Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
AUTHOR: Márquez Reiter, Rosina; Placencia, María Elena TITLE: Spanish Pragmatics PUBLISHER: Palgrave, Macmillan YEAR: 2005
César Félix-Brasdefer, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Indiana University, Bloomington.
INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
Spanish Pragmatics consists of an introduction and five chapters, followed by 119 endnotes, an extensive bibliography, an authors index, and a subject index. The book includes examples from English and Spanish, but the examples in Spanish do not have an English translation. In addition to the 624 references, there are five additional internet resources which provide useful information on speech acts, publications in pragmatics and conversation analysis (CA), and tutorials for those interested in CA.
Chapter 1. Introduction The book adopts a sociocultural pragmatics perspective. Sociocultural pragmatics is 'concerned with ''external'' factors, that is, with those aspects of the selection and interpretation of linguistic form that happen to be determined by social and cultural factors' (Escandell Vidal, 2004, p. 348, [cited on p. 2]). The book concentrates on three key areas within the Anglo-American School of Pragmatics: ''speech acts, conversation, and politeness as sociocultural manifestations of communication'' (p. 3).
The sequential organization of the five main chapters is clearly presented, beginning with a theoretical description and a critical discussion of speech act theory (language at the utterance level) followed by an incisive examination of CA (stretches of talk). After laying the foundation of speech act theory and CA, a description and a critical appraisal of politeness theory is presented as well as the main contributions by Hispanists in pragmatics and discourse analysis. The chapter on linguistic politeness is followed by a theoretical and an empirical examination of sociopragmatic variation in different varieties of Spanish. The last chapter offers a general description of the most frequently used methods of data collection in sociopragmatics research in Spanish.
Chapter 2. Speech act theory: Examining language at the utterance level This chapter is divided into three main sections: First, it provides a theoretical description and a critical appraisal of speech act theory, as outlined in the work of Austin and Searle. Further, this section examines the relevance of Austin's and Searle's ideas in sociopragmatics and describes the influence that speech act theory has on cross-cultural pragmatics. This section ends with some of the limitations of speech act theory when applied to the analysis of discourse. Second, the theoretical developments in speech act theory are examined along with the main contributions of Hispanists. Finally, this chapter provides a state-of-the-art description of empirical sociopragmatic studies of speech acts, including directives, expressives, commissives, and assertives, in different varieties of Spanish.
Chapter 3. Conversation analysis: Examining stretches of talk This chapter offers a detailed description and a critical appraisal of CA and highlights its relevance to sociopragmatics. The opening provides a description of the inception of CA as grounded in sociological work developed by Harvey Sacks, Emanuel Schegloff, Gail Jefferson, and Anita Pomerantz, among others. Then, various issues regarding data collection methodology, data analysis, and issues related to transcription conventions are described. Further, six main contributions of CA are examined and illustrated with various examples in Spanish: the sequential organization of talk, the organization of turn-taking, the overall organization of talk, preference organization, the organization of laughter, and topic organization. Some limitations of CA are briefly discussed. The chapter ends with an examination of the work by Hispanists that have incorporated CA in Spanish including notions such as repair, delay, back-channeling, turn- taking, the organization of laughter, preference organization, and topic organization.
Chapter 4. Examining linguistic politeness phenomena This chapter is divided into four sections beginning with a summary of Grice's (1975) Cooperative Principle and its maxims, and offers some criticisms that have been voiced against Grice's theory with respect to the idea of universality and rationality. Then, a general account of the main theories of politeness is presented, followed by some criticisms. Following Fraser's (1990) initial classification of politeness models, the authors examine five views on politeness and discuss limitations of each view. The third section of this chapter comprises a critical examination on politeness by various Hispanists with special attention given to Peninsular Spanish and offers alternative models of politeness proposed by seasoned Hispanists. The chapter ends with a comprehensive description of empirical studies which have examined speech act realization and (im)politeness phenomena in different varieties of Spanish derived from the face-saving and sociocultural perspectives.
Chapter 5. Examining sociopragmatic variation This chapter addresses the issue of sociopragmatic variation at both the theoretical and empirical levels. According to the authors, one of the aims of sociopragmatics is ''to uncover the cultural norms which underlie the interactional features of a given social group in a given social context'' (p. 192). In particular, sociopragmatic variation in Spanish is largely analyzed by means of intra-cultural (e.g., Montevideans in a requesting vs. apologizing situation) and cross- cultural (e.g., request realization in Quito and Madrid) patterns of interaction. Moreover, in order to elucidate differences in the norms of interaction of given social groups and in given social contexts, a distinction between pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic failure (Thomas 1983) is made and illustrated with relevant communicative exchanges. Finally, empirical studies on (socio)pragmatic variation in different varieties of Spanish are described: variation in speech act realization, conversational organization, and politeness. For the most part, Peninsular Spanish is often compared to a Latin American variety of Spanish; very few cross-dialectal studies examine politeness variation in two varieties of the same country such as the Spanish spoken in Cuzco and Lima. As rightly pointed out by the authors, future research is needed to address other aspects of sociopragmatic variation across Spanish(es).
