LINGUIST List 18.312|
Mon Jan 29 2007
Review: Pragmatics: Horn; Ward (2006)
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The Handbook of Pragmatics
Message 1: The Handbook of Pragmatics
From: Richard Hallett <r-hallettneiu.edu>
Subject: The Handbook of Pragmatics
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/17/17-179.html
EDITORS: Horn, Laurence R.; Ward, Gregory
TITLE: The Handbook of Pragmatics
SERIES: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
Dejan Matić, Department of Linguistics, University of Cologne, Germany
Laurence R. Horn and Gregory Ward's ''Handbook of Pragmatics'' is a
collection of original articles intended to give a full picture of the
principal topics in theoretical and applied pragmatics. It is divided into
four parts, organized ''thematically rather than doctrinally'' (p. xviii):
''The Domain of Pragmatics'', ''Pragmatics and Discourse Structure'',
''Pragmatics and its Interfaces'' and ''Pragmatics and Cognition''; there are
32 chapters, mostly between 20 and 25 pages in length.
The Handbook opens with an (impressive) list of contributors and an
introduction, in which the editors delimit the scope of the book, explain
the principles of organization of the material and give a short overview of
The first part, THE DOMAIN OF PRAGMATICS, addresses the fundamental themes
of classical pragmatics -- implicature, presupposition, reference, speech
acts, etc. The chapter on implicature by Laurence Horn (pp. 3-28) contains
an extensive discussion of most of the relevant aspects of its topic, from
basic definitional and taxonomic issues to the role of implicature in
semantic change, from the ancient history to the latest revisions. At the
same time, this chapter is an ideal introduction to the Gricean approach to
pragmatics, which underlies most of modern pragmatics as well as most of
the chapters in the Handbook. In the chapter on presupposition (pp. 29-52),
Jay David Atlas first provides a succinct account of the main classical
approaches to presupposition, Frege's semantic interpretation, Stalnaker's
common-ground account and the somewhat ambiguous position of Grice,
uncovering inconsistencies in all three. This is used as a background
against which Atlas' own, Neo-Gricean explanation of the phenomenon is
developed, which, starting from Lewis' notion of accommodation, in effect
reduces presupposition to a kind of conversational implicature based on the
non-controversiality of the implicated content. The third chapter, by
Jerrold Sadock (pp. 53-73), deals with speech acts. After a brief history
of the speech act theory, covering Austin, Searle and various
Strawson-style objections to the theory, the notions such as locution,
illocution and perlocution, propositional speech act, illocutionary force,
etc. are introduced. Separate sections are devoted to the difficult
questions of the classification of illocutionary acts, their relationship
with grammar and to the problem of indirect speech acts.
The chapter on reference by Gregory Carlson (pp. 74-96) provides a good
overview of the major theories of reference (Frege, Russell, Strawson and
Kripke), which is followed by an enlightening discussion of the issues
arising from the fundamental question of the pragmatic vs. semantic nature
of reference. Stephen C. Levinson's contribution (pp. 97-121) is about
deixis, which is, as the author shows, pervasive in natural languages.
Furthermore: ''The deictic system is embedded in a context-independent
descriptive system, in such a way that the two systems produce a third that
is not reducible to either'' (p. 99). Levinson goes on to identify the
distinctive features of indexicals and outlines their treatment in
semantics and pragmatics. The chapter closes with a comprehensive account
of the typology of deictic systems in the world's languages. The final
chapter of the first part, ''Definiteness and Indefiniteness'' by Barbara
Abbott (pp. 122-149), starts off with an approximate delimitation of the
phenomenological fields of definiteness and indefiniteness; the following
four sections tackle the topics of specificity, weak and strong determiners
(in the sense of Milsark 1974), and the uniqueness and familiarity accounts
of definiteness, which are discussed and critically evaluated in an
The second part, PRAGMATICS AND DISCOURSE STRUCTURE, contains papers on a
broad range of topics pertaining to the realm of discourse. It opens with
the chapter ''Information Structure and Non-canonical Syntax'' by Gregory
Ward and Betty Birner (pp. 153-174), devoted to the influence of the
cognitive status of the denotations of linguistic expressions on the
non-canonical word order in English. The chapter on topic and focus,
written by Jeanette K. Gundel and Thorstein Fretheim (pp. 175-196), is an
excellent introduction to the elusive phenomena of information structure.
After a short historical overview, the authors clarify a number of
terminological issues (semantic/pragmatic vs. syntactic notions of topic
and focus, referential vs. relational givenness and newness, etc.), and
outline the principal properties of topic and focus and their subtypes.
This notional apparatus is then used to illustrate how information
structure may interact with language form and what truth-conditional
effects it may have. Chapter 9, ''Context in Dynamic Interpretation'' by
Craige Roberts (pp. 197-220), deals with the models of context in dynamic
semantics. The chapter follows the historical development of the theories
of context, from the simple context model in the early Montagovian
semantics, through the enriched models devised by Heim and Kamp, to the
fully developed intentional theory of context and discourse interpretation
based on the works of Stalnaker, Grice and Roberts herself, with a short
review of Asher and Lascarides' Segmented Discourse Representation Theory.
