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The pragmatic factor in discourse facilitation

Forms of discourse depend upon the situational roles of discourse participants (Brown and Yule 1983, Chafe 2008, van Dijk 1985). Within the communication process the influence of the discourse situation upon the subject-matter and forms of human relations gains special importance.

Pragmatic awareness in discourse

It is important to consider social factors such as interlocutors’ status, gender, age and activity within the process of information exchange (Cook 1990, Ellis 1995, Givon 1989). It is the overall purpose of pragmatics to determine patterns and conditions for usage and combinations of speech units which depend upon the discourse situation regarding participants’ roles and the relevant subject of communication (Jackendoff 1994, Chafe 1996).

Pragmatic factors invisibly influence our choice of sounds, grammatical constructions and vocabulary. Pragmatic mistakes do not disrupt the laws of phonology, semantics or syntax, but they can minimize the success of communication, alter the essence of information transfer, and inadequately transmit subjective and evaluative information as well as speaker’s intentions.

Inappropriate usage can cause major discrepancies between grammar and pragmatic structures. Let us consider the utterances which can be misleading in speech due to inadequate performance or non-verbal background: e.g. You make a better door than a window=Don’t stand in my light!; See any green? =I am no simpleton; Who’s milking this cow?=Mindyour own business; Catch me doing it!=I won’t do it!; That won’t wash!=My answer is negative!; Now we shan’t be long!=It’s all right!; Thank you and good night!=What a silly suggestion!; I didn’t come up in the last bucket=I’m no fool.

The above examples give a sound proof of the responsibility a speaker/listener takes while starting information exchange in any form. The participants should take into account the counterpart’s ethnic, cultural, status, gender, and age specificity as well as language preferences and life experience. Otherwise the whole process of information representation could turn into a complete failure. Besides, specific discourse strategies may lead to communication breakdowns, i.e. inadequate information transfer depends upon referential messages (propositional content) and relative messages (expression of the speaker’s attitude and feelings towards the listener) (DuFon 1993: 533). The latter depend upon pragmatic, textual and modal meanings, since they correlate in their own way with the communicative situation (Waugh 1991: 243).

Referential meanings can function without regard to the information expressed, but most often they interact with one another. Nevertheless, the information expressed can suppress one or several referential peculiarities, depending on time, place and participants of communication. The language means used for the expression of these meanings display a strong tendency towards variety, adaptability to the environment depending on the communicative purpose of the message and correspondence to principles and strategies of their form-function correlations (Verschueren 1995: 50). Thus, the strategic functioning of language units in context allows pinpointing the pragmatic perspective of an utterance, its intensity and dynamics.

Within the framework of activity and personality approach to the analysis of language data, the language norm stands out as a communication norm. This framework (Anisimova 1988: 64), being a logical continuation of the Prague linguistic school views (Zvegintsev 1967), allows uniting systemic, structural and functional aspects of the language norm as a communication phenomenon, i.e. an integral part of language functioning. The strictest is the norm regulating the use of language means. This norm is not related to any specific communicative situation. Rather it is a source of general nature which gives the clue to any individual of how to behave in any situation of human interaction and exercise successful communicative activity. Existing patterns of discourse strategies allow revealing and indicating the speaker’s/writer’s intentions. Beyond doubt, the change of the interlocutors’ state and communicative conditions leads to the change of pragmatic context (Givon 1989). Its dynamics envisages discourse activity, as well as individual and personal qualities of the people involved. Interaction of the aforementioned indicators with a certain situation triggers a consecutive change from one pragmatic context to another with a possible alteration of communication roles and social contexts.

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