Workshop on the foundations of pragmatics
August 26, 2014
Institute of Design and Communication
Modern linguistics started in the 19th century with research on the historical development of languages. In the early 20th century, structuralism gave a new impetus to language studies by its analyses of the phonological systems of languages and the internal morphological structures of words. With the rise of generative grammar in the 1950s and the early 1960s, syntactic structure entered focus. Intensive research on semantics started in the late 1960s when linguists recognized the potentials of formal logic and model theory for the description of such relationships between sentences as consequence and presupposition. Approximately at the same time linguists became attentive to the phenomena of language use. Then pragmatics as a subdiscipline of linguistics started - inspired by previous works of philosophers such as Austin, Strawson, Grice, and Searle.
Thus pragmatics is a relatively recent actor on the linguistic stage - and this in spite of the fact that as soon as in 1942 no less than Rudolf Carnap (prominent for his formal work in semantics and philosophy) noted that “pragmatics is the basis for all of linguistics“. Carnap recognized that all the data analyzed in the various branches of linguistics are, of course, data of language use and as such first of all objects of pragmatic analysis. Carnap had a very broad conception of pragmatics ranging from what we today would call “neuropragmatics“ to the “ethnological and sociological study of the speaking habits and their differences in different tribes, different age groups, social strata“. In a way, this spectrum foreshadows the various directions into which linguistic pragmatics developed since the inception of that discipline in the 1960s.
Given the multiplicity of perspective, topics, and methodological approaches after more the 50 years, there is rather good reason for reflecting upon the very foundations of pragmatics as a linguistic discipline. The present workshop is thought to be a forum for such a self reflection. The workshop is opened by a presentation of the philosophical tradition which - via Charles Morris’ subdivision of semiotics into „syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics“ - delivered the name to the discipline, namely “pragmaticism“. Further talks present some of the main paradigms and traditions within pragmatics: the Gricean approach, formal pragmatics (as based on the mathematical theory of games), classical conversation analysis, and a new variety of conversation analysis inspired by actor-network-theory.
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