LINGUIST List 14.1179

Fri Apr 25 2003

Review: Pragmatics: Verschueren, et al. (2002)

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Message 1: Handbook of Pragmatics: 2000 Installment

Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2003 14:17:22 +0000
From: chaoqun xie <cqxie163.com>
Subject: Handbook of Pragmatics: 2000 Installment

Verschueren, Jef, Jan-Ola Ostman, Jan Blommaert and Chris Bulcaen, ed.
(2002) Handbook of Pragmatics: 2000 Installment. Amsterdam: John
Benjamins.

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-2965.html


Chaoqun Xie, Fujian Teachers' University

This is a follow-up to my review of _Handbook of Pragmatics: Manual
and Annual Installments Through 1999_ posted at
http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-2066.html.

I remember in that review, I expressed a hope of seeing more
installments come out soon. And now we got one more. This 2000
installment provides an up-dated Cumulative Table of Contents
(1995-2000) and also a new version of User's Guide. I also remember in
the same review, I pointed out that ''this Handbook appears to devote
less ink to those influential practitioners''. Actually, the editors
have been fully aware of this inadequacy, which can be self-evident
when we find that this latest installment includes five key figures as
follows: Mikhail Bakhtim (Bjorklund), Michel Foucault (Mart�n Rojo
and Gabilondo Pujol), Paul Grice (Brisard), Morris (Petrilli), and de
Saussure (Harris). Few readers might disagree with me when I say these
five radically influential figures with their prolific publications
and profound thoughts are too important to be neglected in terms of
their implicit or explicit contributions to the development of
pragmatics.

First, we talk about Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtim. It is generally
acknowledged that Bakhtin has made great contributions to literary
studies with his theory of dialogue, heteroglossia, polyphony,
metalinguistics, speech genres, chronotope and carnival, among
others. However, as argued by Bjorklund, today's linguistics is
benefiting from what Bakhtin has left with us; pragmatics is no
exception. Aronsson and Thorell (2002), for instance, draw upon
Bakhtin's analysis of multivoicedness to investigate children's role
play. Actually, given that Bakhtin's theory of utterance is somewhat
if not strikingly similar to pragmatics, the French literary critic
Tzvetan Todorov (Ning, 2000: 171) once claimed that Bakhtin should be
regarded as the founding father of pragmatics!

Next we talk about Michel Foucault. To interpret Foulcault is never an
easy matter, whose thoughts are at once profound and unique and whose
works have allegedly been translated into more than 60
languages. Indeed, Foucault has shed new insight upon how we perceive
and approach language, knowledge, power, discourse, politics, among
many others, and I am extremely intrigued by Foucault's
conceptualizations of discourse, the order of discourse, and its close
links to knowledge and power. As a matter of fact, one of the most
important Foucautian insights as regards power is that hidden power is
more effective. And for me, the power of discourse is omnipresent,
pervasive and can never be overlooked or underestimated in the sense
that discourses are not discourses ONLY: ''Discourses act. They do
things''. If we go a step further, we might say that discourse shapes
our life worlds and vice versa. Recently, Johnstone (2002) argues for
adopting a heuristic approach to the analysis of discourse. Another
point that should be borne in mind when it comes to power is that the
exercise of power is not necessarily a conscious act; it can be an
unconscious or subconscious one as well. In other words, power for me
is a practice.

Now we come to H. Paul Grice, another hard nut to crack. As shown by
current literature concerned, Grice's major contribution lies in his
'ordinary language' philosophizing. Specifically, throughout his life,
Grice has, as introduced by Brisard, given continuous thoughts to an
extensive anatomy of meaning, the conversationalist hypothesis,
rationality, creature construction, and absolute value (cf. Turner,
1999: 637). There are, however, at least two points that need to be
taken into account when it comes to evaluating Grice's legacy, one, as
indicated by Frisard, little emphasis is placed upon the ''rational
grounding of Grice's philosophical project''; two, as insightfully and
sharply pointed out by Turner (2002), that Grice's principal interest
is in the formulation of a theory of conversation is widely and
mistakenly assumed; in actual fact, several of Grice's themes remain
well untouched upon. In other words, at present, what we know about
Grice is a mere iceberg of his broad and profound ideas. Besides,
reading Grice, one might be reminded of a hard fact, namely, social
sciences for most of the time, study the ordinary and the obvious, and
it is these obvious and ordinary stuffs that are really hard to tackle
simply because what appears ordinary and disordered turns out to be
extraordinary and systematic, for which Conversation Analysis
undoubtedly is a powerful example.

