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Relevance theory

Diane Blakemore
Notes References

Handbook of Pragmatics Manual (1995) 2005 John Benjamins Publishing Company. Not to be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

Sperber & Wilsons relevance theory, presented most fully in Sperber & Wilson (1986), is an approach to communication and utterance understanding based on a general view of cognition.1 In contrast with formal approaches to pragmatics (e.g. Gazdar 1979) and sociocultural approaches (e.g. Leech 1983), relevance theory views pragmatic interpretation as a psychological matter involving inferential computations performed over mental representations, governed by a single cognitive principle. The assumption underlying this approach is that the mind is modular, and, in particular, that there is a distinction between linguistic computations and representations on






computations and representations on the other. It is this psychological distinction which, according to relevance theory, underlies the distinction between semantics and pragmatics. The domain of pragmatics, as it is defined by this distinction, is not co-extensive with its domain as it is defined by those (e.g. Gazdar 1979) who take the basic distinction to be the one between truth-conditional and non-truth-conditional meaning. Consider, for example, the following utterances made by someone pointing to a packet of breakfast cereal. (1) (2) This is made with 80% recycled board. This is vitamin fortified.

While the speaker of (1) will be taken to be referring to the packet, in (2) this will be understood as referring to its contents. Since these interpretations cannot be recovered solely on the basis of the linguistic properties of the utterance, their recovery, according to relevance theory, is a matter for pragmatics. However, according to Gazdars criterion, the question of how this is interpreted is a question for semantics, since it is about the identification of the truth conditions of the utterances. This is only one of a whole range of respects in which the linguistic properties of an utterance do not fully determine the proposition which the speaker intends to express: reference assignment, disambiguation, the restoration of ellipsed material, the resolution of vagueness are all dependent on non-linguistic or contextual assumptions, and are all, according to relevance theory, part of the domain of pragmatics.

Although the proposition expressed by an utterance is not encoded by its linguistic form, it is directly dependent on the meanings of the words uttered. It is obtained by fleshing out a linguistically encoded semantic representation. Sperber & Wilson call the result of fleshing out a linguistically encoded representation in the intended way the proposition expressed by the utterance. However, an utterance may communicate assumptions which are not so directly connected to the meaning of the words uttered. For example, both (1) and (2) could be produced with the intention of implying (3). (3) You should buy this cereal.

Such intended contextual assumptions and conclusions are implicatures. The proposition expressed is one of several propositions which may be explicitly communicated. Sperber & Wilson call such explicitly communicated propositions explicatures. This distinction does not correspond to any other distinctions that have been made in pragmatics. In particular, it does not correspond to Grices (1975, 1989) distinction between saying and implicating, a distinction which many would say lies at the heart of modern pragmatics. For Grice, what is implicated is distinguished from what is said by the fact that its derivation depends crucially on the assumption that certain standards of communication have been met. Thus while Grice recognized that contextual assumptions play a role in the recovery of what is said, he did not recognize that the use of these assumptions is constrained by the same principles that are involved in the recovery of what is implicated. The insight underlying Grices notion of implicature, that the act of communication creates expectations which it then exploits, was of fundamental importance in the development of relevance theory. However, Sperber & Wilson have taken it much further so that not only the recovery of intended contextual assumptions and conclusions, but also the identification of explicitly communicated propositions all involve inferences which are governed by the same pragmatic principle. This idea is explored by Carston (1988b) in her discussion of the explicature/implicature distinction. According to relevance theory, to say that a speaker uses contextual assumptions to infer the speakers intended interpretation is to say that they are used as premises in a deductive inference. This is not, however, to say that a hearer may have proof of the speakers intentions. Since there is always the possibility that the set of contextual assumptions brought to bear on the interpretation of an utterance is different from the one envisaged by the speaker, there is always the possibility that communication may fail. Some authors (e.g. Levinson 1983; Leech 1983) take the fact that the processes involved in utterance interpretation are non-demonstrative to mean that deduction plays little or no role. Sperber & Wilson argue that, on the contrary, deductive inference plays a vital role in utterance interpretation. Although there is no rule or algorithm for computing the correct (or intended) contextual premises, the hearers choice of contextual premises is constrained by a cognitive principle. The assumptions chosen in accordance with this principle are used in a deductive inference. Consider, for example, (4b) interpreted as a response to (4a):


a. b.

