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Review of  Handbook of Pragmatics

Reviewer: Lisa Kristine DeWaard
Book Title: Handbook of Pragmatics
Book Author: Jan-Ola Östman Jef Verschueren
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics
Discipline of Linguistics
Issue Number: 21.2978

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EDITORS: Jan-Ola Östman, Jef Verschueren
TITLE: Handbook of Pragmatics
SUBTITLE: 2008 Installment
SERIES TITLE: Handbook of Pragmatics 12
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2008

Lisa DeWaard Dykstra, Department of Languages, Clemson University


The 2008 Handbook of Pragmatics is part of a larger work that includes articles
on theories, fields, and issues within the general scope of pragmatics research,
which they define as ''the cognitive, social, and cultural study of language and
communication'' (p. 2, User's guide). The Handbook takes a loose-leaf notebook
form and in its complete print form includes a Manual, Handbook, and User's
Guide. The 2008 installment contains an updated user's guide designed to replace
the 2007 guide. In addition, the 2008 installment contains 8 new contributions,
two in the ''Traditions Updates'' section and six in the ''Handbook A-Z'' section.
Traditions Updates refer to traditions and approaches to work in pragmatics,
while the Handbook A-Z contains articles based around key words and terms in the
field. Since the Handbook is designed to be a continuous, cohesive whole, to
which different articles are added each year, each article is paginated
individually, beginning at '1', and the purchaser of the Handbook is advised to
add the new contributions alphabetically for ease of use.

The 2008 installment contains the following new articles:
Traditions: Conceptual semantics and Socio-onomastics
A-Z: Authenticity, Contact, Embodiment, Énonciation: French pragmatic
approach(es), Listener response, and Overlap

Below I briefly outline each of the new contributions before turning to a
critical analysis of the work as a whole.

Traditions Update

Conceptual semantics, by Urpo Nikanne

As a subfield of generative linguistics, the field of conceptual semantics has
as its goal an integrated theory of the human mind, a description of the human
cognitive system with a special emphasis on how language is stored in the mind.
In this contribution, Nikanne first situates the field historically, beginning
with a description of two contradictory approaches to representations of
semantic information in the mind: Those of the generative semanticists (G.
Lakoff and others) and the interpretive semanticists (Chomsky and Jackendoff).
The first group argued that semantic information was part of deep structure
while the second argued that semantic information was a surface structure.
Jackendoff's (1983) work would form the basis for the field of conceptual semantics.

Nikanne goes on to describe the basic background assumptions in the field,
focusing on the nature of the system, the modularity of the mind, and cognitive
constraint. Detailed methodological guidelines are presented. Finally, a
description of how systems build is given, involving both thematic and linking
requirements that must be satisfied for ''a linguistic expression ... [to be]
grammatical'' (p. 9).

Socio-onomastics, by Terhi Ainiala

The article begins with an overview of the history of the field, which is
defined as ''explor[ing] the use and variation of names'' (p. 3), and which was
born out of the overlapping fields of historical linguistics and history. A
well-developed argument for investigations in this area is proferred. Ainiala
then goes on to focus on toponyms, or place names, taking examples from studies
done on Finnish naming practices. Data are compared against various
sociocultural variables, such as gender, profession, age, and hobbies. Males are
found to have a higher toponymic competence than women, which is attributed by
the author to their previously larger social sphere, although this finding could
be a factor of data collection methods as well. The article closes with a call
for further research into urban naming practices.


Authenticity, by Martin Gill

This article begins with a detailed historical treatment of the concept of
authenticity as emerging from 18th century Romantic thought, during which time
the private self became the ''setting for all that is most characteristically
human'' (p. 2). Over time, as the concept of the ''real'' continued to develop, the
concept of authenticity became linked with identity.

Gill provides an overview of the properties of authenticity, the primary among
those being: authenticity as a relation between two things or ideas,
authenticity as epistemic, authenticity as normative, consensual, final,
absolute, and (in the West) as having a moral force. A list of main features of
authenticity is given and problematized. Finally, a link between pragmatics and
authenticity is provided, which includes such topics as speech acts, the problem
of the native speaker, and the notion of ''authentic speech'' (p. 13).

