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Pragmatics & Grammar

Pragmatics & Grammar

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Published by: dtgorgis on Mar 13, 2010
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10/11/2012

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AUTHOR: Ariel, MiraTITLE: Pragmatics and Grammar SERIES: Cambridge Textbooks in LinguisticsPUBLISHER: Cambridge University PressYEAR: 2008 Dinha T. Gorgis, Jadara University, Irbid, JordanSUMMARY
 Pragmatics and Grammar 
is a book that attempts to resolve a number of intriguing problems related to the complex relationship between grammar and pragmatics. Whilemaintaining the mainstream conviction about the grammar/pragmatics division of labor, the author seems to be more willing to announce a
happy marriage
 between thetwo, though admitted (explicitly and/or implicitly) to be at times uneasy bedfellows,than keep them
 single
. If they are kept absolutely distinct from each other, assuggested by standard analyses, Ariel argues that accounts for grammaticization andsemanticization will not be possible (cf. pp. xiii; 257). The book opens with a prefacefollowed by an introductory chapter and six more chapters distributed over three parts, each of which addressing questions intended to be answered on the basis of her mostly natural linguistic/discoursal examples collected from various sources, mainlyrepresentative of Hebrew and English. Original examples and their glosses can be found at:0780521559942/org.gecambrid.www  A cursory look at the rich list of references, followed by two indexes, is indicative of the tremendous efforts she has exerted on preparing the book.
 
Chapter 1: Grammar, pragmatics, and what's between them (pp. 1-24) draws our attention to the fact that although we need to draw a distinction between grammar, ascorrelated with a set of codes, and pragmatics, as correlated with different types of inferences, to which part I is devoted, we equally need to account for how inferencescross over and become codes. In addition to being content with "the now wellaccepted assumption that we always communicate by combining codes (grammar)with inferences (pragmatics)" (p.3), which means that inferences constitute an integral part of grammar by definition, the author is committed to the issue of cross-over which is believed to have serious implications for grammaticization and/or semanticization and hence the on-going development of current grammars. Arielappeals to Grice's pragmatic theory; for since it is assumed "that every act of communication is actually
inferential
" (p. 4), i.e. involving additional or complementary interpretation, it follows that all pragmatic theories are essentiallyGricean. As such, the author's position in this book "is contra the assumption made byother linguists, that there must be a purely grammatical literal meaning whichcorresponds to the complete utterance (usually assumed to be a single complete proposition) ….[for it] may well be a combined grammatical/pragmatic representationin most cases" (p. 24). Chapter 2: Distinguishing the grammatical and the extragrammatical: referentialexpressions (pp. 27-67) focuses on some referential expressions, mostly definiteexpressions and pronouns. In order to provide arguments for drawing the division of labor between interpretations and language use conditions whosegrammatical/pragmatic identity is opaque, presuppositions are given a special
 
treatment because the available literature about their assignment is divided. Theheated argument, based on case studies and "contentious" examples, shows that someaspects of the use of presuppositions are semantic, others, pragmatic. Certain other referring expressions seem to require explanations by making appeal to extralinguistic principles but, as evidence shows, a grammatical convention is also involved.Preferred Argument Structure constraints as well as register-specific referringexpressions are claimed to fall in between, i.e. neither encoded nor inferred. In Ariel'swords, the conclusion is that "one aspect of the use of definite descriptions isgrammatically encoded, the other, pragmatically inferred" (p. 44). In part I (pp. 25-109), we are told that "some interpretations are implicated, some areexplicated, and yet others are only potential truth compatible inferred interpretations"(p. 25), which chapter 3 (pp.68-109) handles in conjunction with codes. For the purpose of assignment, Ariel selects a number of issues, e.g. conjoined clauses with'and' and some scalar expressions such as 'most' and 'all'. While Gricean pragmatistsvariously rely "on the criterion of truth conditionality for distinguishing grammaticaland extragrammatical interpretations, taking truth-conditional meanings as semanticand nontruth-conditional meanings as pragmatic" (p. 69), Ariel's position is consonantwith Relevance theoreticians "who apply the code/inference distinction strictly" (p.69). For them, Grice's conventional implicatures, which are the domain of pragmatics,constitute coded meanings and hence semantic in essence. Towards the end of thechapter, however, Ariel admits that it is "a delicate matter to distinguish the truth-compatible from the encoded" (p. 108). In part II: Crossing the extralinguistic/linguistic divide (pp. 111-256), the author takesthe reader to an arena where the grammar/pragmatics interface is likely to take place.Central to this part is the argument that "pragmatics, together with other extragrammatical triggers, provides the raw materials and impetus for grammar" (p.111). Following such an argument, mainly based on the complex relationship betweendiachronic and synchronic facts, the reader may at this junction draw twoassumptions: (1) the linguistic/extralinguistic divide is a prerequisite for thegrammar/pragmatic divide; and (2) our current and future grammars can equallycontribute to the building up of foreseeable grammars and hence witnessing an ever running process of grammaticization (or grammaticalization, if you wish). Chapter 4: Grammar, pragmatics, and arbitrariness (pp. 117-148) begins byaddressing the most crucial question, viz. whether grammar is extralinguisticallymotivated or arbitrary. In introductory linguistic courses we often tell our studentsthat grammar is a self-contained system. If autonomous, then it must be arbitrary. Wedo this for the sake of purely describing form-function correlations without seriouslyembarking on possible motivations. Yet, if we, as researchers, are not prepared toaccept the simple fact that "grammar is a natural historical product" (p. 148), then itfollows that human history is "chaotic" and "arbitrary". In fact, one of the mainreasons why certain linguistic phenomena seem to us arbitrary is the lack of evidence.Don't we often frown at innovations in language use, which are likely to end asconventional codes by which others abide gradually?Chapter 5: All paths lead to the salient discourse pattern (pp. 149-211) addresses anumber of questions intended to show how "grammar is constantly in the making" (p.149). A number of factors, viz. (embodied) cognition, sociocultural norms and
 