In chapter 10 (''Discourse Markers'', pp. 221-240), Diane Blakemore discusses
a class of expressions (which is, as Blakemore notes, perhaps not a unitary
class at all), traditionally grouped together because of their lack of
impact on truth conditions and/or because they do not denote concepts, such
as 'well', 'after all', 'therefore', etc. Three approaches to discourse
markers are introduced: the Gricean account in terms of conventional
implicatures, the Argumentation Theory approach and the relevance-theoretic
explanation, which capitalizes on the opposition between the procedural and
the conceptual meanings. The chapter closes with an examination of the
relationship between discourse markers and discourse coherence. The latter
is the main topic of the following chapter, ''Discourse Coherence'' by Andrew
Kehler (pp. 241-265), which deals with the means of establishing coherence
in discourse, focusing on the rhetorical relations between utterances.
After a summary of results of coherence research in psycholinguistics,
theoretical and computational linguistics, Kehler's own theory is
presented, in which coherence relations are systematically derived from a
limited number of more primitive features. As a conclusion, it is
demonstrated how coherence may restrict the applicability of certain
linguistic forms. In Chapter 12, ''The Pragmatics of Non-sentences'' (pp.
266-287), Robert J. Stainton explores non-sentential utterances which
constitute speech acts in spite of the non-propositional nature of their
Chapter 13, ''Anaphora and the Pragmatics-Syntax Interface'' by Yan Huang
(pp. 288-314), offers a pragmatic interpretation of what came to be known
as binding phenomena due to the wide influence of Chomskyan linguistics.
The author repudiates the prevailing syntactic interpretation of anaphoric
binding and gives an outline of a Neo-Gricean approach to intrasentential
anaphora; this approach explains a wider array of phenomena than any kind
of syntactic explanation, and in a more systematic way. In Chapter 14,
''Empathy and Direct Discourse Perspectives'' (pp. 315-343), Susumu Kuno
demonstrates that the principle of empathy, defined as the speaker's
identification with a participant in the described event, and the direct
discourse perspective, the presentation of a situation as a quote, are
necessary in order to capture a large number of apparently unmotivated
syntactic restrictions. Geoffrey Nunberg's contribution, ''The Pragmatics of
Deferred Interpretation'' (pp. 344-364), tackles one of the fundamental
issues of meaning, the relationship between what is traditionally known as
literal and figurative meanings. After a discussion of the opposition
between conventional and pragmatically derived meanings, Nunberg
demonstrates how ubiquitous the phenomenon of deference (of which
figuration is only a subclass) is; he then proceeds to explain the
mechanism of meaning transfer, which underlies deference, and its
functioning in systematic polysemy, semantic composition and in syntax in
Chapter 16, ''Pragmatics of Language Performance'' by Herbert H. Clark (pp.
365-382) explores the ways in which joint commitments and coordination
between interlocutors are established in natural discourse. Two principal
mechanisms are distinguished -- displays, which help interlocutors ground
the coordinates of the speech event, and collateral signals, designed to
refer to the ongoing performance. Part II of the Handbook closes with
Andrew Kehler and Gregory Ward's ''Constraints on Ellipsis and Event
Reference'' (pp. 383-403), which examines the nature of verbal anaphora in
English (gapping, VP ellipsis, 'so' anaphora and pronominal event
reference). On the basis of the evidence from these constructions, the
authors suggest a number of improvements to the theory of anaphora and to
the given-new taxonomy.
In the third part of the Handbook, PRAGMATICS AND ITS INTERFACES, the
overarching topic is the interaction of pragmatics with other components of
grammar and/or other linguistic subdisciplines. Chapter 18, ''Some
Interactions of Pragmatics and Grammar'' by Georgia M. Green (pp. 407-426)
illustrates the influence of pragmatics on grammar with a wide range of
pragmatically marked constructions in English (passive, raising, praesens
pro futuro, extraposition, negation raising, sluicing, preposing, main verb
inversion, etc.) and presents a number of possible answers to the question
of how pragmatic values of syntactic constructions are to be represented in
the linguistic theory. In chapter 19, ''Pragmatics and Argument Structure''
(pp. 427-441), Adele E. Goldberg shows that variations in argument
structure are for a greater part pragmatically conditioned. She gives an
account of Du Bois' theory of Preferred Argument Structure and illustrates
it with sentence focus constructions, variable encodings of ditransitives,
argument omission principles and with a very convincing explanation of the
phenomenon of obligatory adjuncts.
François Recanati's excellent ''Pragmatics and Semantics'' (pp. 442-462)
traces the current discussions on the delimitation of semantics and
pragmatics to the dispute between ideal language philosophers and ordinary
language philosophers and provides a short overview of the subsequent
approaches to the semantics-pragmatics distinction (semantic meaning as: 1.
truth-conditional meaning, 2. context-free meaning, 3. conventional
meaning), demonstrating that all are laden with insurmountable problems.
The popular idea that the processes involved in semantic decoding and
pragmatic reasoning constitute a sound basis for distinguishing between
them is also shown to have its weaknesses. Recanati instead opts for a
truth-conditional pragmatics of sorts, which distinguishes between three
levels of meaning (subpropositional linguistic meaning, pragmatically
enriched propositional literal content and pragmatically conveyed meaning).
Kent Bach's chapter ''Pragmatics and Philosophy of Language'' (pp. 463-487)
addresses similar issues, with an unmistakably Gricean slant. First a
number of pragmatic phenomena are presented (performatives, illocutionary
acts, communicative intentions, inference, relevance, the notion of saying
and of implicature); this is then followed by a discussion of the
semantics-pragmatics distinction, with a demonstration of its usefulness
for solving certain problems of the philosophy of language (speech act and
assertion fallacies, the meanings of logical connectors and quantifiers).
