File Name: relevance communication and cognition .zip
Relevance theory, a cognitive pragmatics theory of human communication, was developed in the mids by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson in their book, Relevance: Communication and Cognition , but their earlier publications also dealt with this theory, specifically comparing it to Grice's cooperative principle. Since then, it has become a highly influential theory in today's pragmatics and has been applied to many types of discourse and research areas within pragmatics. Keywords: pragmatics , human communication , cognition , Grice , intention , semantics , relevance. Francisco Yus teaches pragmatics at the University of Alicante, Spain.
Relevance: communication and cognition
The fnal modifcation, dropping the word "Language" and adding the subtitle, is highly symptomatic of the evolution the manuscript must have gone through over the years. Both Jackendoff and Johnson-Laird set out to show how what we know about language fts in to, and at the same time throws light on, a general picture of the mind. By contrast, one of the implications of Sperber and Wilson's book is that a formal theory of communication may cause quite a considerable rethinking of the nature of language itself.
A common view of pragmatics is that it is : "a theory of communication separate from but dependent on a previously stated account of semantics" Kempson p 68 assuming that semantics is in turn entirely determined by the grammar in the way that Chomsky for example defnes "logical form" as : "those aspects of semantic representation that are strictly determined by the grammar, abstracted away from other cognitive systems. In a sense it is a pity that Sperber and Wilson did not go one step further and drop the word "Relevance" as well as the word "Language".
Perhaps it would have been better if they had used some other term such as "payoff" or "yield" or "interest" for example though admittedly none of them sound so nice as "relevance theory". At least this would have prevented generalisations like : "Sperber and Wilson attempt to reduce Grice's conventions to one : be relevant.
The principle of relevance is neither a maxim nor a convention nor a theorem but a : "generalisation about ostensive communication" p that boils down to a natural consequence of assuming that communication is rational goal-directed behaviour. When this assumption breaks down so does relevance.
Sperber and Wilson, however, go even further than Chomsky and claim that the language faculty is not in itself a specifcally human characteristic, neither is ostensive communication : what is original is the specifc use which the human species has made of language for communicating, just as elephants have made an original use of their nose for picking things up.
One of the fundamental ideas expressed in this book is that the "semiotic programme", which aimed at reconstructing an underlying system of signs behind all forms of organised social behaviour, was doomed to failure. Sperber and Wilson demonstrate convincingly in this book that "language" as studied by structuralists, in its widest sense of verbal communication, is not a code either. The originality of Relevance Theory, then, is to propose a genuine formal alternative to a code-based model.
The theory is developped in the following way. A purely cognitive notion of "manifestness" is introduced Chapter 1 : Communication applying to assumptions which an individual is capable of representing at a given moment as probably true. This allows Sperber and Wilson to appeal to a notion of "mutual manifestness" rather than "mutual knowledge", thus avoiding the common accusation of infnite regress.
A theory of non-demonstrative inference is then developped Chapter 2 : Inference comprising a restricted deduction system allowing only elimination rules but including conjunctive and disjunctive modus ponens.
This in turn allows them to defne the "contextual effects" of a set of assumptions in a given context as those assumptions which are either implied by, or the strength of which is modifed by, the union of the context and the assumptions, but not by the context or the assumptions alone. Relevance is then defned Chapter 3 : Relevance as proportional to the amount of contextual effects and inversely proportional to the processing effort required to recover these effects. Under this defnition there is no single value for the relevance of a manifest assumption.
An individual is free to explore the totality of the assumptions manifest to him which is incidentally an infnite set since it may include such infnite series as "I am happy" "I know I am happy" "I know I know I am happy" etc. This is not, however, a weakness of the theory since it is obvious that there is no theoretical limit to the search for the relevance of a manifest assumption witness the Zen technique of meditation on koans , questions like "What is the sound of one hand clapping".
There is however a difference between the search for relevance of a phenomenon and that of an ostensive stimulus : in the latter case the individual can assume, following the 'principle of relevance' that the communicator is aiming at optimal relevance. LENNY kicked the alligator. As they rightly say : "there is a huge descriptive literature in this area, but nothing approaching an explanatory theory of the relation between linguistic structure and pragmatic effect.
In fact there is a very good reason : this type of phenomena seems to be practically the only case where phonological form is interpreted directly, rather than through the intermediary of syntactic structure. The explanation which they propose builds on the fact that an utterance is produced and processed over time, and that understanding it consists in constructing anticipatory hypotheses concerning both syntactic and semantic representations.
Foregrounding or focussing a constituent consequently has the effect, like pointing, of drawing attention to a concept which has particular relevance to the listener. It would be tempting to go a step further and suggest cf Hirst b that in fact "focal" stress - particularly when associated with falling intonation - functions as a means of signalling that the anticipatory hypothesis which can be constructed at that point already fulflls the criterion of relevance.
Thus in the examples above, we can assume, following Sperber and Wilson's analysis, that when the nuclear stress occurs the listener will have constructed semantic representations corresponding to something like : 2 a. Lenny kicked the alligator. Lenny kicked it. Lenny did. It seems though that the questioner does not need to look in his encyclopaedic memory to fnd the premise 6 - he can construct it on the basis of the phonological form of 4b.
Suppose now that Peter had imagined that a Mercedes was not a car at all but a type of motor-bike or a lorry - Mary's reply would be suffcient for him to correct his mistaken impression assuming he trusts her knowledge despite the fact that neither 5 nor its negation had ever been part of his cognitive environment before.