inferential practices (pragmatic enrichments), not to mention grammar itself (cf. p.150), may all conspire in the creation of new codes. It is undeniable that the world inwhich we live, "the world filtered by the human cognitive make-up" (p. 151), canhave a considerable impact on the molding and re-molding of our grammars. In Arielwords, all of these "constitute an integral part of communication, because thelinguistic code is forever under-determinate" (p. 166). It is to be noted that theinfluence of extralinguistic factors on grammar is not direct. Rather, it is themediating salient discourse patterns, of which only a small set (as deemed necessary)undergoes conventionalization (cf. p. 211).Chapter 6: The rise (and potential fall) of reflexive pronouns demonstrates why andwhich salient discourse patterns actually do turn grammatical. Current Englishreflexive pronouns are used as an example to show that "earlier grammaticizations donot preclude newer ones, and newer ones do not always cancel out old ones" (p. 213).The English reflexive pronoun, "which we are used to thinking of as a type of referring expression, is historically tied to two quite distinct grammatical categories. Itevolved out of an originally emphatic adjunct, which acquired argument status. Assuch, it became a marked form, used for marked interpretations" (p. 253). But once itis used intransitively, as is sometimes the case today, "the reflexive pronoun will losenot only its interpretative markedness, but also its argument status (once again)" (p.253) and hence the widespread of the nonreflexive form, i.e. regular pronouns, as perhaps a more marked use in the future. The few introductory pages in part III: Bringing grammar and pragmatics back together (257-308) round off the whole argument run in parts I and II. While theyremind the reader of what has been achieved so far, on the one hand, they are meantto enable us to link the previously discussed meanings, e.g. the so-called 'conveyed'and 'bare' meanings, with an intervening (or intermediate) 'basic level' meaning,captured by the fashionable, but highly controversial, 'what is said' concept, on theother hand. This third level of meaning representation is the topic of chapter 7:Grammar/pragmatics interfaces (pp. 261-308) which is mainly a critical review of some important accounts of 'what is said' in the literature starting with Grice. Thechapter discusses "the possibility that 'what is said' is not only important for grammar/pragmatics interfaces during interaction, but also in processes in which pragmatics crosses over to become grammar" (p. 261). To conclude, a word of caution is in place at this juncture. The author's position is that explicated inferences(or conveyed meaning level), rather than implicated inferences, would serve as theimmediate impetus for, or potentially give rise to, most semanticizations andgrammaticizations (cf. pp. 306-307).EVALUATIONWith the exception of a few invented examples,
 Pragmatics and Grammar 
utilizes awealth of references, a comprehensive literature overview indeed, and naturallyoccurring data which enabled the author to draw subtle pragmatic distinctions whilesimultaneously offering a wide range of convergent/divergent perspectives, all beingundoubtedly indicative of her strong research background. The book has a clear structure. It is equally error-free, but perhaps with the exception of the thirdoccurrence of the word "implicatures" (p. 81 fn. 13) which must be "explicatures"instead.

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