The next chapter, ''Pragmatics and the Lexicon'' (pp. 488-514) by Reinhard
Blutner, examines the interaction between pragmatics and the lexicon from
the perspective of Optimality Theory. Lexical meanings are assumed to be
heavily underspecified, reaching their full interpretation only through the
mechanism of pragmatic strengthening based on the Neo-Gricean Q and I
principles. Lexical semantics and lexical pragmatics are distinguished
along the lines of compositionality, monotonicity and the persistence of
anomaly. The principle of pragmatic strengthening itself is represented
within the framework of Bidirectional OT. Chapter 23, ''Pragmatics and
Intonation'' by Julia Hirschberg (pp. 515-537) provides many examples of how
intonation may influence the interpretation of utterances. In chapter 24,
''Historical Pragmatics'' (pp. 538-561), Elisabeth Closs Traugott outlines
the role of pragmatics in language change, concentrating on the two most
important theoretical contributions to this area: Horn's Q and R principles
and their applications in the processes of triggering autohyponymy and
polysemy, lexical blocking, etc., and Levinson's Q, M, and I heuristics
together with his view of semantic change as a process involving a sequence
from particularized through generalized conversational implicatures to
conventional meanings. Additionally, a number of issues related to the
actual course of linguistic change (reanalysis, language acquisition,
subjectification, etc.) are discussed. Finally, the functioning of the
whole theoretical apparatus is illustrated through the example of the
development of the English discourse marker 'after all'. Eve C. Clark's
contribution, ''Pragmatics and Language Acquisition'' (pp. 562-577)
summarizes the results of mostly psycholinguistic and psychological
research on the development of pragmatic competence with children. The
issues described, among others, are the establishment of joint attention
and common ground, recognition of speech acts and speakers' intentions,
turn taking and politeness, etc. The last chapter in Part III, Daniel
Jurafsky's ''Pragmatics and Computational Linguistics'' (pp. 578-604), argues
for a probabilistic mechanism of speech act interpretation.
Not surprisingly, the last part, PRAGMATICS AND COGNITION, opens with two
chapters on Relevance Theory, Wilson and Sperber's ''Relevance Theory'' (pp.
607-632) and Carston's ''Relevance Theory and Saying/Implicating
Distinction'' (pp. 633-656). Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber give a useful
and up-to-date summary of the approach to pragmatics they established in
their 1986 book (Sperber & Wilson 1986). This very clearly written chapter
introduces the basic tenets of Relevance Theory stepwise, through well
formulated definitions (relevance, cognitive principle of relevance,
ostensive-inferential communication, communicative principle of relevance,
presumption of optimal relevance, explicature vs. implicature), discussing
the phenomena that can be better accounted for through the
relevance-theoretic account than through competing approaches, such as
loose talk, lexical variation, irony, etc. In conclusion, they argue for a
special-purpose inferential comprehension module of mind and present some
results of experimental research confirming the tenets of Relevance Theory.
Robyn Carston's ''Relevance Theory and Saying/Implicating Distinction'' is
devoted to the difference between explicit and implicit communication. The
dividing line in Relevance Theory is first that between decoding and
inferring, and then, within the inferential domain, the one between the
inferences that further develop the logical form of the decoded message and
those that are partially independent of it. Thus the trichotomy
''(subpropositional) logical form -- explicature -- implicature'' (obviously
cognate to Recanati's approach) is defined as an alternative to the
mainstream dichotomy ''truth-conditional semantics vs. non-truth conditional
pragmatics'' (or, somewhat different, ''what is said vs. what is
implicated/meant''). The chapter offers rich and well presented material
illustrating different types of explicature and implicature, including the
much debated notion of generalized conversational implicature. What makes
Carston's contribution especially worth reading is its comparative
perspective: for all phenomena mentioned, not only the
relevance-theoretical, but also the alternative approaches, are discussed,
along with their merits and faults.
Chapter 29, ''Pragmatics and Cognitive Linguistics'' by Gilles Fauconnier
(pp. 657-674) outlines the role of pragmatics in a cognition-based
linguistic theory, claiming that the cognitive view of linguistic faculty
does not justify the division of meaning into literal and figurative,
indeed that the semantics-pragmatics distinction has no place in this
model, as both are derivable from the manipulation of mental spaces. This
is the only paper in the Handbook which takes a position similar to that of
ordinary language philosophers. In the next chapter, ''Pragmatic Aspects of
Grammatical Constructions'' (pp. 675-700), Paul Kay convincingly
demonstrates that different kinds of pragmatic information belong to the
constraints which define grammatical constructions and govern their use,
thus complementing Green's chapter on pragmatics and syntax; especially
instructive is his exposition of the way the Scalar Model for dealing with
scalar pragmatic phenomena works in the 'let alone' construction in
English. The penultimate chapter of the Handbook, Michael Israel's ''The
Pragmatics of Polarity'' (pp. 701-723) sheds light on various aspects of
polarity. The focus is on two issues: on the pragmatic markedness of
negation and on polarity items. The latter are shown to belong to the class
of scalar operators, whose usage constraints are easily explained once the
pragmatic of informativity is taken into account. The book closes with a
chapter on abduction by Jerry R. Hobbs (''Abduction in Natural Language
Understanding'', pp. 724-741). Hobbs opts for abduction (non-monotonic mode
or reasoning in which Q and P … Q lead to the conclusion that [probably] P)
as the most realistic model of everyday reasoning, qua the most realistic
model of everyday utterance interpretation. He demonstrates how
interpretation via abduction works within the AI framework in local and
global pragmatic processes and compares the AI abduction model with
Relevance Theory, emphasizing the similarities. The use of abduction in
utterance generation, language acquisition, etc. are addressed in the final
section of the chapter.
