll come” share a high degree of resemblance. With respect to commitment, this amounts to the same inferable commitments as the ones in the first two examples. ‘ Say’ tells H that RS’s utterance communicates that what RS is saying about OS’s original utterance is part of the explicatures of OS’s original utterance.  ‘ say’ tells H that P is not an implicature that s/he derived, and therefore that there are good reasons to infer strong commitment to P , by both RS and OS. Now consider the following example: RS: Laszlo said, but not word for word, that he would come this illustrates the above assumption; the fact that RS’s report is not 100% faithful (does not explicitly match what OS explicitly said) is of no real importance when we use the verb ‘say’, since what ‘say’ communicates is a very close match (high degree of resemblance i.e. similar amount of relevant information) between the explicatures derivable from OS’s original utterance and the explicatures derivable from P . (4), (5) and (6) are equivalent in terms of
  • -By saying ‘implied that P ’, RS means something like: “I, RS, am not dealing with the explicatures of OS’s original utterance” -H infers that RS supplies his own interpretation of OS’s original utterance. Therefore, it gives evidence of implicature processing by RS. With respect to commitment, we have no direct access to OS’s commitment, because we simply do not have access to any explicature derivable from OS’s original utterance. By saying ‘implied that’, RS means something like “take me as not being able to safely attribute OS’s commitment to P ”. “In other words, the fact that I, RS, am providing my interpretation denies H the possibility of assessing OS’s commitment to P , because, since it is my interpretation (implicature), OS can always retract from it”.  As a consequence, OS cannot be held liable for the content of P .  Normally H cannot directly attribute any commitment to OS concerning P However, H has an indirect access to OS’s commitment to P ; indeed, RS communicates that he believes that OS is committed to P . The lexical semantics of ‘imply’ explicitly convey that what is communicated by P is the result of RS’s pragmatic processing of implicatures (i.e. an interpretation, as opposed to a report). The only difference is that RS presents this information as the result of his own processing (implicature derivation). The inaccessibility of OS’s original utterance denies the possibility of checking for faithful explicatures
  • RS: “Laszlo said that he would come, but he said it implicitly” Markers such as ‘implicitly’ can modify verbs as ‘say’ to adopt the property of presenting P not as a report, but as the result of an interpretation (thus involving implicature processing). So in this respect, these markers function equivalently to verbs such as ‘imply’. Laszlo said he would come, but/and he said it explicitly Holland is flat: loose use of flat. Not literally flat! This is not implicature cancelling, but loose use. Otherwise, flat would implicitly communicate ‘completely flat’
  • RS can communicate something about P , and in this case, perhaps that Laszlo has been led to say P , even if at first he could be purported to not wanting to say P . With ‘admit’, there is an attitudinal implication: that P is inappropriate in some way, i.e. that P shouldn’t be the case according to OS’s representations, i.e. that P is not a desirable state of affairs, according to OS, RS, or other relevant indivduals.
  • -LINK WITH FORENSIC LINGUISTICS?

Transcript

  • 1. “ What are you saying he implied?” Inferring commitment from reported speech Patrick Morency, Steve Oswald and Louis de Saussure University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  • 2. Commitment and pragmatics
    • Two main approaches to the notion of commitment:
      • Speech act theory (following Searle 1969): commitment concerns illocutionary force
      • Cognitive pragmatics (Sperber & Wilson [1986] 1995; Carston 2000, 2002): commitment as a criterion for explicit contents
    • Commitment as the result of an inference drawn by the hearer (H)
    • Commitment in reported speech
  • 3. Commitment as an inference
    • Commitment is an assumption about the speaker’s (S) endorsement (or non-endorsement) of a content:
      • “ commitment refers to what the speaker can be said to have ‘taken for granted’ in making his or her utterance” (Dascal 2003: 160)
      •  that from which S cannot retract her/himself
      •  that which is evident, obvious, manifest, to the hearer H
        • But in fact it might be more complex
    • Inferring commitment is:
      • inferring that S holds P to be true
      • derived pragmatically on the basis of the linguistic stimulus
  • 4. Commitment and the explicit/implicit distinction
    • S can communicate P (a content), and her/his commitment to P at the same time
      • explicit contents
    • S can also communicate contents about which s/he does not communicate her/his commitment
      • implicit contents
    • This is the heuristic basis for the traditional explicit/implicit content distinction
      • defeasibility criterion of implicatures (cf. Grice)
      • logical criterion: there should be no contradictory information in an utterance
  • 5. Current issues regarding the explicit/implicit distinction
    • Many components of explicit meaning (i.e. which suppose speaker’s commitment) are left unexpressed by the speaker
      • ellipsis of logical forms
      • other types of unarticulated constituents (Perry 1986) such as hidden indexicals (Recanati 2000) “It’s raining” (‘here’ and ‘now’)
    • Examples (Carston 2000, 2002):
      • Paracetamol is better [than what?]
