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A Journey to Misunderstanding

Author: HaoZuo
Tutor: PanBingXin
School: Hebei Normal
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: conflict talk Relevance Theory ostensive-inferential cognitiveenvironment
CLC: H313
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2012
Downloads: 19
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Recent years, increasing attention has been paid to conflict talk, which is regarded as acommon as well as complex linguistic phenomenon in daily life. As a major origin ofcontradiction, conflict talk blocks successful communication among people, thus causingdisharmony in human relationship. However, it should be noticed that conflict talk can beavoided if both sides of communicators have a sense of being relevant in speech contact.This thesis is to give analysis of conflict talk with Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson’sRelevance Theory, aiming to explore the causes of conflict talk by application of the theoryfrom the pragmatic viewpoint. The data in this study are completely derived from EugeneO’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. Despite their deep concern and sincere love forothers, the relationship among the family members is not that admirable. All of them are infrustration for their disability to process successful communication, which is largely due tothe way they talk. As a family tragedy, the whole play is occupied with continuous conflicttalk, of which the causes are tightly related to relevance.The thesis contains five chapters. Chapter one makes a general introduction of the wholethesis. Chapter two is the part of literature review. Chapter three provides theoreticalframework of the research, and Relevance Theory serves as the theoretical foundation.Chapter four demonstrates the entire process of analysis of conflict talk in terms of causes byusing the theory. Finally, chapter five makes a conclusion, including the major findings,limitations and suggestions for further.Through direct demonstration and detailed analysis of conflict talk in the play, the thesisobtains the following findings. Firstly, intentional as well as unintentional misunderstandingof the speaker’s informative and communicative intentions is a cause of conflict talk.Secondly, pragmatic relevance is related to the causes of conflict talk, in respects of relevanceof speech act, conversational demand, context and conversational theme. Thirdly, mutualmanifestness and past experience also play significant roles in human communication.Conflict talk is sure to take place if mutual cognitive environment is not achieved; moreover,the mentioning of irrelevant experiences would also cause conflict talk. Furthermore, during the process of this study, it has also been found out that change of topics, which is generallyconsidered as a way to terminate conflict talk, can also be a cause of conflict talk, and evenaggravate conflict talk. In a word, failure in realizing all these aspects would definitely causethe generation of conflict talk.The relationship among family members is supposed to be the most comfortable one, soit is a great regret to find disharmony frequently in family life, which is brought out byconflict talk. Consequently, the research on causes of conflict talk is of incomparableimportance. The findings of this thesis would arouse people’s attention of dailycommunication in terms of choosing and using daily language, which would help oneunderstanding another, thus creating a harmonious atmosphere for daily communication.

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