The Handbook closes with a 77 page list of references (pp. 742-819) and a
concise index (pp. 820-842).
In evaluating ''The Handbook'', I shall follow the trivial form-content
pattern, meaning that I shall first focus on the more or less formal issues
and then turn to the content-oriented evaluation.
On the whole, ''The Handbook of Pragmatics'' is very well edited, with only a
couple of minor irritating points. Two decisions of the publisher render
the book less than optimally user-friendly: first, endnotes instead of
footnotes, second, the common list of references for all chapters at the
end of the book instead of a separate list for each chapter. I suppose that
references placed at the end of the book, a common practice in all
Blackwell's handbooks, serve to save space and avoid overlappings, but (a)
it not always an easy task to find a reference in a 77 page list; and (b)
it is a problem for people who need a photocopy of only one or two chapters
(though, the latter may have been an additional reason for the publisher to
adopt the references-last strategy). Endnotes, which many publishers seem
to love for reasons beyond my comprehension, are a torture for the reader:
one looses the thread of the main body of the text and wastes time finding
notes, often just to be confronted with a bibliographical reference which
one could have dispensed with at that point.
Typos are very few and mostly easy to repair (at least I could not find
many). Among the few potentially confusing instances is ''the unreducible
[sic] maxim of Quantity'' (p. 297), where certainly the maxim of QUALITY is
meant. On p. 539 something went wrong with the syntax in the following
passage: ''Although some very important theoretical work has been based on
dictionaries, claims made by scholars like Bréal (1900) and Ullmann (1959),
or introspection (see especially Horn 1984a and passim), much recent
historical pragmatics is based in textual data.'' Capitalized 'autohyponOmy'
on p. 542 should read 'autohyponYmy' (this is an obvious typo, but some
linguists do tend to use hyponOmy instead of hyponYmy, obviously unaware
that the former would mean something like ''digging of underground channels''
in Ancient Greek). Finally, there is a potentially misleading
capitalization of 'and' on p. 620 (''compare the concept SQUARE, SQUARE* AND
SQUARE**''). There are practically no ghost references (works referred to in
the text but irretrievable from the list of references) apart from ''van
Rooy to appear a'' (p. 27, n.10) and ''van Rooy to appear b'' (p. 513, n. 10).
Non-English names and examples are also almost flawlessly printed, except
for the following two in the list of references: Ballmer (1972) did not
write anything on ''DiskurswelteR'' -- it is ''DiskurswelteN''; Geurts (1998)
is said to have been published in a book named ''Lexicalische Semantik ... ''
-- recte: ''LexiKalische ... ''. I wouldn't like to seem to be nitpicking,
but having suffered innumerable mutilations of the hatcheck in my own name,
I feel entitled to notice that Eva Hajičová (hatcheck on C, acute accent on
A) regularly looses the accent on A (a sign of vowel length in Czech), and
on p. 528 the hatcheck is also missing. And there is a missing accent aigu
on E in ''Études'' in the list of references under Fauconnier (1976). But
that's about all, and I must emphasize that so few typos is a remarkable
achievement for a book of some 850 pages.
Although it is basically organized thematically, different theoretical
doctrines and discipline-specific viewpoints inevitably found their way
into the organizational principles of the Handbook. It is thus only natural
that certain chapters partly overlap and/or complement each other in
describing a phenomenon. For instance, if you want to get the full picture
of classical implicatures, you should look up, in addition to Horn's
chapter, at least Recanati, Kent and Blutner; on reference -- Carlson,
Abbott and Levinson; on topic and focus -- Ward & Birner, Gundel &
Fretheim, Roberts, Goldberg, etc.; on discourse interpretation -- Roberts,
Blakemore and Kehler; on anaphorics -- at least Huang, Kuno and Kehler &
Ward; lexical matters -- Horn, Blutner, Traugott, Wilson & Sperber,
Carston; on syntax and pragmatics -- Ward & Birner, Kehler, Kuno, Kehler &
Ward, Green, Goldberg, Kay, etc., etc. The editors wisely saw to it that
the chapters with overlapping contents be interconnected through extensive
cross-referencing. It is also a good thing that most of the chapters with
related contents are, as far as the general organization of the book
allows, adjacent to each other (with the possible exception of Blakemore's
and H. Clark's article, which could stand closer to each other, given that
they both cover the field of non-truth conditional, 'procedural' signs).
The index may also be of some help here, although it is unfortunately not
especially detailed: if you look under 'familiarity', you will find only
references to two chapters (Abbott's and Ward & Birner's), although the
term occurs often in the book; the same holds true for 'truth conditions',
'given-new distinction', etc.
