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Title: Re: 15.3283 Formula for Addressing Absent Reply
Submitter: Sherri Condon
Description: Re: Linguist 15.3283 (

I was struck by Jan Lindström's summary of formulaic responses that are
produced when interlocutors fail to reply to greetings, questions, and
other first pair-parts. The classification is nearly identical to one that
I would use to discuss the preconditions of interaction (a la Searle) and
the powerful pressure to conform to conventions for talk. When
interlocutors fail to conform to pragmatic conventions, we tend to question
whether the preconditions hold: are the physical channel and connections
working so that messages can be transmitted? (''are you deaf?'') Are
attentional processes monitoring the channel so that messages are not only
transmitted, but also received? (''Earth to [name]'') Is basic cognitive
competence functioning so that messages can be understood and responded to?
Questions about the ability to speak (''cat got your tongue?'') are a
great example of the latter that I hadn't thought of. I usually point out
that failures to conform are exactly the kind of behavior that gets people
labeled as ''nutcases'' or ''weirdos'' and their basic rationality
questioned. If cognitive competence is assumed and behavior fails to
conform to expectations, then social competence comes into question: this
person is some kind of social misfit, as in the German ''well he doesn't
know anyone any more either.'' Finally, if all these preconditions hold and
someone is still not playing by the expected rules, then we are likely to
entertain conversational implicatures, and these are probably loaded with
negative affect, e.g. the silent treatment or the Persian ''I am also a
human being.''

Thanks, Jan, and everyone who shared these data.

Sherri Condon
Sr. Artificial Intelligence Engineer
The MITRE Corporation
Date Posted: 26-Nov-2004
Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics
LL Issue: 15.3308
Posted: 26-Nov-2004

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