Here comes Charles Morris, to whom ''[t]he modern usage of the term
pragmatics is attributable'' (Levinson, 1983: 1). Petrilli briefs
Morris's behavioristics and pragmatics before moving on to compare and
contrast Morris's pragmatics and Peirce's pragmaticism, indicating
that Morris's behavioristics and Peirce's pragmatism are similar in
terms of 'general orientation'. Petrilli then covers pragmatic
philosophy in the United States, highlighting Morris's behavioral
semiotics in the light of his pragmatic philosophy. This contribution
concludes with a discussion of Morris's views on the relations among
pragmatics, signs and values. It should be emphasized here that Morris
does not exclude nonverbal signs in his study of pragmatics, nor does
he take no account of 'the ethic and esthetic dimensions' in the
course of considering the pragmatic dimension to verbal and nonverbal
signs.

The last key figure discussed in this 2000 installment of the Handbook
of Pragmatics is Ferdinand de Saussure, widely acknowledged as the
founder of modern linguistics. Harris, an expert on Saussure, focuses
on twelve major propositions advanced by Saussure, including language
as a unique, holistic structure, language and thought, langue and
parole, arbitrariness and linearity, language and writing as two
distinct systems of signs; the linguistic sign as a psychological
entity (See Beaugrande, 1991, Chapter 2 for a discourse-oriented
interpretation of Saussurian ideas). In an effort to reevaluate or
reinterpret 'The Saussurean legacy', however, one may find the
co-existence of completely different arguments, for which the
interested reader may be referred to Harris (2001). For instance, some
(e.g. Liu, 1995, Chapter 4) entertain that the most outstanding
contribution made by Saussure lies in his theory of general
linguistics, while for others such as Meillet, as pointed out by
Harris, Saussure fails to provide 'a comprehensive account of general
linguistics'. One more thing of particular note is that Harris says in
his contribution that _Grundz�ge der Phonologie_, the posthumous work
of N. S. Trubetzkoy, one of the founders of the Prague School, has got
much inspiration from Saussure when in fact Trubetzkoy (2001: 255)
once complains in a letter written to Roman Jakobson, another founding
father of the Prague School, that "most of it [Grundz�ge der
Phonologie] is the old rubbish''! To be sure, although his ideas are
encountering more and more challenges, Saussure has played an
influential and far-reaching role in the development of linguistic
thought, whose impact can also be strongly felt in pragmatics: Leech's
(1983: 25) notion of 'convention' is the same as Saussure's concept of
'arbitrariness'.

The other topics dealt with in this new installment include
'borrowing' (Treffers-Daller), 'causality' (Vandepitte), 'frame
analysis' (Ribeiro and Hoyle), 'implicature and language change'
(Kearns), 'indeterminacy and negotiation' (Zanotto and Moura),
'intentionality' (Nuyts), 'metalinguistic awareness' (Mertz and Yovel)
and, 'prosody' (Couper-Kuhlen). Take 'frame analysis' as an
example. In their contribution, Ribeiro and Hoyle discuss various
understandings of the notion of frame, cognitive, linguistic,
sociological, anthropological and sociolinguistic, arguing for
adopting a dynamic perspective on frames in ordinary interaction, in
play, and in institutional discourse, among others. In point of fact,
frames have been enthusiastically applied to account for a great
variety of phenomena including politeness (e. g. Escandell-Vidal,
1996; Terkourafi, 1999). If my understanding serves me right, frames
are not necessarily predetermined but context-sensitive and
interactively achieved, that frames are vital to our understanding of
how interactants negotiate and coordinate their meaning and construct
their social membership and identity, and that frames can ultimately
be regarded as an emergent phenomenon.