Only in two cases do I have serious doubts about the appropriateness of the
position of a chapter: I do not understand why Paul Kay's ''Pragmatic
Aspects of Grammatical Constructions'' is included in the fourth part of the
handbook (''Pragmatics and Cognition'') instead of the third (''Pragmatics and
its Interfaces''), and the I am not sure that the rightful place for
Nunberg's ''The Pragmatics of Deferred Interpretation'', dealing mostly with
lexical matters, is the part of the book devoted to discourse structure.
Otherwise, the organization of the book is clear and consistent.
''The Handbook of Pragmatics'' was eagerly awaited by those interested in
pragmatics for quite some time, and it lives up to expectations: on the
whole, I can only subscribe to Ivan Sag's cover-text characterization of
the handbook as ''a stunning collection of essays, written by a cadre of the
field's best'', though I have some reservations, as will become clear
The field of pragmatics, a notoriously messy issue, is defined as follows
in the introduction: ''... pragmatics is the study of those
context-dependent aspects of meaning which are systematically abstracted
away from in the construction of content or logical form'' (p. xi). As is
clear from Recanati's contribution on pragmatics and semantics, none of the
three criteria commonly conjured up in order to delimit pragmatics, context
dependency, non-conventionality and non-truth-conditionality, are in
themselves sufficient to set pragmatic meaning apart from other aspects of
meaning; the editors therefore wisely include all three in their definition
(context dependent, systematically abstracted away from in the derivation
of the logical form). This is perhaps not a particularly stringent
definition of the pragmatics-semantics distinction, but it is a good basis
for drawing the boundaries of a linguistic discipline: the book is devoted
to the theoretical and empirical aspects of the components of meaning which
are context dependent, non-conventional, non-truth-conditional, or all three.
The field is further narrowed down in the following way: ''In this Handbook,
we have attempted to address both the traditional and the extended goals of
theoretical and empirical pragmatics. It should be noted, however, that
other traditions -- especially among European scholars -- tend to employ a
broader and more sociological conception of pragmatics that encompasses all
aspects of language use not falling strictly within formal linguistic
theory ... For reasons of space and coherence of presentation, we have
largely restricted our coverage to the more narrowly circumscribed, mainly
Anglo-American conception of linguistic and philosophical pragmatics and
its applications'' (p. xi). Together with the above mentioned restriction
to aspects of MEANING, implicitly understood as (something close to)
propositionally expressible meaning, this implies that not only disciplines
such as discourse analysis, conversation analysis, linguistic anthropology,
etc., are not represented here, but also that those aspects of linguistic
behavior which do not readily render themselves to propositional
representation, such as rules of turn-taking, do not belong to the
phenomena described (though there are hints to this kind of data in the
chapters by Eve and Herbert Clark).
I can imagine that many will find this limitation unsatisfactory, since it
leaves a considerable amount of work done in what is here dubbed broader
pragmatics unaccounted for. I don't see this as a serious problem. Although
it may be more of a sociological/cultural fact than a purely scholarly one,
two types of pragmatics, the 'narrow' and the 'broad', or the philosophical
and the sociological one, do exist, for better or for worse, and they do
have different research traditions, deal with (at least in part) different
topics and address different readerships. The editors have decided to cover
only one type, for reasons of space, coherence, or personal preferences,
and have explicitly announced this restriction, so that the reader can go
on knowing what kind of information awaits her: what you see is what you
get. Besides, those interested in broad pragmatics have excellent overviews
in Verschueren et al. (1995ff.) and Mey (1998) at their disposal. What I do
see as a problem, however, is the lack of reference to 'broad' pragmatic
approaches in those cases in which the phenomenological field of the
'narrow' pragmatics intersects with that of the 'broad' one, not only
because it bears witness to the reprehensible mutual ignorance (as opposed
to laudable mutual knowledge) of the two research traditions, but also
because in this way the reader gets only incomplete information on the
issues concerning the given topic. In some cases at least, this is really a
pity, since the 'broad' approach may have provided some fresh impulses to
the meaning-oriented pragmatic research. I have more to say about this later.
In a review of a book like ''The Handbook of Pragmatics'', the issues that
have to be addressed are not primarily originality or a creative solution
to a problem, but rather accuracy, comprehensiveness, breadth of coverage,
informativeness, and clarity of exposition (or, if you prefer, quality,
quantity, relevance and manner). With these issues in mind, I shall first
discuss some of the chapters and then the book as a whole.
