LINGUIST List 13.2838

Mon Nov 4 2002

Review: Pragmatics: Filliettaz (2002)

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  1. Giampaolo Poletto, Filliettaz, Laurent (2002) La parole en action

Message 1: Filliettaz, Laurent (2002) La parole en action

Date: Mon, 04 Nov 2002 17:05:37 +0000
From: Giampaolo Poletto <>
Subject: Filliettaz, Laurent (2002) La parole en action

Filliettaz, Laurent (2002) La parole en action: Iliments de
pragmatique psycho-sociale.
Iditions Nota bene, paperback, ISBN 2-89518-092-X (-091-1), vi+395pp,
Can$25.95, Collection Langue et pratiques discursives.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Giampaolo Poletto, 
University of P�cs (HU), Applied Linguistics PhD student


After attention has lately increased - see Bachtin (1977), Bres
(1993), Clark (1996), Laforest (1996), Martel (1998, 2000), Sacks,
Schegloff and Jefferson (1978), Sch�tz (1987), Traverso (1996), the
issue of everyday interactions is organically debated in a text in
French, addressing students and researchers in linguistics and human
sciences, cognate with psychology and sociology in particular, which
completes the author's conspicuous research and represents the
published version of his doctorate thesis.

The book aims to portray a consistent path of research on theoretical
models and instruments appliable to the analysis of activity and
discourse interaction in everyday contexts, where they combine to
enact a dynamic process, in the perspective of psycho-social
pragmatics, whose main object is the systematic description of the
complex interrelations between human activities and the use of
language. Mechanisms activated in everyday situations and contexts
actually deserve a specific and scientifically legitimated attention,
therefore a systematic description, properly supported
methodologically, theoretically and epistemologically.

The purpose and content of the research unfolds along three axes: -
the development of an activity theory open to contributions from human
sciences and compatible with the nature of the praxeological
investments emerging in verbal interactions (chapters 1,2,3); - the
theoretical and empirical study of how they combine and articulate
discourse praxeological aspects and communicational mechanisms
connected to the textualisation of semiotic forms (chapters 4,5); -
the embedding of discourse analysis purposes and methods, with
reference to the actual different theoretical and epistemological
options for a pragmatic approach, psycho-social and cognitive above
all (chapter 6).

The author's approach owns not only to Roulet's modular theory (1999)
or theoretical works in pragmatics, as the illocutive theories of
Austin (1970) and Searle (1972), where action becomes a founding
notion. Works from disciplines mostly belonging to human sciences -
Bange (1992), von Cranach and Harr� (1982), Goffman (1991), Ladriere,
Pharo and Qu�r� (1993), Ricur (1977), Sperber and Wilson (1989),
Vernant (1997), among the others - have remarkedly influenced the
perspective of discourse analysis and are here taken into account in
an unabridged approach to manifold issues.

The general discourse analysis model adopted is just outlined, as the
starting point of a 'pragmatic chain' to be more systematically
evaluated, along with: - a study on the general features and typifying
processes of social activity, hopefully sheding light on the specific
psychological resources activated by the agents and the pattern in
which the informative content is received through praxeological
representations; - the mechanisms of activity textualisation, with
reference to the hierarchical structures of negotiation, in a wider
systematic perspective comprehensive of other speakers' tools for
textual planning, such as compositional heterogeneity, topical
continuity, and so on; - the semantic analysis of linguistic units.

FIRST PART - Introduction: Face a la complexit� des processus
actionnels 'Les aspects prax�ologiques du discours' confronts with
actional processes considered in their complexity, in their physical,
psychological, social and linguistic aspects. That explains why the
notion of action has been crucial to many disciplines in the realm of
human sciences in the late decades, and why the author's research, for
a better understanding of the conceptual significance of activity,
openly intends to display and take advantage of studies in the fields
of the psychology of action; the microsociology of everyday life;
ethnomethodology; the psychology of language; analytic philosophy.

The theoretical model for the organisation of joint actions should: -
determine the psycho-social resources connected to the accomplishment
and identification of actions in the world; - describe the nature and
configuration of actional investments, in the situations of effective
interaction, in the way they contribute to guide the conducts of
involved agents; - represent actional processes when effectively
occurring in their sequential and hierarchical character.

Chapter 1 - La dimension psycho-sociale de l'agir 

In everyday interactions many psycho-social resources are mobilized;
some can be described through the notion of praxeological
representation, originating from the notion of intention, central to
explain actional processes. After a distinction between behaviour and
action, action is considered under different perspectives, namely:
'planned', in cognitive psychology of action; 'situated', from an
ethnomethodological approach; 'typified', in an interactionist vision,
up to a praxeological representation of interaction.