All in all, this is again an excellent collection of papers presenting
high-quality sketches of central topics in the study of pragmatics and
therefore is an ideal reference book anyone doing language in general
and pragmatics in particular should not miss! It goes without saying,
of course, that many more topics can be included in future
installments, such as tense and aspect, interactional grammar,
iconicity, argumentation, non-verbal communication, most of which are
in fact, as far as I know, being enthusiastically prepared. It goes
without saying, too, that there are many more people making remarkable
contributions to pragmatics, such as Erving Goffman, Harvey Sacks,
Ludwig Wittgenstein, to name just a few. Fortunately, these and other
VIPs, are also being prepared and will probably appear in future
installments. And I think at least two more can be added, namely,
Pierre Bourdieu and J�rgen Habermas. While Habermas (1998, 2000;
cf. Cooke, 1997) is famous for his formal pragmatics and pragmatics of
social interaction, among many other things, Bourdieu (1977, 1991) is
noted for his theory of practice and of the symbolic power of
language. Don't forget, by the way, one of the oeuvre panels for the
8th International Pragmatics Conference to be held on 13-18 July 2003
at the University of Toronto in Canada is devoted to the work of
Bourdieu and its relevance for pragmatics!

Reading this Handbook, one cannot help thinking about the current
heated debate concerning pragmatics as a discipline (e. g. Stamenov,
2003), be it autonomous or heterogeneous, which has long been
perceived after, if not before, pragmatics came into existence. What
should be included in the umbrella term of pragmatics and what should
not is a matter of long-standing controversy. For me, the question of
what pragmatics is not is as difficult as, if not more difficult than,
the question of what pragmatics is, otherwise there might not be a
school of thought asserting that PRAGMATICS IS ABOUT EVERYTHING
(Turner, 1999: 635)!


REFERENCES

Aronsson, Karin, Thorell, Mia, 2002. Voice and collusion in
adult-child talk: Toward an architecture of intersubjectivity. In:
Blum-Kulka, Shoshana, Snow, Catherine E. (Eds.), Talking to Adults:
The Contributions of Multiparty Discourse to Language
Acquisition. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, pp. 277-293.

Beaugrande, Robert de, 1991. Linguistic Theory: The Discourse of
Fundamental Works. Longman, London.

Bourdieu, Pierre, 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.

Bourdieu, Pierre, 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Polity Press,
Cambridge.

Cooke, Maeve, 1997. Language and Reason: A Study of Habermas's
Pragmatics. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Escandell-Vidal, Victoria, 1996. Towards a cognitive approach to
politeness. Language Science 18, 629-650.

Habermas, Jurgen, 1998. On the Pragmatics of Communication. The MIT
Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Habermas, Jurgen, 2000. On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction:
Preliminary Studies in the Theory of Communicative Action. The MIT
Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Harris, Roy, 2001. Saussure and His Interpreters. Edinburgh University
Press, Edinburgh.

Johnstone, Barbara, 2002. Discourse Analysis. Blackwell, Malden and
Oxford.

Leech, Geoffrey N., 1983. Principles of Pragmatics. Longman, London
and New York.

Levinson. Stephen C., 1983. Pragmatics. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge.

Liu, Runqing, 1995. Schools of Linguistics. Foreign Language Teaching
and Researching Press, Beijing.

Ning, Yizhong, 2000. On Bakhtin's theory of utterance. Foreign
Language Teaching and Research 32, 169-175.

Stamenov, Maxim I., 2003. Quo Vadis, pragmatics? Alternative
conceptions in making sense of a heterogeneous discipline. Journal of
Pragmatics 35, 263-297.

Terkourafi, Marina, 1999. Frames for politeness: a case
study. Pragmatics 9, 97-117.

Trubetzkoy, N. S., 2001. Studies in General Linguistics and Language
Structure. Duke University Press, Durham and London.

Turner, Ken, 1999. Review of Jacob Mey (ed.), Concise Encyclopedia of
Pragmatics, 1998. Journal of Linguistics 35, 634-639.

Turner, Ken, 2002. A note on the neo-Gricean foundations of societal
pragmatics. International Journal of Pragmatics 12, 1-17.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Chaoqun Xie is a lecturer with the Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian
Teachers University, Fuzhou, China. His main areas of research
interests include pragmatics, sociolinguistics, culture, communication
and translation and has published extensively in these fields.
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