Contact, by Li Wei

Language contact in this contribution is focused on the contact between two
users of a particular language, not between two languages in and of themselves.
Wei goes on to describe the various factors that produce contact between
language speaker groups and then turns to a description of how contact is
investigated. The three main areas of study are language maintenance, language
shift, and language creation. Wei ties contact to pragmatics by discussing how
bilinguals navigate language choice with whom and under what circumstances.
Major theorists in the field, such as Fishman, Bell, and Myers-Scotton are
discussed. Finally, Wei ends by describing the usefulness of Conversation
Analysis as a method for the investigation of contact in interaction.

Embodiment, by Liesbet Quaeghebeur

Quaeghebeur sets herself the task of answering the question: ''what [should we]
make of the idea that the mind as perception and cognition is embodied''? (p. 2).
She first addresses theories of transcendental embodiment and then turns to
empirical embodiment, leading to a discussion of cognitive linguistics. She
suggests that the development of the mind proceeds in a similar fashion to that
of the body, saying, ''all mental life should be seen as the ongoing result of
the interaction between the organism and its environment'' (p. 5). Three levels
of embodiment are explored: trivial, intermediate, and full; all of these are
dependent upon the relationship between the mind and the body and its processes.

Énonciation: French pragmatic approach(es), by Marjut Johansson and Eija

Énonciation is a French pragmatic approach that grew out of French Structuralism
and Saussure's work, unlike Anglo-American pragmatics, which grew out of work in
analytical philosophy and logic. Énonciation is based around three concepts:
enunciation, or the act of uttering, énoncé, or the utterance itself, and
enonciator, or the person performing the utterance. A detailed history of the
field is given, beginning with Charles Bally and ending with Jacqueline
Authier-Revuz. The article finishes up by describing some of the basic notions
of Énonciation, such as the role of situation and context and the role of the

Listener response, by Deng Xudong

In this contribution, the issue of listener response, which is defined as ''the
verbal and nonverbal behaviours of a listener in response to his or her
co-conversationalist's talk'' (p. 1), is analyzed against two very different
approaches, the lumping approach, in which responses form a single category, and
the splitting approach, in which responses form separate tokens and are analyzed
accordingly. A detailed theoretical model for each approach is provided,
followed by three cross-cultural studies which show the difficulties that occur
in intercultural interactions by speakers from different response cultures.

Overlap, by Deng Xudong

Overlap in this contribution is considered the same as simultaneous speech and
can be viewed either as interruptive or as simply an aspect of conversational
style. The particular use of overlap can be seen as an attempt to exert power
and dominance in a conversation, although the results on this in the social
psychological literature are mixed (findings on gender differences have also
been inconsistent). The use of Conversation Analytic methodology to determine
whether overlap is interruption or involvement has revealed that there are three
main categories of overlap: transitional, recognitional, and progressional
(designed to help the speaker). Xudong provides a detailed theoretical
background before turning to specific studies. A particularly helpful list of
studies in this area can be found on pp. 17-19 of this article.


Overall, this Handbook is a fascinating compilation of very different articles,
all of which come together around the central theme of pragmatics in its
broadest interpretive sense. The contributions span mainstream and less commonly
investigated issues. Each contribution provides a detailed theoretical
component, often accompanied by an overview of the historical development of the
particular line of thought in each area. A description of how research is
conducted within each framework is also given. As well, most of the
contributions contain information about specific studies in their area to help
the reader connect the theoretical and analytical information. The work is
consistently well done and it is clear that the editors have done a remarkable
job in bringing cohesion to very disparate works.


Jackendoff, R. (1983). Semantics and cognition. MIT Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Lisa DeWaard Dykstra is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Clemson University. Her research focuses on cross-cultural and interlanguage pragmatics in Spanish and Russian. She has also published on the role of pragmatics instruction in *National Standards*-based curricula.