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The Role of context (Discourse Analysis)

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The Role of context (Discourse Analysis)

  1. 1. The Role of the context in interpretation Discourse Analysis Lecture 6
  2. 2. The context of an idea or event is the general situation that relates to it, and which helps it to be understood (Collins Co-build Dictionary, 1995)
  3. 3. Discourse analyst has to take account of the context in which a piece of discourse occur. Linguistic elements which require contextual information e.g here, now, I, you, then and that
  4. 4. The discourse analyst is investigating the use of the language in context by a speaker/ writer The relationship between the speaker and the utterance, on the particular occasion of use, tan with he potential relationship of one sentence to another, regardless of their use. Interpreting reference, presupposition, implicature and inference
  5. 5. A: my uncle's coming home from Canada on Sunday + he's due in B: how long has he been away for or has he just been away? A: Oh no they lived in Canada eh he was married to my mother's sister + + well she's been dead for a number of years now +
  6. 6. the notion of presupposition required in discourse analysis is pragmatic presupposition, that is, 'defined in terms of assumptions the speaker makes about what the hearer is likely to accept without challenge' (Givbn, 1979a: 50)
  7. 7. Keenan (1971) A sentence S logically presupposes a sentence S' just in case S logically implies St and the negation of S, - S, also logically implies S a. My uncle is coming home from Canada. b. My uncle isn't coming home from Canada. c. I have an uncle.
  8. 8. However, it seems rather unnecessary to introduce the negative sentence (b) into a consideration of the relationship between (a) and (c) The introduction of the negative sentence into a consideration of creates an additional problem. For example, it has been suggested ( Kempson, 1975) that a sentence such as (d) is a perfectly reasonable sentence of English and undermines the argument for logical presupposition, as it is defined above. (d) My uncle isn't coming home from Canada because I don't have an uncle.
  9. 9. The speakers, we may suggest, would have different presuppositions, in the two situations.
  10. 10. ‘Implied meaning’ which is indicating truth. The term 'implicature' is used by Grice (1975) to account for what a speaker can imply, suggest, or mean, as distinct from what the speaker literally says. Conventional Implicatures Conversational Implicatures
  11. 11. conventional implicatures which are, according to Grice, determined by 'the conventional meaning of the words used' He is an Englishman, he is, therefore, brave.
  12. 12. Conversational implicature which is derived from a general principle of conversation plus a number of maxims which speakers normally obey. The general principle is called the Cooperative Principle: "Make your contribution such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.“ (Grice)
  13. 13. Listeners and speakers must speak cooperatively and mutually accept one another to be understood in a particular way. The cooperative principle describes how effective communication in conversation is achieved in common social situations.
  14. 14. Conversational maxims: Quantity: Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange). Do not make your contribution more informative than is required. Quality: Do not say what you believe to be false. DO not say that for which you lack adequate evidence. Relation: Be relevant. Manner: Be perspicuous. Avoid obscurity of expression. Avoid ambiguity. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity). Be orderly.
  15. 15. by providing a description of the norms speakers operate with in conversation, Grice makes it possible to describe what types of meaning a speaker can convey by 'flouting' one of these maxims. This flouting of a maxim results in the speaker conveying, in addition to the literal meaning of his utterance, an additional meaning, which is a conversational implicature
  16. 16. A: I am out of petrol. B: There is a garage round the corner. A discourse analyst would like to emphasise the fact that implicatures are pragmatic aspects of meaning and have certain identifiable characteristics. They are partially derived from the conventional or literal meaning of an utterance, produced in a specific context which is shared by the speaker and the hearer, and depend on a recognition by the speaker and the hearer of the Cooperative Principle and its maxims.
  17. 17. Since the discourse analyst, like the hearer, has no direct access to a speaker's intended meaning in producing an utterance, he often has to rely on a process of inference to arrive at an interpretation for utterances or for the connections between utterances.
  18. 18. a. If it's sunny, it's warm. b. It's sunny. c. So, it's warm. A discourse analyst seem to prefer to make inferences which have some likelihood of being justified
  19. 19. John was on his way to school. a. Someone was on his way to school. b. John was on his way to somewhere. c. Someone was on his way to somewhere Some inferences are based on socio-cultural knowledge
  20. 20. speaker: a young mother, hearer: her mother-in-law, place: park, by a duckpond, time: sunny afternoon in September 1962. They are watching the young mother's two- year-old son chasing ducks and the mother- in-law has just remarked that her son, the child's father, was rather backward at this age. The young mother says: I do think Adam's quick
  21. 21. we shall simplistically assume that the referents of I and Adam are fixed by spatio- temporal co-ordinates. This 'Adam' is being compared (or contrasted), favourably, with his father. Quick, may be interpreted, in the context of backward, as meaning something like 'quick in developing'.
  22. 22. speaker: a student, hearers: a set of students, place: sitting round a coffee table in the refectory, time: evening in March 1980. John, one of the group, has just told a joke. Everyone laughs except Adam. Then Adam laughs. One of the students says: I do think Adam's quick
  23. 23. different referents for I and Adam are fixed spatio-temporally. This 'Adam' is being compared (or contrasted) not with his father and favourably, but with the set of other students unfavourably. In this case quick must be interpreted as meaning something like 'quick to understand I react I see the joke'. intending to tell an untruth, but to be implicating the opposite of what is said.
  24. 24. Context: ‘someone speaking to someone somewhere’
  25. 25. Firth’s outline of context contains the following elements: A. The relevant features of participants: persons, personalities. (i) The verbal action of the participants. (ii) The non-verbal action of the participants. B. The relevant objects. C. The effect of the verbal action.
  26. 26. an ethnographic view of communicative events within communities The use of a linguistic form identifies a range of meanings. A context can support a range of meanings. When a form is used in a context it eliminates the meanings possible to that context other than those the form can signal: the context eliminates from consideration the meanings possible to the form other than those the context can support. (Hymes)
  27. 27. Participants: Speaker and audience (adressor, addressee) Message form (different ways of speaking for different situations) Topic: Message content (topic of text or communication) Setting (where the communication takes place) Channel: Medium of communication (spoken or written) Code: dialect, langauge, style Message form: chat, debate, sermon, poetry, fairytale The key (the tone: formal/informal) Event: The genre (type of text) A sermon or prayer may be a part of the church The norms of interaction (conventions governing certain speech acts – turn taking, politeness forms, standard expressions) Purpose
  28. 28. Hymes' features constitute essentially a checklist to check off the detail of the nature of the communicative event.

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