Is Jane coming to the party? Her exams start tomorrow.

Intuitively, a plausible interpretation for (4b) is that yielded by the assumptions in (5): (5) a. b. Jane gets very nervous about exams. If Jane is nervous about her exams, she will not be going to any parties.

However, from a logical point of view, there is no reason why a hearer might not instead be led to access the assumptions in (6a) and (b) and derive the conclusion in (6c). (6) a. b. c. Jane gets very nervous about exams. When Jane gets nervous she always bites her fingernails. Jane will be biting her fingernails.

Indeed, in principle, there is no reason why the hearer should not be led to access still further assumptions and derive still further conclusions. For example, in principle, the hearer might access the assumptions in (7a) and derive the conclusion in (7b). (7) a. b. When Jane bites her fingernails she wears gloves when she goes out. Jane will be wearing gloves when she goes out.

In fact, from a logical point of view, there is nothing to stop the hearer adding more and more contextual assumptions and deriving more and more implications. This suggests two central questions for pragmatics: (i) Why do hearers not assume that the speaker intended them to keep on expanding the context indefinitely deriving more and more implications? (ii) Why do hearers assume that the first satisfactory interpretation they do derive is the one that is intended? According to relevance theory the answer to both of these questions lies in the answer to another: why do we pay attention to information? And the answer to this question, it is argued, is that we pay attention to information which seems relevant. Relevance is defined in terms of contextual effect and processing effort. There are three ways in which a newly presented piece of information may interact with the context to yield a contextual effect: (i) it may combine with contextual assumptions to yield a contextual implication (that is, a logical implication derivable neither from the contextual assumptions nor from the new information alone); (ii) it might strengthen an existing assumption; (iii) it may contradict and lead to the elimination of an existing assumption.

Suppose that you open your wallet and find that it contains $28. How might this information be relevant to you? First consider a situation in which you need to pay back your friend the $50 he lent you and you have decided to go to the bank if you do not have enough. In this situation the information will be relevant by combining with your existing assumptions to yield the contextual implication that you need to go to the bank. Next consider a situation in which you believe that you have enough money to pay back your friend the $50 you owe. Here the information will be relevant by virtue of contradicting and hence eliminating an existing assumption. Finally, consider the situation in which you believe that you do not have enough money to reimburse your friend. Here the information achieves relevance by virtue of confirming or strengthening an existing assumption. But surely, any assumption that you care to make would have some contextual effect in these situations. Why is it, for example, that in the circumstances just described you are more likely to form the assumption that you have $28 in your wallet when you look in it than the assumption, say, that one of the bank notes has been written on? Provided that you are prepared to spend enough time and effort accessing contextual assumptions you are bound to derive some contextual effect. The point is that hearers are not prepared to spend any amount of time and effort in the recovery of contextual effects. If they were, there would be nothing to stop them from continuing to process new information bringing more and more contextual assumptions to bear on its interpretation. Processing information yields rewards (contextual effects) only at a cost. Although each expansion of the context yields more contextual effects, as the size of the context grows so does the cost of using the assumptions it contains. The greater the contextual effects, the greater the relevance, but the greater the processing effort entailed, the lower the relevance. The fundamental assumption of relevance theory is that all information processing is relevance oriented. However, whereas in the case of information that is simply discovered, people may have just hopes of relevance; in the case of information that is communicated, a hearer may have expectations of relevance. By communication, Sperber & Wilson mean specifically ostensive or, in other words, intentional, overt communication in which a speaker not only intends to convey a particular message but is also actively helping the hearer recognize this. It is clear that thus defined, communication cannot succeed unless the audience pays attention to the act of communicative behaviour (ostensive stimulus). Equally, it is clear that an audience will pay attention to a phenomenon only it if seems relevant to them. This suggests that an act of ostensive communication automatically communicates a presumption of relevance. Sperber & Wilson argue that the presumption of relevance carried by every act of ostensive communication has two aspects: on the one hand it creates a presumption of adequate effect, while on the other, it creates a presumption that no gratuitous processing effort is required for the recovery of those effects. Taken together these presumptions define a level of optimal relevance.