Chapter 2 - La dimension configurationelle de l'agir

Everyday interactions have relevant configurational aspects, which the
notion of actional framework can more thoroughly illustrate. The
basic elements of the 'participative' and 'interpretative' actional
framework are: the four parametres of the actional mode; the type of
finality; the praxeological roles; the motivational complex. Actions
are individual or, with more agents or joint, and accordingly changing
parametres, collective; interaction takes place with socio-objective
and socio-subjective intentions, and the individuals involved can be
determined as agents, subsequently as operators or actors,
contributing to heterogeneous praxeological investments, along with
cognitive, normative, relational work.

Detectable praxeological roles and involvement, converging or
diverging, configure the motivational complex, so that linguistic
productions and finalized conducts are inferred to be 'praxeologically
polyphonic', to use Bachtin's concept (1984), as recalled by Roulet
(1997a). Actional framework polyfocalisation origins from the notions
of configurational and individual polyfocalisation, once more
confirming the traits of complexity and instability of actional
configurations, with reference to actional and 'interactional'
frameworks. The former's dimension is referential, whereas the latter
operates in an interactional dimension and on two parametres (the
interactive position of agents, with their number and role, and
communicational elements, medium, mode, ties).

Chapter 3 - La dimension processuelle de l'agir:

The notion of praxeological structure makes it possible to approach
actional processes when effectively occurring. The starting point is
the sequential and hierarchical nature of interactional processes,
which the works of Geneva school see through the dialogical and
monological constituents, exchanges and acts respectively, and by
means of units of an upper level, eg transactions. The analysis
shifts from praxeological units, then, to their praxeological
relations, to include and display them in a praxeological macro- and
micro- structure.

SECOND PART - Introduction: Face a l'h�t�rog�n�it� s�miotique des
actions conjointes

'Le discours comme textualisation de l'activit�', confronts with the
issues of semiotic heterogeneity, relieved when joint actions take
place, towards a full account of the psycho-social resources agents
activate during their transactions. The interrelations and semiotic
heterogeneity of the three distinct theoretical domains interacting,
action, communication and language, can only be properly approached
through a comprehensive theory, eventually contributing to both select
the major areas of the pragmatics of communication, and find a place
for such interrelations between the activity theories and the
description of discourse mechanisms, between facts and acts of

Studies in ergonomics - Lacoste (1995) - have pointed out the
existence of a complex net of relations between discourse and
activity. Pragmatic models need to be reoriented, in this
perspective, because speech facts are not only social activities, but
have a place in the most complex praxeological configurations, with
relations both internal, with linguistic activities, and external,
with the way interactions operate. The purpose of psycho-social
pragmatics is therefore to describe the dialectical relationships of
activity and discourse, passing from exclusively written to oral
empirical data.

Working with parametres - Bronckart (1997), Kerbrat-Orecchioni (1990),
Trognon and Kostulski (1996) - does not seem so effective and
appropriate as working with discourse units, the way a modular
approach prospects, despite theoretical difficulties the author does
not deny. The second part specifically analyses the topic of
interweaving in terms of units, not parametres.

Chapter 4 - Action et communication

The author's attention focuses on interactional semiotic
heterogeneity, in order to propose a distinction in different types of
finalized conducts, which should shed light on both non verbal rooted
misunderstandings and, above all, though partially, the notional
complexity conveyed through the concept of communicational activity.
Units are analysed on their own, from actional to communicational
ones, both non-verbal and verbal. When participative, actional units
can be: in the world, communicational, linguistic, verbal,
respectively in opposition, according to the degree and type of the
principal intention, to physical motion, non communicational, non
linguistic, non verbal actions. Intention opposes to explicitness,
both occupying specific and delimited areas. Context and co-text
directly ties to the analysis of gestures and a typology of
participative activities: gestures accompany verbal expressions, are
conventionally or non conventionally explicit, praxeologically non
communicational, instrumental. That contributes to define the
constitutive complexity of communicational actions, through Habermas's
(1987) theory of communicational activity, where the speaker issues a
triple assumption of validity, lying on truth, legitimacy,
truthfulness. This theory proposes a way the domains of action and
communication articulate through the constituents of the actional
intention and comprehension, which helps identify the areas for a
pragmatic analysis of communication.

Chapter 5 - L'organisation op�rationelle du discours. 

The reflection continues on how a modular perspective can separately
deal with referential aspects and textual implications of
communicational units, and outlines the descriptive model needed to
unfold the complex relations established by the joint actions process
dimension and intercomprehension communicational mechanisms, to tie
together the domains of activity and textuality, framed into a
description of the negotiated character of inter-individual meetings.
The linguistic, textual and situational levels proposed by Roulet
(1997b) imply a change of the discourse analysis 'standard' model, on
a theoretical and epistemological level. The modular approach is
thereafter presented more in detail. The conclusion briefs on the
previous paragraphs, on the theoretical status of the the notion of
textualisation mode.