Placing a premise in a post-nuclear position has of course always been a good way for speakers to palm off premises on their listeners by pretending that they are mutually manifest : 8 Well of course if you MUST mix with snobs… It can also be a useful way of checking that an assumption genuinely IS mutually manifest without throwing doubt on the listener's knowledge : 9 a Why don't you speak to Peter anymore?
The difference in stressing between 10 and 11 is in all probability linked to the fact that, as Sperber and Wilson point out p , contrastive stress is more narrowly constrained in French than in English, but there seems to be more going on here than can be explained by an appeal to "strongly preferred fnal placement of focal stress" which is a somewhat circular argument and a "relatively fat intonation contour" in French which as far as I know has no empirical justifcation at all.
For recent attempts to provide a taxinomy of sentences of this type in English cf Gussenhoven , Faber In their discussion of rhetoric, the demonstration that metaphor and irony are not essentially different from other types of 'non-fgurative' utterances is convincing, but the conclusion which the authors draw, namely that the notion of 'trope' "should be abandoned altogether", is too strong.
By the same token we might claim that oil-painting is closer to house-painting than it is to singing and dancing and that in consequence the notion of 'art' "should be abandoned altogether". In their account of speech acts they argue, somewhat provocatively but substantially quite correctly, that : "The vast range of data that speech-act theorists have been concerned with is of no special interest to pragmatics.
After pointing out that the correlation between syntactic sentence types and generic speech acts cannot be maintained, they then somewhat weaken their position by making the surprising claim that there is no well-defned range of mutually exclusive sentence-types on the basis of examples like : 12 a.
You are to leave tomorrow. You won't be needing the car? This book is so interesting. This argument is not very convincing, however, since once we distinguish sentence type from generic speech act there is surely no diffculty in identifying 12a and 12b as declaratives and 12c as an exclamative. The case of 12b is particularly interesting since, as I have pointed out elsewhere Hirst a rising intonation pattern or a question mark is not suffcient to convert a declarative into a question as can be seen from the examples assuming fnal stress on the capitalised word : 13 a.
Did you BUY something? Did you BUY anything? After all they do warn us in the preface that : "the substance of two more books, one on pragmatics, the other on rhetoric, is already on paper and duly revised might even go into print. Foris; Dordrecht Hirst, Daniel "Interpreting intonation : a modular approach. Kempson, Ruth Semantic Theory. Cambridge University Press Kempson, Ruth "Anaphora, the compositionality requirement and the semantics-pragmatic distinction. English translation Rethinking Symbolism.
Cambridge University Press. Sperber, Dan Le savoir des anthropologues. Hermann English translation : On Anthropological Knowledge. Related Papers. By Deirdre Wilson. A decade of relevance theory. By Francisco Yus.
By Raed Nemri. Relevance Theory. By Asli Bayram. Sentence Stress and the Procedures of Comprehension. By Daniel Sax.
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Relevance : communication and cognition
Functions of code switching in multilingual classrooms Suzanne Rose, Ondene van Dulm. Using music activities to enhance the listening skills and language skills of Grade 1, English first additional language learners Anna J Hugo, Catharina A Horn. The "monolingual habitus" as the common feature in teaching in the language of the majority in different countries Ingrid Gogolin. Language and academic achievement: Perspectives on the potential role of indigenous African languages as a lingua academica Mbulungeni Madiba. Genre analysis and task-based course design for isiXhosa second language teaching in local government contexts Mariana Visser, Edith Venter. Alternatively, you can download the PDF file directly to your computer, from where it can be opened using a PDF reader.
We outline the main assumptions of the current version of the theory and discuss some of its implications for pragmatics [ PDF version ]. In Horn, L. Oxford: Blackwell, In developing this claim, Grice laid the foundations for an inferential model of communication, an alternative to the classical code model. According to the code model, a communicator encodes her intended message into a signal, which is decoded by the audience using an identical copy of the code.
PDF | In Relevance: Communication and Cognition, we outline a new approach to the study of human communication, one based on a general.
Handbuch Pragmatik pp Cite as. Relevance theory is a cognitively-oriented pragmatic theory that aims at providing a psychologically realistic account of utterance interpretation. Originally developed by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson , it has in the last few decades been one of the leading frameworks for pragmatics research.
Relevance theory is a framework for understanding utterance interpretation first proposed by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson and used within cognitive linguistics and pragmatics. It was originally inspired by the work of H. Paul Grice and developed out of his ideas, but has since become a pragmatic framework in its own right. The seminal book, Relevance , was first published in and revised in
Edited by Bernd Heine and Heiko Narrog
In the fields of pragmatics and semantics among others , relevance theory is the principle that the communication process involves not only encoding, transfer, and decoding of messages , but also numerous other elements, including inference and context. It is also called the principle of relevance. The foundation for relevance theory was established by cognitive scientists Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson in "Relevance: Communication and Cognition" ; revised Since then, Sperber and Wilson have expanded and deepened discussions of relevance theory in numerous books and articles. Share Flipboard Email. Richard Nordquist.
Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. DOI: Levinson Published Sociology Journal of Linguistics. In this bold and highly controversial book, Sperber and Wilson attempt to shift the whole centre of gravity of pragmatic theory by locating it firmly in a general theory of cognition. Outlining that general theory takes the bulk of the book, so those who have followed technical developments in pragmatics will not find those issues much advanced here. View via Publisher.
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