The principle of relevance is simply the thesis that every act of ostensive communication communicates a presumption of its own optimal relevance. This principle, in contrast with Grices maxims of conversation, is not a norm which may be followed or violated, but an exceptionless generalisation about human cognition.3 This is not to say that every act of ostensive communication is in fact optimally relevant. Suppose, for example, that as you enter a lecture hall I gesture towards the empty seat beside me without realizing that you have seen it. In this situation the proposition that there is an empty seat beside me will have no contextual effects and hence be irrelevant to you. However, although this interpretation of my gesture is inconsistent with the presumption of relevance, it is consistent with the principle of relevance inasmuch as it is not difficult for you to see how I might have thought it was optimally relevant to you. I would not have attempted to communicate at all unless I intended you to believe that I had achieved optimal relevance. In other words, it is the fact that the presumption of optimal relevance was communicated by my gesture that is crucial in the explanation of how its intended interpretation is recovered. This is not to say that the intended interpretation is always recovered. The principle of relevance does not guarantee that communication will succeed. It justifies the selection of the first accessible interpretation which a rational communicator might have believed to be optimally relevant. Communication will succeed only to the extent that there is such an interpretation and it is the one intended. Recall, for example, utterance (1) as it is interpreted by someone choosing a breakfast cereal. (1) This is made with 80% recycled board.

This utterance will give the hearer access to the stereotypical and hence accessible contextual assumption that packets are made from cardboard. If the resulting interpretation yields adequate contextual effects (including, for example, the one in (3)), and puts the hearer to no unjustifiable effort in achieving those effects, and if, furthermore, the assumption that this was the intended interpretation does not conflict with other assumptions that the hearer is entertaining, this is the only interpretation the hearer is justified in choosing. It is always possible to imagine a situation in which a cereal is made from cardboard, but this requires some effort. If the speaker had intended this (rather unlikely) interpretation, then s/he would have spared the hearer the unjustifiable effort of first recovering and accepting the more accessible interpretation by formulating the utterance in another way.4 It follows from this that if the speaker does put the hearer to extra effort, then the hearer is entitled to expect that this will be offset by extra or different contextual effects. Recall the example in (4b) where the speaker does not say explicitly that Jane is not coming to the party, but expects the hearer to derive it on the basis of an assumption such as the one in (8).


a. b.

Is Jane coming to the party? Her exams start tomorrow.


If Janes exams start tomorrow, she wont want to go to any parties.

Since the assumption in (8) forms part of the smallest and most accessible context which yields adequate contextual effects, it must have been the one intended by the speaker. But accessing and using this context involves effort which would not have been required had the speaker answered directly. How might this effort be justified? There are various possibilities. For example, the speaker might want to explain that there is a good reason for Janes not coming. Or s/he may want to remind the hearer that the examinations are imminent. Or s/he may want to convey something about Janes state of mind. None of these are specifically intended by the speaker in the way that the implicature that Jane is not coming is. They are simply lines of interpretation suggested by the utterance. Or, as Sperber & Wilson put it, they are weakly implicated. This suggests that speakers make decisions not only about whether what they want to communicate is to be implicated or explicated, but also about the extent to which they will constrain the recovery of implicatures. The tighter the constraint, the stronger the implicature. As with any decision about style, this will be governed by the aim of optimising relevance and cannot help but reveal the speakers assumptions about the hearers contextual and processing resources, and hence something about his/her assessment of their relationship. Consider, for example, the use of the construction in (9) (from Sperber & Wilson 1986): (9) Mary came with Peter, Joan with Bob, and Lily with a sad smile on her face.

The use of gapping encourages hearers to find matching parallelisms in interpretation. They are encouraged to find a set of contextual assumptions in which the facts that Mary came with Peter, Joan with Bob and Lily with a sad smile have identical or directly contrasting implications. But there is a whole range of ways in which the required parallelisms could be recovered, and the hearer is left with a great deal of responsibility in the interpretation process. For example, is Lily sad because, in contrast with the others, she has no-one to accompany her? Does Lily make a point of appearing alone and sad? Is Lilys sad smile as familiar as the sight of the other couples? Do the others have anything to do with Lilys sad smile? In other words, this utterance achieves most of its relevance through a range of weak implicatures. Sperber & Wilson call the effect achieved by such an utterance a poetic effect, which is not to suggest that it can be achieved only by poets. As they show in their analysis of figurative utterances (see below) and in their briefer discussion of repetition (1986: 219222), this approach to style applies to everyday examples of communication as well as to more poetic-creative examples.5

Utterance interpretation is not exhausted by the recovery of explicatures and implicatures. Contextual assumptions are also involved in the identification of the speakers attitude towards these explicatures and implicatures. For example, the speaker of (10) might be understood to be asserting that the hearer is leaving, or guessing that the hearer is leaving, or wondering whether the hearer is leaving, or telling the hearer to leave: (10) You are leaving.

