Pragmatic notions: A reading in a section of the book Discourse Analysis.
Dealing with a speech or discourse as a form of human interaction occurring most of the time, some terms adopted by the pragmatic approach are used to analyze a piece of discourse. Apart from the most spread notions, such as contextual aspects of time, place, and relationships between speakers and hearers, other terms, such as reference, presupposition, implicature, and inference are used by the discourse analyst to interpret the use of language in a given context. In this respect, the discourse analyst is more interested in the relationship between the speaker and the utterance rather than in the relationship between a proposition and another. Starting with the term reference, the traditional point of view of reference perceives the latter as the relationship between words and things. In this regard, reference is treated as an action on the part of expressions in the absence of language users. Nevertheless, the discourse analyst adopts recent views of reference which state that the ‘‘speaker invests the expression with reference to the act of referring.’’ Lyons (1977:177). This means that referring is something that a speaker does rather than an expression. However, expressions merely give orders or make promises. In addition to reference, speakers also make pragmatic presuppositions when they speak. They make assumptions about the hearers can accept without challenge. The term presupposition is defined as ‘‘what is taken as the common ground of the participants in the conversation.’’ Stalnaker (1978:321). Again, in this case, the speaker is still the source of presupposition. To exemplify, when the speaker says something like ‘my uncle is coming from Canada’, he presupposes that he has an uncle as an implied presupposition. To distinguish what a speaker implies, suggests, or means from what he actually says, Grice (1975) used the term implicature to account for that. Grice distinguished between two types of implicatures: the conventional implicatures that are determined by the conventional meaning of an expression or a word. In this way, the speaker shapes his expressions relying on their conventional meaning to imply what he is aiming at. The second type of implicatures is conversational. The latter is the center of interest to a discourse analyst. The conversational implicature is based on a general principle of conversation in addition to a number of maxims that speakers should obey in order to turn a conversation into a successful one. The general principle mentioned is referred to as the Cooperative principle. It states that a speaker should make his conversational contribution concise, purposeful, and bound to the context. This principle is supported by the maxims of Quantity, Quality, Relation, and Manner. By obeying these maxims, speakers make their expressions informative and concise (quantity), true and adequate (quality), relevant (relation), and clear, brief and organized (manner). Flouting one of these maxims affects the speaker’s conveying and adds additional implicit meanings or what is known by conversational implicatures. The discourse analyst, like the hearer, does not have access to what the speaker implies or intends. Therefore, he resorts to a process of inference in order to interpret the utterance of the speaker. In this regard, the hearer or the discourse analyst attempts to derive conclusions from the speaker’s saying via deductive inference. However, this kind of inference seems to be limited to account for an utterance, such as ‘John was going to school’. For this sentence, the reader may deduce that John is a schoolboy. Nevertheless, when the same sentence is followed by another sentence in the same text such as ‘he had been unable to control his class last week’ the reader has to abandon his first conclusion of considering John as a schoolboy. Instead, John will be considered as a teacher. We conclude from the data above that inference depends not only on the deduction but also on a sort of socio-cultural background knowledge. All in all, terms such as reference, presupposition, implicature, and inference are relevant pragmatic notions that account for the relationship between the participants and elements of discourse since they all revolve around the context.