Defining Pragmatics

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Cambridge University Press, Jun 24, 2010 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 330 pages
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Research surveys in Linguistics

In large domains of theoretical and empirical linguistics, scholarly communication needs are directly comparable to those in analytical and natural sciences. Conspicuously lacking in the inventory publications for linguists, compared to those in the sciences, are concise, single-authored, non-textbook reviews of rapidly evolving areas of inquiry. Research Surveys in Linguistics is intended to fill this gap. It consists of well-indexed volumes that survey topics of significant theoretical interest on which there has been a proliferation of research in the last two decades. The goal is to provide an efficient overview and entry into the primary literature for linguists - both advanced students and researchers -who wish to move into, or stay literate in, the areas covered. Series authors are recognized authorities on the subject matter as well as clear, highly organized writers. Each book offers the reader relatively tight structuring in sections and subsections and a detailed index for ease of orientation.

Although there is no shortage of definitions for pragmatics (context-dependence, nontruthconditionality, implicitness, etc.), the received wisdom is that "pragmatics" simply cannot be coherently defined. In this ground-breaking book, Mira Ariel challenges the prominent definitions of pragmatics, as well as the widely held assumption that specific topics - implicatures, deixis, speech acts, politeness - naturally and uniformly belong on the pragmatics turf. She reconstitutes the field, defining grammar as a set of conventional codes, and pragmatics as a set of inferences, rationally derived. The book applies this division of labor between codes and inferences to many classical pragmatic phenomena, and even to phenomena considered "beyond pragmatics." Surprisingly, although some of these turn out pragmatic, others actually turn out grammatical. Additional intriguing questions addressed in the book include: Why is it sometimes difficult to distinguish grammar from pragmatics? Why is there no grand design behind grammar or behind pragmatics? Are all extragrammatical phenomena pragmatic?

Includes a basic introduction to the main topics in pragmatics

Shows how different approaches to pragmatics can be integrated with each other

Based on natural, attested examples, from many languages

Extra examples are available online at

"In a masterful confrontation with decades of received wisdom, Mira Ariel redefines the proper task of pragmatics in a simple, crystal-clear way. An essential read."-Arie Verhagen. Leiden University Centre for Linguistics

"...a new way to unify the field of linguistic pragmatics. Ariel critically surveys ten criteria for defining pragmatics, and argues for equating it with inferential as opposed to encoded meaning. She then shows how to apply the definition to the complete range of topics taken to constitute pragmatics in a broad sense."-Nancy Hedberg, Simon Fraser University

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1 Whats under the bigtent pragmatics?
Part I Deconstructing pragmatics
Part II Reconstituting pragmatics
Part III Mapping the big tent

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About the author (2010)

Mira Ariel is a professor in the Linguistics Department at Tel Aviv University, Israel. Hei recent publications include Pragmatics and Grammar (Cambridge, 2008).

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