To a certain extent the speakers intended attitude can be linguistically encoded, for example, by the imperative syntax in (11): (11) Leave.

However, as (10) shows, the syntactic structure of the utterance is at best a clue as to the intended interpretation. Moreover, in some cases the hearer must identify the hearers attitude entirely on the basis of the context. Consider, for example, how the hearer decides whether the speakers attitude to the proposition expressed is one of endorsement in (12): (12) [Tom has just left the room wearing a gloomy expression] He looked cheerful. In speech-act theory the question here would not be what attitude the speaker intended to communicate, but rather what speech act s/he intended to perform. This suggests a view of language in which it is a vehicle for action rather than a vehicle for thought. And, indeed, Austins (1962) speech act theory grew out of the recognition that language is used not just to say things, but also to do things. He argued that a better understanding of language depended on a better understanding of how language is embedded in social institutions, and of how it can be used not just to describe the world, but also to change it. The fundamental assumption here is that the classification of speech acts plays an essential role in communication so that the prerequisite for successful communication is the identification of the speech act that the speaker intended to perform. It might seem that we could reformulate this claim in Sperber & Wilsons framework simply by saying that in each of the following the hearer of the (a) utterance is intended to recover the higher-level explicature in (b), or more generally, that the hearer of an utterance intended as an act of a particular type is intended to develop its logical form into a higher-level explicature which describes the speaker as performing that act. (13) a. b. (14) a. I promise you that Tom will be there. The speaker is promising the hearer that Tom will be there. I warn you that Tom will be there.

b. (15) a. b. (16) a. b.

The speaker is warning the hearer that Tom will be there. I guess that Tom will be there. The speaker is guessing that Tom will be there. I assert that Tom will be there. The speaker is asserting that Tom will be there.

However, there are some important respects in which Sperber & Wilsons approach diverges from the speech act theory approach. In the first place, Sperber & Wilson would not describe the speaker of either (15) or (16) as performing a particular kind of speech act. The higher-level explicatures in (15b) and (16b) are descriptions of the speakers attitude towards the proposition his/her utterance expresses, and the role of the so-called performative in (15a) and (16a) is to guide the hearer in the identification of the speakers attitude. This is not to say that the explicit performatives in (13a) and (14a) should be analysed as indicators of the speech act the speaker is performing, as they would be in speech act theory. Rather their role is to guide the hearer in the interpretation process so that the relevance of the higher-level proposition lies in the way it helps the hearer derive the right kind of contextual implications from the embedded proposition.6 According to speech act theory, communication succeeds only if the hearer identifies the type of speech act being performed. Thus for example, a speaker who intends (17) as a promise must communicate the proposition in (13b), while a speaker who intends it as a warning must communicate the proposition in (14b). (17) Tom will be there.

However, as Sperber & Wilson (1986) have demonstrated, this assumption cannot be maintained. The identification of (17) as a warning is not a prerequisite for understanding the utterance, but it is rather a consequence of understanding it. More particularly, it is a consequence of recognizing that the speaker intends that certain sorts of contextual implications should be derived. Similarly, a hearer does not have to recover the proposition in (16b) in order to understand (17) as a guess. To intend an utterance as a guess is to intend that the hearer recognizes that the speaker does not have conclusive evidence for the truth of the proposition it expresses, and hence that s/he cannot be strongly committed to its factuality. If the hearer does recover the proposition in (15b), it is as a result of understanding the utterance, and in particular of identifying the speakers attitude towards the proposition it expresses. A similar point can be made about assertions. In contrast with warnings and guesses and assertions, promises can only be understood if they are recognized as such. However, this simply follows from the fact that promising, in contrast with guessing, asserting and warning, exists only within a particular

moral framework, and the fact that some institutional knowledge is necessary for the interpretation of promises is of no more interest to pragmatics than the fact that a certain amount of culinary knowledge is necessary for understanding a recipe. If this is right, then the interpretation of promises, warnings, guesses and assertions does not require any extra special pragmatic machinery. In contrast, it does seem that the differences between the following require some sort of special speech act theoretic machinery. (18) (19) (20) a. a. a. Tom will jump over the rope. Will Tom jump over the rope. Tom, jump over the rope.

