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Academic Paper


Title: The pragmatics of Irish English
Author: Elaine Claire Vaughan
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Mary Immaculate College
Author: Brian Clancy
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: The utterance ‘It's raining’ (of great relevance to the Irish!) can have a variety of different meanings according to who says it, to whom one is talking, and where it is said, amongst other things. The fact that language in use (whether in spoken or written mode) is obviously much more than the sum of its constituent parts - the individual sounds that make up words, the combinations of words that create sentences or utterances, the meaning that can be derived from different words and combinations thereof - has been what has driven pragmatics as a discipline, from its origins in the philosophy of language. Initially, what drove the research agenda was the potential of words to perform acts, or speech act theory (Austin, 1962; Searle, 1969), and later, the complexities of the relationship between what is said and what is meant, the study of ‘conversational implicatures’ (Grice, 1975) or ‘how people can understand one another beyond the literal words that are spoken’ (Eelen, 2001: 2). Pragmatics is now an inherently inter-disciplinary approach which has as its central orientation this study of, essentially, how speaker meaning is interpreted in context. Critical to interpretation is the concept of context itself, a complex and multi-layered notion involving cultural setting, speech situation and shared background assumptions (Goodwin and Duranti, 1992). Linguistic choices made by conversational participants can simultaneously encode situational indices of position and time, and interpersonal and cultural indices such as power, status, gender and age. Pragmatic research comprises a diverse range of research strands including how linguistic choices encode politeness (Brown and Levinson, 1987; Watts, 2003), reference and deixis (Levinson, 2004) and the relationship between domain specific discourse, such as workplace or media discourse, and specialised pragmatic characteristics (O'Keeffe, Clancy and Adolphs, 2011). Thus, pragmatics provides, as Christie (2000: 29) maintains, ‘a theoretical framework that can account for the relationship between the cultural setting, the language user, the linguistic choices the user makes, and the factors that underlie those choices’.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in English Today Vol. 27, Issue 2, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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