Pragmatics 25:3 (September 2015)

Magdalena ADAMCZYK

Do hedges always hedge? On non-canonical multifunctionality of jakby in Polish




One of the canonical uses of jakby in Polish is that of the Lakoffian hedge, which modifies the propositional content of an utterance by pointing to its fuzziness, inexactitude or approximation. In conversational speech the word is frequently put to excessive use, which appears to significantly deviate from the prescribed one, and as such deserves closer attention. The aim of the present study, which makes use of corpus linguistics tools to collect naturally-occurring data and discourse analysis framework to manually examine them, is twofold. Initially, it sets out to examine the linguistic contexts of jakby, which are assumed to furnish valuable guidelines for sifting out the prototypical uses of the word from the innovative ones. Next, the focus shifts onto indentifying context-sensitive functions of the latter in highly diversified stretches of discourse. The research findings demonstrate that the cotextual settings of the non-canonical jakby exhibit a number of distinctive characteristics, such as frequent co-occurrence of the word with pragmatic markers, reflexive discourse and unfilled pauses, all indicative of its relatively tenuous link with the neighbouring portions of text. As regards the functions of the unconventional jakby, the word emerges as a pragmatically multifunctional yet no longer hedging device, capable of, among others, facilitating floor-holding/-grabbing, helping to plan discourse, marking register clash and introducing elaboration on prior thought. Rich in pragmatic functions and syntactically more detached from the adjacent textual material than its canonical base, the investigated jakby appears to fit into the category of propositionally empty yet strategically salient pragmatic markers.  


Keywords: Hedges; Pragmatic markers; (Non-)propositional meaning; (Non-)canonical use of language.


Yumiko ENYO

Contexts and meanings of Japanese speech styles: A case of hierarchical identity construction among Japanese college students




Interactants’ non-reciprocal use of Japanese speech styles, i.e., the addressee honorific masu form and the non-honorific plain form, is frequently treated as the salient feature constituting speakers’ hierarchical identities. The hierarchical identities in question in this study are senpai-koohai ‘senior-junior’ relationships among Japanese college students. The paper presents analyses that demonstrate that the construction of these hierarchical relationships depends on context. The data derive from nine hours of audio recordings of dyadic and multiparty interactions among college students at the meetings of an extracurricular club. Conceptualizing on-stage and off-stage as frames of talk that function as context in this data set, the study finds that hierarchical identities are not foregrounded during on-stage talk, but can be foregrounded during off-stage talk when the participants’ club roles are not foregrounded; the use of non-reciprocal speech styles that lead to hierarchical identity construction is observed in this situation.  On the other hand, hierarchical identities are backgrounded during on-stage talk when the participants’ club roles are foregrounded. The use of the addressee honorific masu form in this situation indexes that the speaker is engaged in a club role, such as discussion leader or participant.


Keywords: Indexicality; Japanese speech styles; identities; context.


Dániel Z. KÁDÁR and Annick PATERNOSTER

Historicity in metapragmatics. A study of ‘discernment’ in Italian metadiscourse




The present paper contributes to metapragmatics, by examining the question of how historicity influences the validity of certain modern metaterms that are accepted as ‘neutral’ and ‘scientific’ in pragmatics. We argue that it is fundamental to explore the history and development of such metaterms, and also to study their historically situated meanings, in order to increase the self-reflexivity and rigour of analyses. We analyse the notion of ‘discernment’ as a case study, and we will show that the way in which the Italian equivalent of this term (discernere) – which supposedly influenced historical English understandings of ‘discernment’ as well – is used in historical Italian metadiscourses contradicts the modern application of this metaterm.


Keywords: Metapragmatics; Self-reflexivity; Historicity; ‘Discernment’; Italian.



