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Focusing as a type of functional shift in discourse

Focusing of a language unit in discourse can be grounded upon a number of reasons-coincidence or resemblance of objects, qualities, conditions, attributes, their contrast, association relations, coincidence/ contrast of background knowledge, etc. Thus, it should be interpreted (van Dijk 1985, 1995) as a function of choice with arguments based on the real state of perception, knowledge, desire, interests, etc. These arguments and their specific implementations acquire their meaning from the whole scope of perceivable/imaginable facts. This approach allows us to consider the pragmatic focus as an act of choice within the information transferred to gain success and efficiency of communication as well as interaction of discourse participants. The pragmatic focus comprises a lot of facts and judgments relevant to the context of communication.

Pragmatic effect of the focusing strategy

While exchanging information, a person has to make a relevant choice in the field of pragmatic colouring to find a means of designation for influencing the interlocutor. This results from the essence of pragmatic focus and colouring of language units. They are closely interconnected and occur in discourse simultaneously. This division is only conditional, because it appears only when discourse is treated from a different viewpoint.

Pragmatic colouring of basic language units equals zero (Zabotkina 1991: 7). If language units serve in most cases as means of transferring the informative (cognitive) content itself, they can acquire a new pragmatic function in discourse. The pragmatic focus of the utterance quite often embraces non-standard, basically functionally re-oriented language units:

... the quiet streets of mostly undistinguished houses seemed humdrum enough (J. Symons); “Be careful who you let hear you talk that way” (M. O’Brien); That’s out and out communism (M. Quin); He had to listen while Andre’s wife told him she was piss-poor ... (E. Leonard); “ ... all those fox-hunting forebears-and the old Generals, the shoot- ‘em-down type ...” (A. Christie). The pragmatic colouring of these units is of an inherent nature and reveals itself in any act of word usage. Pragmatic charge is usually correlated with connotation-evaluating or emotional. Although recently the interpretation of pragmatic colouring of language units has been widened due to the inclusion of expressive characteristics typical for innovations, in specific communicative situations they can stimulate the recipient to participate in communication. In media discourse innovations have the same pragmatic value of attracting attention. Such innovations are widely used in mass media, namely in headlines, since they give the clue for text perception: “Tearaway Tarango’s cleaning up his act” (The Express), “A year of golden shares and copper-bottomed scandals” (The Times), “Pit-pot girls get B52s in their” (The Daily Telegraph), “Shadow Cabinet hokey-cokey: right leg in, left leg out” (Independent on Sunday), “Dover yields fishy history” (The Guardian).

In these cases the pragmatics of innovations is closely associated with its evaluation. By conceptualizing certain meanings in a new language form, a person tends at the same time to add some connotations-positive or negative: go-go (exciting), gross-out (disgusting), to aim archie at the armitage (to urinate), to drop a bomb (to fart), coco (a black person), crumb (a contemptible person), george (excellent), oomph (sex appeal), done (a prostitute).

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