Friday, November 29, 2013

Conversation structure

     When we talk, we possess a thing calls floor, which is the right to speak. Having control of floor is called a turn. Everyone wants to have a control of turn, which is turn-taking. After one person talk, it is the turn for the second person to talk. During transition, long silence and overlap are possible. If the second person doesn’t talk, it is attributed to the second person, which is an attributable silence. At the same time, some people hold the floor for a long time to prevent other people from talking. Yet, the speaker still expect their partners are listening which can be indicated by doing backchannel signals or backchannels. The person who is active in a conversation is called high involvement style while the person who doesn’t talk a lot is engaging in  a high considerateness style.

        In daily conversation, adjacency pairs occur frequently. The utterance of a first part immediately creates an expectation of the utterance of a second part. If the first part is a request, invitation, or an offer, the preferred social act which is shown in the second part is accept. If a person refuse or decline, it is considered dispreferred social act.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Speech Acts

According to Yule (chapter 6) speech acts are actions performed via utterances. Forms of speech acts include but are not limited to apologies, commands, requests, promises and warnings.

Monday, November 18, 2013


According to the powerpoint seen in class last week, Humor is "a verbal utterance that contains two incongruent scripts and provide a resolution for this incongruence." Therefore, when a speaker expresses humor, they express two ideas that are like propositions. The listener analyses both propositions, the speaker then violates the cooperative principle. Humor joins in both politeness and the cooperative principle because when creating humor, one may play between saying something or not saying nothing at all. In addition they are violating Grice's Maxims at different levels to make create humor. It is easier to tell a joke to a friend than a stranger, although comedians share humor with strangers, which it a bigger task. Trying to make humor for an audience is much more difficult than sharing a joke to your friend. The concept of closeness and/or politeness is always at play in humor. Imagine standing in a different part of the word, what your culture may find humorous may not be in another.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Politeness relates to the social distance and closeness of an interaction based on social values and culture. There is a difference between acting polite to your family, friends and strangers we meet outside our circle. The social distance of these relationships are determined by the dominance of external factors and internal factors, whether its how friendly you are or not sometimes your way of politeness may or may not be enough to satisfy your speaker. The degree of friendliness is negotiated during an interaction, but because of external factors and internal factors we can be interpreted differently.  According to Yule (1996), "It is possible to treat politeness as a fixed concept, as in the ideas of 'polite social behavior', or etiquette, within a culture" (p. 59). From the term face, which technically means self image, while Yule(1996) says that the term politeness means to show awareness of another person's face, but in actuality I think that it is the basis of your friendliness, culture,  and social factors that contribute to how polite you are to anyone. In short, An eye for an eye, what comes around goes around, or however you want to be treated you should treat others.


When we speak we usually expect to be clear in communicating enough information that we lead the listener to know exactly what we mean and how we mean it, and to actually have an exchange in the conversation the listener must cooperate with what the speaker said. This means that we are using the cooperative principle as stated by Yule (1996), "Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you engage" (p. 37). Basically, you must make your input have meaning when it's relevant. The cooperative principle is extended to H.P Grice's Maxims which include the following:

Quantity- Make your contribution as formative as required, don't make it more informative than required. People use hedges are used to mark the quantity maxim.

Quality- Try to make your contribution one that is true and don't say what you believe to be false.

Relevance-Be Relevant!

Manner-Avoid obscurity, ambiguity, be brief, be orderly.

To follow these maxims people tend adhere, flout or violate depending on the situation. Flouting means to violate or ignore with communicative intent. Adhering will be to pay attention and follow, and violating will be to have no communicative intent.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Presuppositions: Implications of the speaker

I wasn't sure how to define in my own words the term presupposition, so I googled it, and this is what I found: " Presuppositions are implications that are often felt to be in the background — to be assumed by the speaker to be already known to the addressee." I found this definition on this website

But my understanding of presupposition is basically, that presuppositions pretty much, in layman term, would be pretty much the equivalent of "read between the lines". When the speaker says something, no matter how ambiguous it may be, whether it is true or not, by simply uttering such a sentence, they assume that the listener will be able to figure out the inferred meaning behind it. 

To better explain my understanding of presuppositions, I'll use this sentence as an example: "I am a fast swimmer"... by saying this, what would the listener/reader, ASSUME about me? 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reference and Inference

      All of us want to communicate effectively. Without saying a lot but the listeners will be able to understand our intentions. However, it is not easy. When the speaker uses reference but the listener is unable to understand, it is better for the speaker to give up using the reference. On the other hand, if the listener is able to understand the reference that the speaker uses, we can infer that both of them come from the same community. It is pragmatics connection which is mentioned in the book at page 20. It shows the listener is a member of the same community as the speaker.
    In Chinese slang, people use water to represent money. After you look at your wallet, you tell your friend "I have no 'water', can you lend me some?" Chinese people usually know what do you mean and they will lend you money instead of giving you a bottle of Poland Spring water.
    In our daily conversation, we always use referring expression because we assume the listener knows what or who we are referring to. For example, two girls were looking for Dennis.
Mary: Sandy, do you know where is Dennis?
Sandy: He is in class.
Mary: Do you know when he will finish classes?
Sandy: At 4:00
        So, in this situation, after "Dennis" was mentioned by Mary, "Dennis" is no longer repeated. After that, a pronoun "he" is used instead because both of Sandy and Mary know that each other understand who they are talking about unless there is another they will mention. Here, “he” is an anaphoric reference.    
        In this example, it wouldn’t be an attributive use which means whoever fits the description since they were focusing on a specific “Dennis”. That means it is a referential use.
    Sometimes people mention the pronoun before they mention the noun. In this situation, it is called cataphora.
         Going back to the example, in the last dialog, Sandy did not even mention the pronoun. Why? According Yule on page 23, the speaker, who is Sandy, assumed that the listener, who is Mary, will be able to infer who she is talking about. Here, Sandy used zero anaphora.

         As Yule pointed out at page 24 of the book, if a reference is successfully recognized, indicating a kind of sharing knowledge social connection between the listener and the speaker.