A number of chapters in ''The Handbook'' threaten to become milestones in the
field, being both perfect introductions and brilliant state-of-the-art
reports. Already the first chapter in the book meets these criteria: Horn's
'Implicature' is both informative and up to date, maintaining a good
balance between the general representation of the facts and the
argumentation for the theoretical stance Horn himself takes (and a clear
delimitation of both); the only thing I miss is a mention of the
non-conventionality tests devised by Sadock (1978), and a reference to
Green (1990) in the context of the discussion of the universality of
Gricean principles. The same equilibrium of systematic presentation and
convincing argumentation is found in Levinson's ''Deixis'' and Abbott's
''Definiteness'', which both give information on more or less everything
relevant for their respective topics. In writing ''Topic and Focus'', Gundel
and Fretheim were confronted with an extremely difficult task: in the last
twenty years or so, the literature on information structure has literally
boomed, resulting in thousands of works on the topic and the worst
terminological chaos in modern linguistics I am aware of. The authors have
mastered this task in the best possible way: their terminological and
notional clarifications will probably become standard references. The
historical part would have been richer if Seuren (1998), von Heusinger
(1999) and Kruijff-Korbayová & Steedman (2003) had been referred to. A
mention of the formal approaches to topic and focus (such as e.g. Krifka
1993 and Rooth 1992) and of the influential attempts to account for the
cross-linguistic variation in this field (Kiss 1998), are the only
remaining desiderata. A fair amount of terminological tidying up is also
conducted in Craige Roberts' ''Context in Dynamic Interpretation''; apart
from this, her account of formal theories of context and its role in
interpretation is clear, well-written, and comprehensive; a reference to
the related work by Klein & von Stutterheim (1987) and Büring (e.g. 2003)
would have only strengthened it. François Recanati's ''Pragmatics and
Semantics'' is a serious candidate for a classic, with its brief, clear and
sovereign presentation of the attempts to establish a logically coherent
delimitation of semantics and pragmatics. A word on those who deny the
existence of such a limit, as many cognitive linguists do, would turn this
chapter from a merely masterful to a masterful and complete discussion of
the semantics-pragmatics distinction. Finally, if you want to find out what
Relevance Theory is about, you should read the papers by Wilson & Sperber
and Carston: both are so well-wired and so informative that I doubt that
many unresolved questions are left.
This is not to say that the remaining chapters are not of high quality. In
fact, the most fascinating feature of this book is the fact that, apart
from very few disappointments, almost all chapters satisfy the criteria of
excellence. For instance, if asked what to recommend as an introduction
into the optimality-theoretic approach to pragmatics, I would without
hesitation recommend Blutner's ''Pragmatics and the Lexicon''; Kehler's
''Discourse Coherence'' is a perfect first step in the world or rhetorical
relations, Hobb's ''Abduction'' in the world of the AI approach to
interpretation, etc. Some questions of style remain, however. The
contributions of some of the authors resemble research papers rather than
proper handbook-format chapters. Thus, I am inclined to think that a
beginner in the field would have difficulties with Atlas' paper on
presupposition (which I personally find quite attractive in its radical
focusing on non-controversiality of the presupposed contents). An
additional problem is that, being a research paper rather than a handbook
chapter, Atlas' contribution ignores the approaches that are not directly
in the focus of argumentation; for instance, the development of the
presupposition theory from the Nineties -- e.g. van der Sandt (1992),
Gaukler (1998), Abbott (2000), Beaver (2001), etc. -- is simply ignored. In
a similar manner, Huang makes a convincing case against the Chomskyan
syntactic account of reflexive pronouns and for pragmatically governed
principles of reflexivization; however, in focusing on the refutation of
one (very influential) approach to one (important) aspect of pronominal
interpretation, this chapter falls short of giving a truly comprehensive
account of the pragmatics of anaphora, both in terms of the approaches
mentioned and of the phenomena covered. In addition to these cases, one or
two papers offer less information than expected without the justification
of bringing new research results. However, these are true exceptions in
this book: as already indicated, practically everything is exquisite.
The quality of the book as a whole with respect to the properties
established as relevant at the beginning of the content part of this review
-- comprehensiveness, clarity, breadth of coverage, etc. -- is to be judged
positively. The topics that have taken center stage in pragmatics in the
last decades -- from implicature to syntax-pragmatics interface -- are
given a detailed, informative, up-to-date and balanced account. In this
respect, Horn and Ward's ''Handbook of Pragmatics'' emulates the best
reference work to date, Levinson's classical ''Pragmatics'' (1983). Actually,
a comparison with Levinson's book reveals how much has been done in the
last twenty-odd years: not only has our understanding of the fundamental
issues, like semantics-pragmatics distinction, significantly changed since
the early Eighties (expansion in depth), the pragmatic perspective has
become definitely established as one of the major ways of thinking about
language, resulting in a large body of research on syntax, lexicon,
language change, language acquisition, etc., which either incorporates or
is entirely based on the conceptual framework provided by pragmatics
(expansion in breadth). The greatest merit of ''The Handbook of Pragmatics''
is perhaps not so much the good coverage of the expansion in depth -- it is
something you would expect from every new reference work -- but rather the
great effort the editors have invested in planning the book so as to
capture the immense expansion of pragmatics in breadth. The part of the
Handbook dubbed ''Pragmatics and its Interfaces'' bears witness to this
laudable effort, as well as the inclusion of a section devoted entirely to
discourse, which does full justice to the developments in both dynamic
semantics, with its focus on meaning as context enrichment, and syntax, in
which much work has been done on the influence of discourse on sentence form.
This excessive praise of Horn and Ward's editorial work should not obscure
the fact that the Handbook on the whole also has its weaknesses. First,
some chapters deal with very specific issues, which a handbook of a
linguistic discipline need not necessarily feature. For instance, the
topics tackled in Ward and Birner's chapter on the non-canonical word order
in English, Stainton's chapter on subpropositional utterances or Kuno's
work on empathy (even though all these papers are of high quality) could
have been given a more concise account in Green's chapter on syntax and
pragmatics or in a more generally conceived chapter on ellipsis than Kehler
and Ward's paper on VP ellipsis is. There is also some overlapping which
seems unnecessary, such as the partial repetition of Recanati's account of
the semantics-pragmatics distinction in Kent Bach's ''Pragmatics and the
Philosophy of Language'' (though, I assume this is only a reviewer's
problem, since it is not very probable there will be many people who will
read all 850 pages from cover to cover).