For it seems that the differences in syntactic mood can be correlated with differences in speech act type so that whereas the declarative in (18a) indicates that the hearer is intended to recover the description in (18b), the interrogative in (19a) indicates the speakers intention to communicate the description in (19b), and the imperative in (20a) indicates the speakers intention to communicate the description in (20b). (18) (19) (20) b. b. b. The speaker is saying that Tom will jump over the rope. The speaker is asking whether Tom will jump over the rope. The speaker is telling Tom to jump over the rope.

As Sperber & Wilson show, not only is the recovery of such descriptions an essential part of the comprehension process, but also saying, telling and asking, in contrast with, for example, promising, are not institutional and culture-dependent, but genuinely universal. At the same time, however, they show that if the correlation between sentence type and speech act type is to be maintained, then the standard speech act theoretic definition of saying that as a general type of assertive act, telling to as a general form of actionrequesting directive, and asking whether as a general kind of information-requesting directive must be abandoned. An assertive is a speech act which commits the speaker to the truth of the proposition expressed by his/her utterance. But as the ironic example in (12) and the metaphorical utterance in (21) show, not every declarative utterance is assertive in this sense.7 (21) My neighbour is a dragon.

According to relevance theory, the key to the interpretation of figurative utterances lies in the notion of representation by resemblance, or, interpretive resemblance. It is argued that an utterance can be used to represent any representation which it resembles whether public (another utterance) or private (a thought). In fact, it is claimed that every utterance is an

interpretive representation of a thought namely, the thought that the speaker wishes to communicate. An utterance interpretively resembles another representation to the extent that it shares logical and contextual implications with it. In some cases the optimally relevant utterance may be one which very closely resembles the speakers thought. In other cases, for example, metaphors, the optimally relevant utterance may be one which involves a looser resemblance, and the hearers task is to identify the degree of faithfulness attempted. Thus metaphors are not regarded as deviations from a norm of truthful speaking (cf. Grice 1978), but are a consequence of the search for relevance. Even in very standardised cases the interpretation of a metaphor will entail processing effort which would not have been required by a fully literal utterance. In relevance theory extra effort entails extra effect. However, the extra rewards achieved by a metaphorical utterance are to a considerable extent the sole responsibility of the hearer. That is, they are weakly communicated. It is this range of weak implicatures which explains why metaphors (even standardized ones) cannot be paraphrased without loss.8 In the case of an ironic utterance like (12) the thought communicated is presented as a representation of another speakers thought. There are quite ordinary examples of utterances used to interpret someone elses thought or speech, for example, reported speech or summaries. Ironic utterances are distinguished by the fact that their relevance lies not in the information they give about the content of the attributed thought, but rather in the attitude of the speaker towards this thought. In particular, an ironic utterance conveys an attitude of dissociation or ridicule. Although the assumption that the speaker thinks that the attributed thought is ridiculous is strongly communicated, it is left to the hearer to decide just how ridiculous the thought is. Thus an ironic utterance involves a mixture of strong and weak communication. As Wilson & Sperber (1992a) show, this analysis accounts for a range of examples which cannot be accommodated in the traditional analysis of irony in which the speaker means the opposite of what is said.9 As we have seen, relevance theory assumes that there is a distinction between linguistic and non-linguistic communication. An assumption is linguistically communicated only if the linguistic properties of an utterance help with its recovery. However, we have also seen that not everything that is linguistically communicated is linguistically encoded. For example, the recovery of (22) as the proposition expressed by the utterance in (1) is partly an inferential process constrained by pragmatic principles: (1) (22) This is made with 80% recycled board. The cereal packet is made with 80% recycled cardboard.

The borderline between linguistic and non-linguistic communication has been a major area of pragmatic research. For example, Carston (1988a, 1993) has argued that the claim that

inference is involved in the identification of the proposition expressed has important implications for Grices (1975, 1989) analysis of conjoined utterances. As Wilson & Sperber (1993) have shown, the role of the linguistic properties of utterances is not restricted to the recovery of the proposition expressed by utterances. They argue that although sentence adverbs like the one in (23) do not contribute to the proposition expressed, they do contribute to a higher-level explicature like the one in (24): (23) (24) Seriously, I cannot help you. The speaker told the hearer seriously that she could not help him.