Conducting a task while reconstructing its meaning: Interaction, professional identities and recontextualization of a written task assignment




This article investigates the way an institutional task of a meeting is oriented to by different meeting participants and developed in and through local interaction. Our data come from a city organization, where a large organizational change is planned and prepared through a series of face-to-face encounters and accompanying written texts. Using the notion of recontextualization and by connecting it to the conversation analytical method and to the notion of intersubjectivity, the study examines how the institutional task that is verbalized in written form prior to the meeting is conceptualized by meeting participants in their turns of talk. By doing so, the study will particularly shed light on the question of how different recontextualizations are motivated by their sequential position in interaction. Based on this, it also investigates how the meeting participants construct their professional identities through the conceptualizations made. In a wider sense, the article shows how spoken interaction and written texts interweave and form a reciprocal relationship in organizational life. Thus, it contributes to a deeper understanding about the multifaceted connections between the interactional management of meetings and wider organizational practices and processes that these encounters have been set up to advance.


Keywords: Institutional task; Agenda; Recontextualization; Meeting interaction; Professional identity; Conversation analysis; Intersubjectivity.



“Go up to Miss Thingy”. “He’s probably like a whatsit or something”. Placeholders in focus. The differences in use between teenagers and adults in spoken English




In this paper we focus on some of the so-called ‘placeholders’, words that are almost empty semantically, used with multiple functions in communication and whose meaning has to be inferred by the listener (Jucker et al. 2003: 1749). This category of placeholders includes terms such as thing, thingy, stuff, thingummybob, thingybob and whatsit. We firstly identify the most common words in this category in the language of British adults and teenagers and we then consider them from a syntactic, a semantic and a pragmatic perspective. Our findings suggest that (i) the importance of these words lies in their pragmatic rather than in their semantic functions; (ii) contrary to what we expected, placeholders are not more common, statistically speaking, in the language of the younger generations than in that of adults; (iii) adults and teenagers share some of the uses of these terms; (iv) in the language of teenagers these dummy words are used in a wider range of contexts and situations. We finally contend that these lexical items show properties typical of pragmatic markers, since they help in the organisation of discourse, they are sometimes used as devices to hold or cede the floor and they also function interpersonally by promoting cooperation between the participants in the conversation.


Keywords : Vague language; Teen talk; Placeholders; General reference nouns; Spoken English.



Orientations toward interpersonal arguing in Chile



This paper reports the first empirical results aiming to characterize argumentative practices in Chile. We described features of Chilean interpersonal arguing among university students, compared those results with others obtained in the United States, and also compared the associations among variables from country to country. Chilean men displayed more aggressive and self-oriented arguing profiles than Chilean women. Compared to U.S. Americans, Chileans were more motivated to argue and saw the practice of arguing as more cooperative and civil.  Many results and correlational patterns were recognizable from one nation to the other, but some differences deserve notice.  For example, several measures that are routinely seen as opposites in the U.S. (e.g., impulses to approach or avoid arguing) have only modest negative correlations in the Chilean data.

Keywords : Argument frames; Chile; Cooperativeness; Individualism; Interpersonal arguing.


Chihsia TANG

The influence of the addressers’ and the addressees’ gender identities on the addressers’ linguistic politeness behavior: Some evidence from criticisms in Taiwanese media discourse




People’s power and status can be manifested through the language they use. It was generally perceived that men’s speeches are more assertive and direct than women’s because of men’s higher social status in the societies. Yet, studies have argued that there should be no difference in terms of men and women’s linguistic politeness behaviors if they are in the same power position; instead, the addressees’ gender is the critical determinant to the addressers’ linguistic performances. This research provided some evidence from evaluative communications in TV reality talent shows to further verify whether or not the addressers’ and the addressees’ gender identities are significantly correlated to the addressers’ linguistic politeness behavior, focusing specifically on their use of mitigating strategies for criticism amelioration. The current analysis referred to Brown and Levinson’s (1987) politeness theory and face notion. Results manifested that it is the addressers’ gender instead of the addressees’ gender that was related to the addressers’ communication style in this particular situational context. Specifically, male judges utilized more mitigating utterances than female judges did. The major implication of the findings is that the functions of politeness devices that speakers perceive and the situational information of the speech context leave greater influences on the addressers’ politeness behavior than the gender of their addressees.


Keywords : Linguistic politeness behavior; Gender; Face-threatening act; Criticism; Mandarin Chinese; Media discourse.


Obituary, Josie Bernicot (1955-2015)