Pragmatics

This course considers how meanings are constructed in communication. It aims (1) to cover the major areas in pragmatic theory, (2) to introduce the latest developments in those areas, and (3) to apply the theory to real data.

Course Content

Broadly speaking, the bulk of the course is organised so that it focuses in turn on various components that are central to communication. In the first two weeks, we focus on topics, such as referring expression and presuppositions, that more clearly overlap with the formal language system, falling on the border between semantics/grammar and pragmatics. The following two weeks, focus on topics that involve hearer inferencing and comprehension. Relevant frameworks include schema theory, Grice and Relevance Theory. Next, we focus on speaker intentions and frameworks for describing speech acts or pragmatic acts. The following week focuses on context, and considers various ways of describing it. We then focus on the interpersonal dynamics of interaction, and consider politeness and impoliteness theories. The final week concerns the application of pragmatics to cross-cultural situations.

The emphasis of the course is on the application of pragmatic theory to 'real' data, and how that application affords insights into both the data and the theory. Data will mainly be spoken interactions, including material from films and documentaries, but will include other data types too.