On the other hand, some important approaches to pragmatics have received
only insufficient attention. Thus I see no good reason why there is no
chapter on pragmatics and psycholinguistics/psychology. The psychological,
experimental approach to pragmatic phenomena is mentioned in Eve Clark's
''Pragmatics and Language Acquisition'' from the viewpoint of language
acquisition, and in Wilson & Sperber's ''Relevance Theory'', from the
viewpoint of Relevance Theory. But the tradition of experimental pragmatics
is neither confined to these issues, nor does it commence with the (mostly)
relevance-theoretic collection of articles edited by Noveck & Sperber
(2004): Since the pioneering works of Robert Krauss (e.g. Krauss &
Weinheimer 1966, 1967), Herbert Clark (e.g. Clark & Lucy 1975, Clark &
Haviland 1977, Clark 1979), Raymond Gibbs (e.g. Gibbs 1982, 1983), and
others, there has been an immense body of psychological and
psycholinguistic literature on such 'narrow' pragmatic topics as literal
vs. figurative meaning, reference, indirect speech acts, irony and
implicature, etc. (see Clark 1992 and 1996, Gibbs 1999, and especially
Krauss & Fussell 1996 for excellent surveys). Further, more use could have
been made of Argumentation Theory (mentioned only by Blakemore and
Recanati), which is in many respects a radical alternative to the Gricean
model underlying directly or indirectly most of the papers in the Handbook
(Ducrot 1984; see also van Eemeren & Grootendorst 2004 for a different
understanding of argumentation).
In a similar vein, some important topics of modern pragmatics are mentioned
only in passing or they do not receive the attention they deserve given the
place they occupy in the contemporary research. First of all, the
fundamental question of literal and nonliteral meaning in general and of
metaphor/metonymy in particular is only partly covered by Nunberg's paper
on deferred reference and merely touched upon by Recanati and Wilson &
Sperber. The prolonged and lively discussion of ambiguity, vagueness and
polysemy and their semantic or pragmatic roots (cp. e.g. Nunberg 1979,
Geeraerts 1993, Behrens 1998, 2002, Ravin & Leacock 2000), the role
metaphor and metonymy play in much of cognitive linguistics (e.g. Lakoff
1987; Gibbs & Steen 1999, Dirven & Pörings 2002) and the theoretical
relevance of the issue of literal meaning (cp. e.g. Searle 1978, 1979,
Gibbs 1984, 2002, Dascal 1987, Recanati 2004) -- all this not only
justifies, it rather demands a more comprehensive account than the partial
coverage in Nunberg's, Recanati's and Wilson & Sperber's papers. Irony,
cursorily mentioned only by Wilson & Sperber, is yet another topic which
should have received more attention, not only in view of the amount of
research wholly or partially devoted to it (cp. Colebrook 2004 for an
overview), but also in view of the theoretical relevance of irony in
defining the notion of saying (Grice was compelled to resort to the notion
of ''making as if to say'' in order to account for irony, which seriously
undermines the purely semantic view of saying -- cp. Recanati 2003 for a
discussion). Finally, I would like to have seen a separate chapter devoted
to intentionality. Given the central role communicative intentions play in
most of the classical and modern pragmatics, from Grice's non-natural
meaning (Grice 1957) to the intentionalist approaches to discourse like
that of Asher & Lascarides (1994) and Roberts (1996), it would be extremely
useful to have an authoritative article on the topic instead of sporadic
mentions scattered all over the book (cp. overviews in Cohen et al. (1990),
Duranti (2000), and Mann (2003)).
Apart from these omissions, Horn and Ward's ''Handbook of Pragmatics''
faithfully mirrors the current pragmatic landscape (i.e. the landscape of
the 'narrow' pragmatics), both in good and in bad. Let me first say a
couple of words on what is 'bad', so that I may end this review with the
deserved praise of both the editors and the contributors.
Two features characterizing 'narrow' pragmatics also characterize much of
the Handbook: monolingualism and disregard of other research traditions.
Almost all papers, with the notable exception of Levinson's ''Deixis'',
Huang's ''Anaphora'' and Goldberg's ''Pragmatics and Argument Structure'', are
based exclusively on English data, a fact deplored by some of the authors
(Abbott, p.148; Ward & Birner, p. 173, Green, p. 416). Working with English
data has the advantage of immediate accessibility of the examples to the
international readership, but it also has one serious drawback (apart from
the rather trivial issue of political correctness): in confining oneself to
the data from only one language, a number of important theoretical
generalizations may be lost. Obviously, this holds true for all fields of
applied pragmatics: the interaction of pragmatics and grammar or lexicon,
for instance, certainly gives quite different results in different
languages. Actually, this is one important desideratum in pragmatic
research -- to try and uncover parameters of cross-linguistic variation in
the pragmatic interfaces. However, it will never loose its status of a
desideratum if the researchers keep on confining themselves to English.
Perhaps less obvious is the fact that a confrontation with the linguistic
diversity can also be profitable for theoretical pragmatics. Recall,
however, the important insights gained in the specificity research through
an analysis of the Turkish case marking (Enç 1991). Or, to name one simple
example from the book under review: Carston, demonstrating the creation of
ad hoc concepts on the example of the adjective 'happy', says that ''I am
happy'' may be used to denote that the speaker is ''in a steady state of
low-key well-being, [...] that she is experiencing a moment of intense joy,
[...] that she is satisfied with the outcome of some negotiation, etc.'' (p.