Chapter 6. Research methods in sociopragmatics This 18-page chapter is the shortest in the book and discusses issues in methods used to collect (socio)pragmatic data in Spanish. After a brief discussion of the 'observer's paradox', this chapter examines the benefits and disadvantages for gathering two types of naturally- occurring data: natural spoken discourse and the collection of field notes from observation. Next, a description of the various ways to record and transcribe natural data is presented, followed by a general discussion of transcription of natural data using both tape- and video- recordings. Given that most empirical studies in Spanish sociopragmatics (and also in interlanguage pragmatics) have favored elicited over natural data, three instruments employed to gather elicited data are described: role plays, discourse completion tests, and multiple-choice questionnaires, followed by a description of rating scales and retrospective verbal reports. Finally, general issues on data triangulation and ethics for the collection of research data are discussed.
A significant contribution of each chapter is the inclusion of theoretical aspects of (socio) pragmatics and CA, followed by a comprehensive description of empirical studies in Spanish (socio) pragmatics research. In particular, in the chapters on 'conversation analysis' and 'sociopragmatic variation' the reader can identify various areas for future research in Spanish. The Spanish examples used to illustrate various notions of pragmatics are clear and are suitable for upper- level undergraduate students and graduate students in pragmatics. The extended bibliography and the internet resources provided are an excellent bank of information for graduate students, teachers, and researchers interested in speech act theory, conversation analysis, politeness theory, and sociopragmatic variation in Spanish.
Due to the sociocultural perspective, the book does not include theoretical topics that are often covered in graduate courses in (Spanish)pragmatics, such as presupposition, deixis, and theoretical developments on conversational implicature. As a result, this book would be most appropriately used as a complementary text in graduate courses in Spanish pragmatics or conversation analysis and in seminars on discourse analysis or linguistic politeness. Given the depth of theoretical analysis in speech act theory, politeness theory, and conversation analysis, and the detailed descriptions of empirical studies in sociopragmatics in Spanish, undergraduate students may need additional introductory readings in pragmatics to better understand the information presented in the book.
The last chapter examines various methods for collecting ethnographic and elicited data in (socio)pragmatics research in Spanish; little attention is generally given to the issue of reliability and validity, as briefly discussed in the section of data triangulation (p. 228). Reliability provides information as to whether an instrument, for example role plays, administered to the same respondents on a different occasion would yield similar results. On the other hand, validity refers to ''the degree to which a test measures what it claims, or purports, to be measuring'' (Brown, 1996, p. 231). Moreover, the discussion on verbal reports seems too general (pp. 224-25) and lacks detail with regard to the various types of verbal reports utilized in the literature. The following references (not cited in the book) address in detail and precision the issue of verbal reports, validity and reliability, and data triangulation: Brown 2001, Cohen 1998 (chapter 3) & 2004, Davis & Henze 1998, DuFon 2001.
Also, while the focus of the book is on Spanish pragmatics, little attention is given to the field of interlanguage pragmatics related to Spanish. A current view of research methods in interlanguage pragmatics and institutional discourse and an extended description of ethical aspects for data collection of (interlanguage) pragmatic data can be found in Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford (2005) (chapters 1, 8).
Overall, this book is a much needed resource for courses in Spanish pragmatics and a welcome contribution on research on the pragmatics of Spanish and discourse analysis. The book is well-written and is targeted to both advanced (upper-level) undergraduate students with a background in (Spanish) linguistics and to graduate students whose main interest lies in the (socio)pragmatics of Spanish. It provides critical appraisals of speech act theory, conversation analysis, and politeness theory, and brings together the main ideas of (socio) pragmatics research by leading Hispanists around the world. Due to its scope and impressive collection of references on the topic, the book is an excellent and comprehensive resource for teachers, graduate students, and researchers in (Spanish) pragmatics.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. & Hartford, B. (2005). Intercultural Pragmatics: Exploring Institutional Talk. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Brown, J. D. (1996). Testing in Language Programs. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.
Brown, J. D. (2001). Pragmatic tests: Different purposes, different tests. In K. R. Rose & G. Kasper (Eds.), Pragmatics in Language Teaching (pp. 301-325). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Brown, P., & Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Use. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Cohen, A. D. (1998). Strategies in Learning and Using a Second Language. London, UK: Longman.
Cohen, A. D. (2004). Assessing speech acts in a second language. In D. Boxer & A. D. Cohen (Eds.), Studying Speaking to Inform Second Language Learning (pp. 302-327). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Davis, K., & Henze, R. C. (1998). Applying ethnographic perspectives to issues in cross-cultural pragmatics. Journal of Pragmatics 30, 399- 419.
DuFon, M. A. (2001). Triangulation in qualitative SLA research on interlanguage pragmatics. In Xenia Bonch-Bruevich et al. (Eds.), The Past, Present, and Future of Second Language Research (pp. 251- 270). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Escandell Vidal, V. (2004). Norms and principles: Putting social and cognitive pragmatics together. In R. Márquez Reiter & M.E. Placencia (Eds.), Current Trends in the Pragmatics of Spanish (pp. 347-71). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Fraser, Bruce. (1990). Perspectives on politeness. Journal of Pragmatics 14, 219-36.
Grice, P. (1975 ). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and Semantics: Speech Acts 3 (pp. 41-58). New York: Academic Press.
Thomas, J. (1983). Cross-cultural pragmatic failure. Applied Linguistics 4, 91-112.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
César Félix-Brasdefer is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at Indiana University, Bloomington. His research interests include the semantics/pragmatics interface, sociocultural pragmatics, conversation analysis, interlanguage pragmatics, research methods in linguistic variation, speech act theory, politeness theory, and instruction in second language pragmatics.