Chapter 6 - De l'organisation op�rationelle du discours a la pragmatique

The author intends to widen the perspective of the investigation and
remark the peculiarity of psycho-social pragmatics research programme,
to assert a scientific legitimacy. The communicational modular
approach can canvass: discourse operational organisation; the elements
of speakers' logic; the social relations they establish; language
acquisition as a comprehensive framework; joint actions originating
from participative activities, all of them bridging to the
perspectives of psycho-social pragmatics, to the 'actional turnaround'
to the 'pragmatic chain', to considerations on concepts excerpted from
other authors&#8217; studies, to the confrontation with inferential
pragmatics, around the crucial topics of the relation between the
paradigms of the two and cognition, truth, social activity.


The hypotheses the author works on are claimed to be not unknown in
the field of interactivity theory, nevertheless neither instruments
for the analysis nor detailed empirical data seem to have been really
elaborated or displayed so far. The present research, therefore,
offers theoretical responses to both the issue of communicational
activities, and the possibility of describing the organisation of
situated interactions, and the indication of different epistemological
perspectives for language sciences. On a theoretical level, the study
of the praxeological dimension of linguistic productions contributes
to focus on discourse situational aspects as well as on an explicit
description of the complex relationships between communicational
mechanisms and situated actions. Furthermore, the meaning of
theoretical observations on the notional complexity of mediatized
forms of activity is displayed through tables and 'tested' through
empirical data, through two corpuses of authentic documents: the
dialogues recorded in Geneve's bookshops in 1979, in the appendix,
reduced due to more recent reflections; Montreal families' dialogues,
partly self-recorded during everyday activities, and excerpts from
Vincent's corpus (1995). They are functional to restrict an otherwise
too wide field of research, and have in common the mainly joint nature
of activities involved and the central but not exclusive role of
linguistic mechanisms; they are considered as subset of actional

On an epistemological level, then, despite - or due to - late strong
criticism on its scientifical status - see Reboul et Moeschler (1998),
researches on discourse analysis needs to further specify its object,
thus allowing on integrations, in the direction of a projected but yet
unaccomplished 'actional turnaround', which would benefit the
confrontation with cognitive pragmatics, and help shift the research
purpose from the notion of illocution to that of action, instead of
being limited to the principle of coherence or the role of linguistic
marks; or viewing pragmatics in terms of opposition between discourse
and conversational analysis; or else having the complexity of
discourse organisation reduced to either mental or linguistic
categories, as stated in chapter 6.


The author knows he risks: when considering as sources theories of
disciplines belonging to human sciences; when asserting discourse
analysis is rightly entitled to have a scientific status; when stating
that pragmatics should stop considering facts and acts of
communication separately; when maintaining that the 'actional
turnaround' unfolds purposes and identity of psycho-social pragmatics,
marking the distance from radical cognitive pragmatics; when claiming
that the perspective he adopts adds to previous surveys and studies.
He is confident that the complexity of interactions has to be
described with a theoretical model of situational analysis and
confronted with empirical data; therefore he partially applies a
basically modular approach to a selection of empirically collected
excerpts from two corpuses of dialogues and actions in everyday
situational contexts, to acquire elements for further theoretical
reflections. He concludes that the horizon of (psycho-social)
pragmatic studies is wide, and other steps can be legitimately made on
the outlined path of research, to prolong the 'pragmatic chain'.

As he acknowledges, the debated issues are very delicate, the passage
is crucial for pragmatics, the adopted approach is just sketched and
promising, but he is positive that it is vital to make and accept
research programmes, not being self indulgent or polemic. That is
mostly valuable and shelters from criticism by exposing to it.
Nevertheless, the effort and need to tie together very heterogeneous
sources, to elaborate a theoretical framework, to conduct an analysis
on empirical data, the whole of it focusing on interactions, to be
displayed in their complexity, cannot avoid weakening the overall
thoroughness and resulting in a certain vagueness on the real identity
of the text, which is survey, theory and study at the same time, and
is actually described as an 'inventory' in the back cover brief,
whereas such a compiling attitude does not turn out to be even
relevant. A second volume, with a new corpus and a new analysis of
empirical data would definitely make it clear the consistency of the
research programme and the effectiveness of the theoretical model
adopted, at the present just outlined and not yet autonomous.


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Giampaolo Poletto is a Bachelor in Foreign Languages and Literature,
English and Russian, and Humanities in Italy, with some knowledge of
French, Hungarian and Spanish; secondary school teaching
qualifications in English and in Italian, a ten years' teaching
experience in Italy and abroad, including a two-year tenure track of
Italian Linguistics in the Italian Department at Janus Pannonius
University in P�cs; actually second year student of a PhD course in
Applied Linguistics at the University of P�cs, in Hungary, with
interests in the fields of linguistics and FL/SL teaching; the
research project combines them through the analysis of a corpus of
Italian comic texts, finalized to didactic applications - possibly
multimedial - for FL students of Italian; that should sort of collect
past studies and professional experiences, feed a linguistic and
thematically oriented research programme, open work and study
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