      • Mary gave John a pen and he wrote down the address [and then]
  • 6. Commitment in indirect reported speech
    • Reported speech involves a high degree of complexity
      • 2 speech instances – original speaker (OS) and reporting speaker (RS)
        • Who commits to which content?
      • as RS’s metarepresentation of OS’s utterance, the embedded clause can be anything ranging from a faithful report to a risky interpretation
    • Preface (in its broad meaning, including preface modifiers) is determinant:
      • There are linguistic expressions, used as prefaces, that inform H on the explicit/implicit nature of the original representation
      • This has consequences on H’s inferences on commitment
  • 7. Types of prefatory expressions
    • verbs (and locutions) that give evidence of RS’s explicature processing and reporting
      • say/acknowledge/affirm/maintain/declare/add/ announce/answer/assert/deny/divulge… that P
    • verbs (and locutions) that give evidence of RS’s implicature processing and interpreting
      • imply/hint/mean/insinuate/intimate/… that P
    • Unmarked verbs
      • admit/recognize
    • Verbs of thought / psychological prefaces
      • think/believe/consider
  • 8. Evidence of RS’s explicature processing and reporting (1): direct reported speech
    • The simplest of all cases (Laszlo said: “ P ”):
      • Laszlo said: “I’ll come”
      • Laszlo said, word for word, that he would come
        • In this case, P , the embedded clause, is presented as matching OS’s original utterance
    • H infers that OS explicitly said P , so RS’s utterance is a faithful report
    • Consequently, H infers that OS is strongly committed to P
      • as a repercussion, H infers that RS is strongly committed to the fact that OS is strongly committed to P
    • Consider the oddness of:
      • ?In my opinion, Laszlo said he would come
  • 9. Evidence of RS’s explicature processing and reporting (2): indirect reported speech
    • Cases of explicature processing:
      • Laszlo said he would come [at location x]
    • H infers that either OS actually said P or that he said something very close to P , i.e. that P ’s explicatures resemble (Wilson 2000) the explicatures of OS’s original utterance
    • Compare the explicatures of the following:
      • “ I’ll come” [at location x]
      • “ I’ll be there” [at location x]
      • “ Yes” (answering the question “will you come?”)
    • We assume these yield the same explicatures, which match the explicatures of P , as in (3)
    • Inferences on commitment match those of (1)
  • 10. Inferring commitment from evidence of a report
    • If RS’s utterance carries quotation marks, it is a 100% full report
      • H can infer OS’s commitment to P since P is what OS uttered
    • If the lexical semantics of the prefatory verb indicates explicature processing, H will also be able to assess OS’s commitment to her/his original utterance, since this original utterance shares the same explicatures as P
    • The resemblance between explicatures is prompted by the (semantically encoded) evidence of a report
  • 11. Evidence of RS’s implicature processing and interpreting (1)
    • RS can present P as her/his own interpretation:
      • Laszlo implied/hinted that he would come
    • H is led to infer that P is the result of implicature processing, by RS, of OS’s original utterance
    • H is led to infer that, as an implicature, P resembles the implicatures derivable from OS’s original utterance
    • There is no assumption about any resemblance between explicatures by virtue of the inaccessibility to the original utterance
  • 12. Evidence of RS’s implicature processing and interpreting (2)
    • RS can present her/his own interpretation through certain modifiers:
      • Laszlo said that he would come, but he said it implicitly
    • ‘ implicitly’ modifies the verb to make it adopt the property of presenting P as an interpretation of OS’s original utterance
    • (8) shows a loose use of ‘said’, which would explain its slight oddness
  • 13. Inferring commitment from evidence of an interpretation
    • These verbs and expressions are explicit markers of implicitness; their lexical semantics denotes that P is the result of implicature processing
    • Therefore, H cannot directly assess OS’s commitment to P
      • Since P is an interpretation of OS’s original utterance, OS can always retract from having committed to P
    • However, RS’s interpretation communicates that RS believes that OS is actually committed to P , even if OS cannot be held liable for the content of P (2 nd hand assessment of commitment)
  • 14. Implicit attitudinals with evidence of an interpretation
    • When RS presents P as an interpretation, he can also communicate a certain attitude towards P
      • Laszlo implicitly admitted he cheated on Nina
      • Laszlo explicitly admitted he cheated on Nina
    • With ‘admit that P ’ alone, H has no way of determining whether P is a report or an interpretation (Saussure, forth.)
