Review of A Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics
AUTHOR: Cruse, Alan
TITLE: A Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics
PUBLISHER: Edinburgh University Press
Klaus P. Schneider, Department of English, American and Celtic Studies,
University of Bonn
Alan Cruse's ''A Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics'' is a recent addition
to a series of terminological dictionaries, which currently comprises
approximately a dozen titles. Among these are glossaries of
sociolinguistics (Trudgill 2003), morphology (Bauer 2004), applied
linguistics (Davies 2005) and cognitive linguistics (Evans 2007). Cruse's
book is the only glossary in this series which covers more than one
linguistic discipline, viz. semantics and pragmatics.
The ''Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics'' consists of four parts, an
introduction, an alphabetically organized list of terms and definitions,
and finally two bibliographical sections.
The five-page introduction provides information about the intended
readership, the focus of the glossary and its theoretical orientation. Some
practical issues, such as the typographical conventions adopted, are also
addressed. The book is aimed at novices in linguistics and, more
particularly, at novices in semantics and pragmatics, i.e. ''typically
first-year undergraduates'' (p. 1). The reader is told that the glossary
covers not only semantics and pragmatics, but also semiotics, as these
three disciplines examine (different aspects of) meaning in language. Each
of these disciplines is then characterized briefly. The author also claims
that an attempt has been made to avoid any theoretical bias and to include
all major approaches.
The glossary proper is close to 200 pages long and includes almost 500
entries. Of these, two thirds are full entries, while the remaining third
consists of cross-references referring the reader to full entries. Further
cross-references are included in the definitions given. The terms covered
range from ''absolute adjectives'' under ''A'' to ''zeugma'' under ''Z''. Full
entries provide straight-forward explanations of the terms. They do not,
however, contain etymological or bibliographical information as is
sometimes found in larger terminological dictionaries aimed at a broader
and more advanced readership (cf. Bussmann 1996, containing over 2,000
The terminology defined in the glossary under review includes traditional
as well as contemporary terms. Some of the terms are basic and general,
others are more specific, and yet others are particular to individual
approaches. Examples of the most basic terms are ''word'', ''idiom'' and ''pun''.
More technical general terms include ''morpheme'', ''lexeme'' and ''quantifier''.
Specific terminology ranges from ''hedge'', ''implicatures'' and ''protasis'' to
''paucal'', ''listeme'' and '''de re' vs. 'de dicto' interpretations''. Finally,
terms pertaining to individual approaches are, for instance, ''Sympathy
Maxim'' (Leech 1983), ''qualia roles'' (Pustejovsky 1995), and ''Natural
Semantic Metalanguage'' (Wierzbicka 1996). Personal names do not appear as
The vast majority of all terms in the glossary belong to the domain of
semantics. Needless to say, there are many borderline cases at the
semantics-pragmatics interface. Yet, counting only clear cases (such as
''adjacency pair'', ''indirect speech act'', and ''performative verb''), only
about 15 percent of all full entries and about 10 percent of all
cross-references belong to the domain of pragmatics.
The length of the definitions varies considerably. A minority consist of
only two or three lines, e.g., ''focal region'', ''ostensive definition'' and
''phenomenal features'' (which do not even include cross-references). Other
definitions extend over one or two pages, e.g., ''qualia roles'', ''structural
semantics'', and ''generalised vs. particularised conversational
implicatures'' (in addition to a 1.5-page entry on ''conversational
implicatures''). The reader is told in the introduction that the ''amount of
space given to an entry is not necessarily proportional to its importance''
(p. 4), as some concepts require more elaborate explanations and more
exemplification than others, irrespective of their status.
Overall, the definitions are written in an easily comprehensible manner.
Comprehension is further enhanced by the ample use of examples. Many, if
not most, entries include words, sentences or brief dialogues serving to
illustrate the concept defined. Where applicable, lists, tables and
diagrams are employed to help the reader.
The first of the two bibliographical sections (''Bibliography'') is a
one-page list of those references cited by author's name in the glossary
definitions. This list comprises 14 books by such authors as Saussure and
Chomsky, Jackendoff and Pustejovsky, Austin and Wittgenstein. The second
bibliographical section (''Recommended reading'') is a three-page annotated
bibliography, which is divided into two parts. The first part includes
''General works on semantics and/or pragmatics'', the second part ''Books on
more specialised topics (some necessarily more advanced)''. In the first
part, a distinction is made between introductory textbooks and more
advanced textbooks. In the second part, the books on specialized topics
appear under six headings, five of which relate to semantics. These range
from ''Lexical semantics'' through ''Formal semantics'' to ''Componential
approaches to semantics''. The sixth heading is ''Pragmatics''. Each of these
six subdivisions includes between one and five titles, with brief annotations.
There can be no doubt that Cruse's glossary covers key areas of terminology
and includes the most central concepts. Yet, this does not fully apply to
pragmatics, as the glossary is heavily biased towards semantics. That
semantics is considered a given, i.e. the ''unmarked case'', whereas
pragmatics is the ''marked case'', is borne out by the fact that there is an
entry explaining the meaning of the term ''pragmatics'', while no entry
exists for ''semantics''. (There is also an entry for ''semiotics'', but
semiotics does not play an important role in the glossary.) This bias
towards semantics is probably not due to the fact that the author of this
glossary is better known for his work in semantics (cf. Cruse 1986, cf.
also the publisher's advertisement of the glossary on LINGUIST List:
''Written by an author well-known in the field of semantics, ...''). Rather,
the explanation seems to be that in the United Kingdom and elsewhere
pragmatics is currently taught at undergraduate level as an appendix to
semantics, a fact which is reflected in such textbooks as Griffiths (2006),
in which only one chapter (of nine) is explicitly devoted to pragmatics. In
this context, pragmatics is largely reduced to such topics as speech acts
and implicatures (cf. also Cruse 2004).
