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Aspects of Spanish Pragmatics


Domnita Dumitrescu

This collection of essays on Spanish pragmatics can be understood in its broadest sense in Iacob L. Mey’s words as «the study of the conditions of human language use in a societal context.» The essays, which can be read independently from one another, revolve around three key areas within the Anglo-American school of pragmatics: speech acts, conversation, and politeness as sociocultural manifestations of communication.
The first part of the book emphasizes the study of politeness in different Spanish-speaking communities, paying special attention to the realization of polite speech acts and their cross-cultural and cross-linguistic implications, as well as the face-work that interlocutors conduct in casual conversations and other communicative settings. The second part expands the topic of politeness strategies to the study of new contexts (such as echo questions and conversational repairs) and addresses other language phenomena that can be best explored from a pragmalinguistic perspective, such as evidentiality, mitigation, contrastive emphasis, and topicality and discourse salience.
The examples (with the exception of a few literary quotes) proceed from naturally occurring data or were collected through questionnaires, and represent a wide range of colloquial «Spanishes,» from Peninsular to Latin American, from monolingual to bilingual, and from native to heritage to second language learners’ varieties.
The empirical nature of Aspects of Spanish Pragmatics will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in the use of Spanish for real-life communicative interactions, as well as in the topic of intercultural communication and the teaching of authentic language to students of Spanish in the United States.


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Preface ix


PREFACE As its title clearly states, this book is about pragmatics; more specifically about some aspects of this discipline, as applied to the Spanish language. But what is pragmatics all about, anyways? Its most well-known definition, “the waste- basket of linguistics,” is actually of no help at all. Except that it suggests that whatever a traditional linguist, using regular, accepted linguistic theories, cannot explain in language, a pragmatician (by having “recourse to something else, something that is supposedly as undefined as it is tangible, namely pragmatics” Mey 1993, 5) can. Of course, there is another, more sophisticated way of looking at these things, that goes back to Charles Morris (1938), who said that, unlike syntax (which examines the relationship of signs to other signs) and unlike semantics (which studies the relation of signs to the objects to which they refer), pragmatics explores the relationship between signs and their users. In other words, as Mey put it, pragmatics is “not the science of language in its own right, or the science of language as seen and studied by the linguists, or the science of language as an expression of our desire to play schoolmarm, but the science of language as it is used by real, live people, for their own purposes and within their limitations and affordances (to use a Gibsonian term.…)” (1993, 5). But one has to keep in mind that, as he makes it clear, “language is the chief means by which people communicate. The use of language, for...

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