    • H can only make risky speculations about OS’s original utterance
    • However, H can infer RS’s attitude towards P :
      • The interpretation that Laszlo admitted he cheated on Nina means that he had to cancel other (possibly contradictory) assumptions
    • Admit P seems to carry not only a presupposition that P is true, but also that P is inappropriate for some or all of the concerned individuals, in particular the hearer (the grounds for attitude recovery).
  • 15. Commitment and belief fixation
    • What is the point of inferring OS’s commitment in reported speech?
      • Having reliable information about what is being discussed (especially in cases of risk communication, e.g. the bird flu)
      • Having access to the source’s (OS) beliefs
      • Having good grounds to evaluate what is being discussed
    • In some sensitive contexts, such as press reports, it is likely that the inference of the journalist’s opinion about the OS has to do with the audience’s belief fixation (the journalist is often presupposed a competent and benevolent speaker).
  • 16. Work in progress: further research
    • Corpus-based analyses of press articles displaying reported speech
      • Importance of prefatory expressions and their modifiers in H’s interpretation
    • Varieties of cognitive effects derived on the basis of unmarked prefaces (that do not give evidence of a report nor of an interpretation) TROP LARGE - SUPPRIMER
    • Status of psychological verbs: think/believe/know… that P
    • The explicature/implicature distinction IDEM
    • Importance of effects yielded by tenses
      • My dad says there were a lot of people at the wedding
      • My dad is saying there were a lot of people at the wedding
    • Inferring speaker’s commitment to P is a matter of linguistic and contextual information:
      • deontic verbs: “Paul said it’s time for us to go” seems to carry easily the implicature that the speaker commits himself to P
  • 17. References
    • Burton-Roberts, N, (2006), Cancellation and Intention. Newcastle University. Pdf file: Http://www.ncl.ac.uk/elll/research/papers/Cancellation%20and%20intention.pdf
    • Carston, R, (2002), Thoughts and Utterances: The Pragmatics of Explicit Communication, Blackwell, Oxford.
    • Carston, R, (2004), « Relevance Theory and the saying/implicating distinction, in Horn, L. & Ward, G. (eds), Handbook of Pragmatics. Oxford: Blackwell.
    • Moeschler, J. & Saussure, L. de (2002), “Pragmatique du discours et interprétation”, in Roulet, E., Burger, M. Les modèles du discours au défi d’un « dialogue romanesque » : l’incipit du roman de R. Pinget : Le Libera, Presses Universitaires de Nancy, Nancy, 379-402.
    • Récanati, F., (2000), Oratio recta, oratio obliqua: an Essay on Metarepresentation, MIT Press, London.
    • Saussure, L. de, (forth.), “Implicatures et métareprésentations en contexte de presse écrite”, in Béguelin M.-J., Bonhomme M. & Lugrin G., Intertextualité et interdiscours dans les médias, TRANEL.
    • Sperber, D. (ed), (2000), Metarepresentations: a multidisciplinary approach, Oxford University Press, New York.
    • Sperber, D. & Wilson, D., (1995), Relevance: Communication and Cognition, 2nd ed., Blackwell, Oxford.
    • Wilson, Deirdre. 2000. “Metarepresentation in linguistic communication”. In D. Sperber (ed.) Metarepresentations. Oxford University Press, 411-448. Version (pdf) published in (1999) UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 11: 127-161.
    • Wilson, D. (2003), “New Directions for Research on Pragmatics and Modularity”, UCL Working Papers in Linguistics, 15, 303-324.