Why terms are included in the glossary is sometimes not clear, considering,
in particular, that the target readership is first-year undergraduates. Do
students beginning in linguistics have to know such terms as ''listeme'',
''protasis'' and ''dot-objects'', all of which have full entries? Are they
likely to encounter these terms when they are not listed in, e.g., Lyons
(1995) or Saeed (2003), let alone in Griffiths (2006)? Indeed, they are not
even included in Cruse (2004).
On the other hand, a range of concepts which would be expected to be
included in a glossary for undergraduates are not listed. This applies to
pragmatic terminology in particular. Obvious examples include ''illocution''
and ''perlocution'', ''directives'' and ''commissives'', ''emotive function'' and
''phatic function'', ''face'' and ''face-threatening act''. Since courses and
textbooks on semantics AND pragmatics are mainly focused on speech acts in
the area of pragmatics, it is surprising that the most basic speech
act-theoretic terms (i.e. ''locutionary act'', ''illocutionary act'',
''perlocutionary act'' and Searle's five illocutionary types) are mentioned
exclusively in the entry for ''speech acts'', but not listed separately, not
even as cross-references. Students who come across these terms in their
reading cannot look them up easily unless they know exactly which entry to
Against this background, it is surprising that Leech's politeness maxims
(Leech 1983) are not only mentioned in the entry for ''politeness'', but also
listed separately. There are full entries for the ''Approbation and Modesty
Maxims'', the ''Tact and Generosity Maxims'', the ''Agreement Maxim'' and the
''Sympathy Maxim'', plus cross-references for the ''Modesty Maxim'' and the
''Generosity Maxim''. This is even more surprising as Brown and Levinson's
politeness theory (1987), which has shaped the study of verbal politeness
even more profoundly, is not mentioned at all in the glossary, neither in
the entry for ''politeness'', nor in the bibliographical sections. (The terms
''negative politeness'' and ''positive politeness'', mentioned in passing in
the entry for ''politeness'', are used in Leech's, not in Brown and
Levinson's sense.) At least in this case, the aim ''to include all the main
theoretical approaches'', set out in the introduction of the glossary (p.
4), has not been achieved.
I do not think that typographical errors should be corrected in a review
(unless there are too many of them, which is by no means the case in this
glossary). However, it is difficult to actually find Katarzyna (without an
''s'') Jaszczolt's book which is listed in the first part of the ''Recommended
reading'' section. The correct title of this book is ''Semantics and
Pragmatics: Meaning in Language and Discourse'' (2002).
Overall, despite minor flaws, Cruse's ''Glossary of Semantics and
Pragmatics'', is a most welcome work of reference, not only because there
are no competing volumes on the market to date, but also because, like its
sister volumes from the same series, the glossary is a useful
terminological dictionary, especially, but not exclusively, for the
intended readership, i.e. undergraduate students beginning in semantics and
pragmatics. It includes a large number of general and specific terms from a
wide range of approaches. The definitions are written in a clear and
accessible manner and include sufficient illustrative material. The size
and format of the book also make it an ideal companion for quick concise
reference. However, separate glossaries for semantics and pragmatics would
have been more desirable.
Bauer, Laurie 2004: A Glossary of Morphology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh
Bussmann, Hadumod 1996: Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics.
(Translated and edited by Gregory Trauth and Kerstin Kazzazi.) London and
New York: Routledge.
Brown, Penelope and Levinson, Stephen C. 1987: Politeness: Some Universals
in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cruse, Alan 1986: Lexical Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cruse, Alan 2004: Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and
Pragmatics. (Second edition.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Davies, Alan 2005: A Glossary of Applied Linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh
Evans, Vyvyan 2007: A Glossary of Cognitive Linguistics. Edinburgh:
Edinburgh University Press.
Griffiths, Patrick 2006: An Introduction to English Semantics and
Pragmatics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Leech, Geoffrey 1983: Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman.
Lyons, John 1995: Linguistic Semantics: An Introduction. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Pustejovsky, James 1995: The Generative Lexicon. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Saeed, John 2003: Semantics. (Second edition). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Trudgill, Peter 2003: A Glossary of Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh
Wierzbicka, Anna 1996: Semantics: Primes and Universals. Oxford: Oxford
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Klaus P. Schneider is Full Professor of Applied English Linguistics in the
Department of English, American and Celtic Studies at the University of
Bonn, Germany. His research interests include pragmatics, sociolinguistics,
psycholinguistics, word-formation and metalexicography. Recent book
publications are "Diminutives in English" (2003) and "The Pragmatics of
Irish English" (co-edited with Anne Barron, 2005). He is currently working
on a collection of papers on "Variational Pragmatics" (also co-edited with
Anne Barron, to appear later this year) and also on an "Introduction to
English Pragmatics" (to appear in 2008).