642). In two languages that I have a fairly good command of, German and
Serbian/Croatian, the first two ad hoc extensions of the roughly equivalent
adjectives (glücklich and sretan, respectively) are quite possible, while
the third one seems to be pragmatically infelicitous. In contexts
comparable to that of a successfully accomplished negotiation, you would
not say ''Ich bin glücklich'' or ''Sretan sam'' (because 'glücklich' and
'sretan' would be automatically associated with one of the two first
mentioned ad hoc concepts), but you would have to use one of the adjectives
roughly corresponding to English 'pleased' instead. There are a number of
ways in which this can be interpreted: it may be the case that the
structure of the lexicon (both the structure of semantic fields and the
make-up of lexical units themselves) restricts the creation of ad hoc
concepts in some relevant way, or it is simply a matter of some kind of
discourse conventionalization, or it is something else. Be it how it may,
this kind of language (or culture) dependent restrictions on the formation
of ad hoc concepts is a potentially relevant theoretical issue which cannot
be raised unless more than one language is considered.
The second point -- the lack of awareness of other research traditions --
is not the exclusive property of pragmatics, but rather a pervasive feature
of modern linguistics in general. As in the case of pragmatic
monolingualism, this is not reprehensive merely for the reasons of
political correctness (it is not courteous not to know what other
colleagues are doing), but also and primarily because this self-imposed
confinement to the works of those who work in the same theoretical
framework, leads to a state of an apparently self-evident consensus; this,
in turn, leads to a situation in which the fundamental postulates are no
longer questioned, but rather taken for granted -- which is, needless to
say, an ideal prerequisite for a stagnation of a scientific paradigm. Let
me illustrate this with a couple of examples. Since the early days of
Gricean pragmatics, there have been attempts to show that its conception of
language and communication is not valid or not universally valid. These
attacks come from different quarters -- the universality of maxims, for
instance, has been questioned from the viewpoints of linguistic
anthropology (Ochs Keenan 1976) and of intercultural communication
(Wierzbicka 1991); discourse analysts (e.g. Sarangi & Slembrouck 1992) and
philosophers (e.g. Davis 1998) have argued against cooperativeness of the
interlocutors as the basis of communication, relevance theorists (Sperber &
Wilson 1986) and experimental psychologists (e.g. Wyer & Gruenfeld 1995,
Krauss & Fussell 1996) have expressed doubts about the psychological
plausibility of the Gricean interpretation process, and Grice's properties
of implicatures (cancellability, detachability, etc.) have been shown not
to be the exclusive domain of non-conventional meanings (Sadock 1978);
there are also some frontal attacks on the Gricean program as a whole
(Davis 1998). Defenders have not been less numerous and less eloquent --
Green (1990), Levinson (1989, 2000) Saul (2002a, 2002b), Green (2002), to
name just a few. In ''The Handbook of Pragmatics'', this prolonged argument
is briefly mentioned only on pp. 8 and 28 (note 19) (in Horn's
''Implicature'') and commented upon in a very cursory manner. I do not intend
to claim that all objections to the Gricean program are justified or even
plausible, but I do think that the dominant pragmatic paradigm would profit
greatly from answering them in more detail and with more intellectual
effort, and of course, that the readers of ''The Handbook of Pragmatics''
should share in this profit. Similar critical tones on the speech act
theory (e.g. those from the conversation analysts' perspective [Goodwin &
Heritage 1990, Schegloff 1992] and from the perspective of linguistic
anthropology [Duranti 1997]) are not mentioned at all in the Handbook
(though see p. 54). There are also cases where no explicit critique is
involved, but the object of 'alien' research traditions is identical or
similar to that presented in the Handbook, so that it would have been a
good idea to also mention this 'alien' point of view, at least for the sake
of completeness. To name just one example: In the discussion of procedural
meanings and of the role of context in interpretation, a short discussion
of Gumperz' important notions of 'contextualization' and 'contextualization
cue' (Gumperz 1982), perhaps even a brief overview of Hymes and Gumperz'
Ethnography of Communication (Gumperz & Hymes 1972), would have
significantly contributed to the richness of the argument.
These objections, to emphasize the point again, should not be understood
(purely) as a critique of Horn and Ward's ''Handbook'', they pertain rather
to the linguistic subdiscipline, the 'narrow' pragmatics, this book is
intended to cover and it is therefore only logical that what is bad in a
discipline is also reflected in the handbook describing it. The development
of pragmatics in the last couple of decades, however, is to be judged
positively on the whole, and the main merit of the Handbook lies in its
extensive coverage of this positive development. It provides a picture of
an expanding field of research which slowly but steadily encroaches upon
the traditional territories of semantics, syntax, morphology, etc., thereby
offering systematic and principled accounts of previously enigmatic
phenomena. For this reason, certain reservations notwithstanding, I can
only once again quote Ivan Sag's cover text: ''Quality: superb. Quantity:
vast. Relation: everything there is that's relevant to pragmatics. Manner:
as clear as it gets!''
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Dejan Matić received his Ph.D. in General Linguistics in 2003 (University
of Cologne, Germany) and is currently working as a Postdoctoral Research
and Teaching Fellow at the University of Cologne. He has published on
information structure, language contact, syntax of copular clauses,
discourse pragmatics and experimental pragmatics.
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