Blakemores (1990) analysis of performatives follows along similar lines. Wilson & Sperber argue that while sentence adverbs and performatives may not contribute to the truth conditions of the utterances which contain them, they do encode conceptual information information which is a constituent of (higher-level) explicatures. However, recent work suggests that not all linguistic meaning encodes conceptual information. For example, Wilson & Sperber (1993) argue that linguistic mood encodes procedural information that is, constraints on the construction of explicatures. This idea is explored further by Clark (1991) in his analysis of non-declarative sentences, and is applied by Blass (1990) to the analysis of the Sissala hearsay particle re. Kempson (1988) has also been developing a procedural approach to anaphora in the sense that they impose constraints on the proposition expressed. According to Wilson & Sperber (1993), the distinction between conceptual and procedural linguistic meaning follows from the view that utterance understanding involves the construction of mental representations which undergo inferential computations. It is generally accepted that linguistic meaning can partially encode the constituents of these representations. However, given that their construction and manipulation involves mental computations, it is possible that linguistic meaning should also play a role in constraining those computations. This idea was explored by Blakemore (1987, 1988) in the analysis of a range of expressions which had resisted analysis in truth-conditional terms for example, the socalled discourse connectives after all, moreover, but, and so. These expressions were analysed in procedural terms as semantic constraints on implicatures, an analysis which contrasts with Grices (1989) conceptual analysis. However, the fact that these phenomena are non-truth-conditional should not be taken to suggest that the distinction between conceptual and procedural meaning coincides with the distinction between truth-conditional and non-truth-conditional linguistic meaning. As the analysis of sentence adverbs and performatives has shown, linguistic meaning may encode conceptual information which is not part of the proposition expressed. And as the analysis of non-declarative utterances and attitudinal particles has shown, linguistic meaning may encode information which either constrains or contributes to the construction of explicatures. As Wilson & Sperber (1990)

suggest, this might mean that the linguistic distinction between truth-conditional and nontruth-conditional meaning should be abandonded, leaving just the cognitive distinction between the conceptual and the procedural and the pragmatic distinction between the explicit and the implicit. At the very least, relevance theory shows that the relationship between linguistic form and pragmatic interpretation requires closer scrutiny.



There are also a number of useful introductory papers, for example Wilson & Sperber (1986a); Sperber & Wilson (1987). Behavioural and Brain Sciences 1987 (10) contains a prcis of Sperber & Wilson (1986) followed by a multiple review and authors response. For an introduction to relevance theoretic pragmatics, see also Blakemores (1992) textbook. For a collection of recent work within a relevance theoretic framework, see Lingua vols. 87 and 90.


In this respect Sperber & Wilson follow Fodor (1983) who distinguishes between input systems which are informationally encapsulated in that they have access to data from only a limited domain and central processes which are global, having free access to conceptual information from any source. For a more detailed account of Sperber and Wilsons claim that pragmatics is not a module, see Wilson & Sperber (1986a). For an overview of the arguments for a linguistic input system, see Carston (1988a).


For a more explicit account of the ways in which relevance theory diverges from Grices theory of conversation, see Wilson & Sperber (1981) and Sperber & Wilson (1986: 161163). The commentary and response following Sperber & Wilson (1987) includes a useful discussion of the ideas introduced here.


For a more detailed discussion on reference assignment, see Wilson & Sperber (1992b).


See also Blakemores (1993) analysis of reformulations.


See Recanati (1987) for an excellent discussion of the analysis of performatives within a speech act theoretic framework. Although he also argues against the analysis of performatives as indicators of illocutionary force, his analysis is still a speech act theoretic one in that he also assumes that the classification of speech

acts plays an essential role in communication. For a relevance theoretic analysis of performatives, see Blakemore (1991).


Wilson & Sperber (1988) and B. Clark (1991) list a number of similarly problematic counter-examples to Searles (1979) definitions of assertive and directive speech acts thus showing that the problem is quite general.


See Sperber & Wilson (1985/6, 1990), for a fuller discussion of the analysis of metaphor in terms of loose talk.


This analysis of irony is a development of the analysis in Sperber & Wilson (1981).

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Related articles: Anaphora, Clinical pragmatics, Communication, Conversational implicature, Conversational logic, Humor, Manipulation, Semantics vs. pragmatics, Tense and aspect, Truth-conditional semantics, Truthfulness